When the Columbus Crew made Gregg Berhalter their next head coach and sporting director on Wednesday, the first thing many fans wanted to know was what the team would look like and how they would play.
Though he won't be able to meet with the team because of the collective bargaining agreement, Berhalter says he's watched at least 15 full Crew games on video, and thinks he is as familiar with the roster as he can be without coaching them in person. Berhalter shed some light on how he wants to play in his introductory media conference call on Wednesday.
“I would say that my style is a style of ball possession, of quick attacks, looking to get behind the defense and moving the ball quickly,” he told reporters. “I know that’s easier said than done, but by putting players in the right positions and getting them to think about their positions on the field you can achieve that.
“It’s an offensive-orientated style. I want fullbacks to get forward and really push the attack, and finally, when we lose the ball I want to create pressure so that we can win the ball back quickly. I think that’s an important aspect of it.”
In his playing days Berhalter was a defender, and he was dismissed from his former position at Hammarby IF in Sweden when the club's owner had not seen “good enough dividends in the offense.” But the new Crew sporting director says that didn't reflect his philosophy.
“Every opponent that [Hammarby] played, that was their biggest game of the year,” he said. “We're facing 11 guys in their box trying to prevent goals. In the 15 games this year that I coached, we outshot teams by 150 shots. We were an offensive power without actually getting the goals. And that comes down a little bit to quality.”
After his spell at Hammarby, Berhalter says he took time to travel through Europe and learn from soccer programs throughout the continent, studying academies, first teams and club structures.
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Now, he says, he has built a network that will help him succeed in Columbus, though he won't focus on Europe alone.
“When you have an established network, you get quality information,” he said. “I know that there will be a lot of agents from Europe reaching out to me to recommend players, and we'll take a look at that. But I believe we want to continue to focus on Central America, South America and Europe in terms of where we're looking for our foreigners.
“But then you also have domestically, a lot of players are coming from America in the league. We want to focus on that, we want to know the American market as best as we can to be able to make good decisions on players.”
But Berhalter made it clear that there is “quality” in Columbus, and didn't seem eager to tear apart the roster.
“I don't think it would be right of me to start calling out individuals on the team this early in the game, but we're going to look at the whole roster, we're going to evaluate the whole roster up and down and look to improve it, obviously,” he said. “I think that some positions need more improvement, some need less. But we're going to determine that as we move forward over the next couple of weeks.”
One improvement that Berhalter didn't rule out is the addition of a second Designated Player – though he made it clear that securing another DP alongside playmaker Federico Higuain is not his priority.
“We'll look at that situation. I don't think that's something that's a requirement right now, but we'll certainly look at it,” he said. “We want to bring in someone that can make an impact, and that's what's most important.
"If that happens to be a Designated Player, then so be it. But we're going to look at a whole bunch of options to come up with the right person.”