The Columbus Crew formally introduced their new head coach during a press conference at Crew Stadium Tuesday.
Gregg Berhalter was hired Nov. 6 and had served as the manager of the Swedish football club, Hammarby IF, for the past two years.
Crew owner and CEO Anthony Precourt and general manager Mark McCullers were on hand for the event to welcome Berhalter to Columbus.
McCullers kicked off opening remarks in the stadium’s Upper 90 Club at about 1 p.m.
“Columbus is a young, progressive city. I think it’s a great fit for a young, progressive coach and we’re pleased to have (him) here,” McCullers said.
Precourt said the team’s front office conducted a meticulous search for the best candidate to fill the void left by former Crew head coach Robert Warzycha, who was released from his contract Sept. 2.
Interim head coach Brian Bliss coached the team’s final eight games and was among the pool of applicants for the permanent position.
“We ran a thoughtful and thorough search, and I think we have a thoughtful and thorough result in Gregg Berhalter. We had a wish list of over 25 criteria, broadly labeled under leadership, experience and personality,” Precourt said. “Across the board, Gregg scored the highest. What attracted me most about Gregg was his passion, his hunger and his intelligence.”
Berhalter said he has received a warm welcome so far and that he is focused on evaluating the roster and salary cap room in his first week at the helm.
“(The Columbus Crew) is a club about community, about togetherness. I’ve seen that in my short time here already, and that’s something special. Looking at the roster now, I’m pleased with what I see but there’s some improvements that can be made,” Berhalter said.
Berhalter also said he has a vision for the Crew to become a “strong, physical team that can move the ball quickly and plays nice, attractive football…(and) puts the opposition on its back foot by keeping the ball with a possession-based game.”
Frankie Hejduk, former Crew player and member of the 2008 MLS Cup Champion team and current franchise brand ambassador, said his relationship with Berhalter extends back to when both were members of the Under-17 U.S. national team.
Hejduk said the two have stayed in “constant communication” even after their playing careers had come to an end.
“I have nothing but good things to say about him (Berhalter). He lives, eats and breathes soccer. He’s one of the most soccer-knowledgeable people I know,” Hejduk said.
In addition to being named head coach, Berhalter will be the first ever Sporting Director for the Crew, and he said the newly created position “helps streamline decisions and helps efficiency across the staff and I think it’s going to prepare the team in the best possible way to be successful.”
Hejduk described a photograph that hangs in Crew Stadium that features himself and then-teammates Berhalter and Landon Donovan holding an American flag aloft after their “Dos-a-Cero” 2-0 World Cup qualifier win Mexico in 2005.
“So Gregg was already ingrained in our culture (in Columbus) before even knowing it. We have a great soccer community and family here. I think you’re going to start seeing that more so than it already is, and to have him here is a blessing,” Hejduk said.
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