When the Los Angeles Galaxy and Gregg Berhalter agreed to terms on a new contract, the club got more than just their stalwart defender back for the 2011 season, it also added a coach.
Berhalter will return to the Galaxy for a third season with the club, but he'll also serve as an assistant coach as the club got a two-for-the-price-of-one deal in the two-time World Cup veteran.
“The offer that Bruce [Arena] presented was that I would transition myself into a further career and take on this player/coach type of role and it really made sense,” Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com. “This is something that I could continue doing. That kind of swayed me right there. The idea that I'm kind of doing double duty this way and kind of transition myself into possibly my next career.”
The 2010 season offered a mix of positives and negatives for Berhalter. After overcoming a preseason injury, Berhalter was a rock-solid presence in central defense for the Galaxy. In August, though, he went down with a debilitating injury and played just once more the rest of the season.
After a season-ending loss to FC Dallas in the Western Conference Championship, Berhalter pondered retirement.
[inline_node:306953]“Obviously I thought about it,” he said. “I thought about how towards the end of the season last year I got injured and that took a lot of the momentum out of the season and that was disappointing. I wondered if I could come back to that level.”
When Arena presented Berhalter with the new role, a possible path to Berhalter’s life after soccer was paved in earnest.
“I've always considered getting into coaching. That’s been my thought maybe the last five or six years,” he said. “That's why this unique opportunity sat well with me. It gives me the opportunity to see what the back end of that is like, to see what that coaching side is like and get that valuable experience.”
While Berhalter said his assistant coaching duties “will be more clearly defined as the year continues,” part of the work he’ll do is one he’s already been doing. Berhalter has served as a mentor for Omar Gonzalez, who won the 2009 Rookie of the Year and was a finalist for the 2010 MLS Defender of Year.
“That's exactly where it fits,” Berhalter said. “There were a lot of older guys who contributed in the past to the younger players moving along. That will definitely be part of my focus, to continue to work with Omar and the young players on our team to move them along.
"We have a great young group and it's our responsibility as older players to be good role models for them, to be good professionals and people they can learn from.”