Gregg Berhalter says Columbus Crew can still perform in 2014 despite being in rebuilding mode

Columbus Crew's Federico Higuain

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After parting ways with six of their 10 highest-paid players from the 2013 season, the Columbus Crew have freed up a massive amount of cap space and are in the midst of retooling the roster.

But while head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter wouldn't deny the team may be heading into a rebuilding season, he said all rebuilding seasons aren't the same.

“If you call it that, I don't think it necessarily has a negative connotation to it,” Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Thursday. “I don't think it means we can't perform. We still have talent on the field.”

“[We're] rebuilding, maybe from the year before, in terms of the personnel got switched around a bit,” Berhalter continued. “But the core group is there, and I think it's going to be a fun team.”

That “core group” that Berhalter has mentioned time and again this offseason is largely made up of the midfield, where he suggested that the five starters at the end of 2013 – Bernardo Añor, Federico Higuain, Dominic Oduro, Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp – will provide consistency in 2014.

But despite the carry-over, Berhalter admitted that he has concerns about where the team will find leadership, though the squad's youth isn't an issue.

“The leadership is always an issue; you always want to have good leaders on the team,” he said. “But from an age standpoint, I like young. I think that's exciting. That's not to say I wouldn't take an older player, but I don't mind having young guys.”

Berhalter declined to speculate how many starting-caliber players were on the Crew roster right now, but said that he feels like each of the players should expect to be a starter.

“We're getting there. There's still a couple of positions missing, but we're getting there,” he said. “They all can win a starting position. So right now, however many are on the roster are starters, as far as they're concerned, and I don't want to limit them. I want them to be able to give everything to be a starter.”