Columbus Crew's Gregg Berhalter happy to keep Jairo Arrieta, now all he needs is a confidence boost

Jairo Arrieta, Columbus Crew

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Striker Jairo Arrieta is officially back with the Columbus Crew after having his contract option declined by the club in November.

The Costa Rican international has penned a new deal that will keep him in Columbus for the 2014 season, and new head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter certainly wasn't surprised they were able to keep him.

“He's a guy who I envisioned at the club all along,” Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com over the phone Wednesday. “He's a proven winner, he's a very hard-working player and he has a great track record for scoring goals.”

That track record was challenged last season, when Arrieta managed only three goals in 26 appearances for the Crew. Berhalter agreed that the Costa Rican wasn't “up to his normal standard,” but believes a confidence boost is what he needs.

“I look at forwards and mostly look at their confidence,” Berhalter said. “I would say he lacked a little bit of confidence last year. Things tend to snowball. He was traveling with the Costa Rican team, he missed a couple of chances, things add up and all the sudden you have a guy lacking in confidence. But he's a good player, and he still had chances to score last year.”

Perhaps more importantly for Berhalter will be how Arrieta fits into his offensive scheme, and the new Crew boss said that his work rate and understanding with star playmaker Federico Higuain will be key.

“When you play with one striker and you have a guy like Higuain behind, that one guy needs to be mobile,” Berhalter said. “He needs to be able to get into spaces because Higuain can get him the ball. ... And when you're up there trying to defend against two center backs, to shake the defense, you need a guy who can work hard, and he fits that as well.”

But despite his ability to play in the new Crew lineup, Berhalter knew he couldn't pay Arrieta the same hefty contract. He said the forward understood he needed to restructure his deal to return to Columbus.

“He was more than happy to help out in that respect,” Berhalter said. “He realized, when he's performing, what he's worth, and when he's not performing, his value drops a little bit. But we also wanted to reward him for performing, and we structured his contract like that. If he's performing, he's scoring, he'll earn his money.”

The Crew now have three out-and-out forwards on the team, and Berhalter said the addition of Arrieta shouldn't suggest that the club is done adding firepower.

“He's one of the pieces, and so is Ryan Finley, so is Aaron Schoenfeld, those are guys that we believe bring good depth to the position and will be competing for playing time,” he said. “But I think with any good team, depth is necessary. You need more than a couple guys that you can count on for goals, so we'll probably be looking to bring someone else in that can help out in that area.”