On Thursday, at the Sheraton Capitol Square in Downtown Columbus, Columbus Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter addressed the media and granted insight into his team as it prepared to host the Chicago Fire on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium to open the MLS regular season.
To start the 2017 Media Day, Berhalter announced the creation of a six-player Leadership Council led by new team captain Wil Trapp. Designated Players Jonathan Mensah and Federico Higuain join veterans Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram and Josh Williams on the council.
"We took a different approach to the leadership of the group this year," Berhalter said in his address. "Wil Trapp will be named our captain. He’ll be supported by a group of five other players that will form a leadership council, who were voted on by their peers. We think that this will be an effective way for the group to be empowered and to take control. We want them leading the way. We are here to guide them, but we want to give a lot of ownership to the players. As I look around and look at these guys, they are experienced. They’ve been in this league long enough, they know what this league is about and I think they have a clear direction of where they want to go and we are here to guide them to get there."
Berhalter also announced the starting goalkeeper selection after a competitive preseason. Zack Steffen, a U.S. Youth National Team standout, will start against Chicago.
"To be honest, that was a decision that wasn’t straight forward," Berhalter said. "I think that Brad [Stuver] was playing well. Zack was playing well and I think that it wasn’t until that last week of preseason that Zack separated himself from Brad. This is never an easy decision. As a coach you would like it to be much more clear, but we are comfortable with this decision. I think Zack has earned it and I think that Brad is still in a position where he could potentially get an opportunity. The way I see it is that we are in a good position."
On Saturday, MAPFRE Stadium's gates will open at 12:30 p.m. ET for the 2 p.m. ET kickoff. The first 10,000 supporters in the gates will receive a free MAPFRE Insurance Crew SC key chain, and Saturday will be the general public's first chance to purchase the club's new 2017 Primary Jersey (while limited supplies last).
The 2017 Major League Soccer and Crew SC regular season opens on March 4 against the Chicago Fire at MAPFRE Stadium, presented by MAPFRE Insurance. The full Crew SC preseason and regular schedule can be downloaded and synced on iOS and Android devices.