The Gregg Berhalter era has officially begun. In style.
The Columbus Crew kicked off the 2014 season, Berhalter's first as head coach of the club, with a convincing 3-0 win over Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United on Saturday night in the nation's capital.
But despite the win in his first MLS regular-season match, Berhalter has his gaze firmly fixed on the future for the Crew.
“It's special,” he told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match, “but we want to build something here, and we need to establish that. It helps to get the first one out, but we know that we need to keep improving. I'm glad to get that win and I'm happy for the team.”
- MATCH RECAP: DC United 0, Columbus Crew 3
Berhalter's side began the match with five starters who weren't on the Crew roster in 2013 – Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Waylon Francis, and Hector Jimenez – but says that he's not surprised they were able to gel on opening night.
“It looks like it was pieced together, but a lot of these guys were carefully considered and they were brought in for a reason,” he said. “We had a vision of what the team could look like, and we fit players into that vision. I think it's going to take time. We're going to have to keep improving. But it was certainly a good performance by the guys.”
Even after a resounding win, in which Jairo Arrieta struck the opener and Federico Higuain put away the other two, Berhalter says that he and the coaching staff have plenty of work to do in preparation of each match, and that improvement is needed from the coaches as well.
“You prepare for the other team and you're not exactly sure what to expect in the first game,” he said. “I wasn't that confident that I knew D.C. United that well because of the limited footage we have of them. So it's one of those type of things that you're never too sure about.”
Berhalter pointed to the Crew's “playing their game” as a key to the result.
“We wanted to establish the game on our opponent, and I think we did that,” he said. “That was important. That's been the message to the guys in all our games so far, so I think we certainly executed that.”
Does a large margin of victory in the season opener take any of the pressure off the team?
“I don't see it as pressure; I just see it as progression,” he said. “We want to build a strong team, and it takes time. It's part of the progression of going through the season, and we've got to stay focused and keep working.”