Josh Williams serving as early test case for Gregg Berhalter's Columbus Crew tactical revamp
LEWIS CENTER, Ohio – Josh Williams has played every position on the Columbus Crew backline over the last three years. But after a positive showing in the team's 2014 debut, he may have finally settled on one spot for Gregg Berhalter's newly renovated Crew: right back.
“He was fantastic; he was really good,” Berhalter said of Williams' performance in the Crew's season-opening 3-0 win over D.C. United. “He's a guy that I was anxious to work with when I came here. I still think we need to keep working with him, but it's great to see where he's at. He's really receptive to the information that's given to him, and I think he's doing well.”
Williams, naturally a center back accustomed to dwelling in his own half, has had to adjust to Berhalter's system of pushing his wing backs high up the pitch, and it showed last Saturday, when he spent nearly as much time in United's half as he did in his own, and notched an assist in the first Columbus goal of the season.
“That's something that Gregg definitely wants the outside backs to do,” Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “He really wants to get us up high and kind of add another dimension to the attack. Not only that, but he wants us out wide, too. I think it opens up a lot not only for me, but also [midfielders] Wil [Trapp] and Tony [Tchani], they have a lot more room to operate.”
But despite the early success, both Berhalter and Williams know that there's plenty of work left in store for the 25-year-old.
“I wouldn't say I'm totally comfortable,” Williams said. “With each practice, with each game I'm getting more comfortable, but I'm working on being comfortable being so high up the field.”
Williams says he needs to improve his crossing and fitness, but that his focus will be on his ball skills, which have suffered while playing defense.
“Being a defender for so many years, I haven't worked with the ball as much as the other guys,” he said. “But being that high up the field, it's something I need to add to my game.”
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And up the field is where he wants to be. Williams said it felt great to see his work come to fruition against D.C., and that he enjoys adding the attack to his game.
“Being a defender, my job is to stifle their attack,” he said. “But being able to add to the attack is something I like, and it's something I think I can bring to the team, too.”