CARSON, Calif. – The men who provided Greg Berhalter his first opportunity to coach in the professional ranks believe he has all the skills necessary to be a success with the Columbus Crew who, on Wednesday, hired the former US national teamer to succeed Robert Warzycha.
“He's a good young coach and he's got a great future, so I'm hopeful it's a great opportunity for him,” LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena told reporters at Galaxy training on Wednesday. “[He has] a thirst to learn, a lot of energy he puts into his profession. He's got a great foundation in the game as a player and coaching now, and he's got all the essential tools to be a real good coach.”
Arena coached Berhalter with the 2002 and 2006 World Cup teams and brought him to MLS in 2009 following 15 years in Europe. The veteran center back was added to the Galaxy staff in 2011, his final year as a player. He then went to Hammarby in Sweden, where he was in charge until his dismissal in July.
“Greg had a lot of years in Europe, not just as a player, but studying the game,” said Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan. “He is a student of the game. He loves the game, is very passionate. He's very driven, and I think he's now had some experience as a head coach, which I think he's going to learn from, and having played in our league, he now has an understanding of what it takes in our league. He checks a lot of the boxes that you need to be successful.”
Berhalter's ideas during his season as an assistant coach impressed Arena and Sarachan.
“Sometimes Greg thinks outside the box a little bit,” said Sarachan, who was head coach of the Chicago Fire for four-and-a-half years through mid-2007 and took them to the 2003 MLS Cup final. “There were things we as a staff were accustomed to doing, in terms of our methodology, and Greg thinks about the game. He uses a lot of outside influences, like data and tracking and such, which has become a lot more modernized. And he had confidence; he just had confidence his methods were well-founded.”
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Berhalter spent three seasons on the field with the Galaxy, playing a mammoth role in Arena's defensive restructuring that provided the foundation for three MLS Cup title game appearances in four years and the last two championships. He was a vocal presence on the field and in the locker room. And he challenged the coaching staff on occasion.
“One thing as a player, he always was very verbal. He always had to have the last word,” Sarachan said. “That would happen with us as coaches and him as a player, and sometimes that didn't always help his cause. But he's a last-word guy, and I think as a head coach, you have to be a last-word guy.”