Hot Gregg Berhalter
USA Today Sports

Columbus Crew pledge to use top allocation spot, say "big national team" player has contacted club

OBETZ, Ohio – Could a big-name international be coming to Columbus? Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said after training Thursday that it might be an option.

“I’m not going to say names, but I got a call yesterday about a guy who wanted to specifically come to Columbus,” Berhalter said, “A big national team player. I thought that was interesting. All of a sudden, we’re getting calls that people are coming to us.”

The Crew sit atop the MLS allocation order, and while there has been talk of Jermaine Jones in Chicago and Sacha Kljestan in LA, Berhalter made it clear that those players will have to be declined by the Crew before they go to another team, and that to suggest that the Crew are not able to bring in those kinds of players is incorrect.

“I take offense to that comment,” he said. “That makes no sense. We can get anyone. As long as ownership says, ‘Let’s do it,’ we’re in a position where we play good enough football that anyone would want to come play with us. I think that spot is very valuable for us for that reason. To say we’re just a placeholder in that spot, that’s not true.”

The changing culture with the club, Berhalter argues, means that players from all over the world should be interested in coming to Columbus.

“What we’re trying to do here is represent a club that players want to come to,” he said. “They want to play the kind of soccer we’re playing, they want to get treated the way we’re treating players, and that’s positive in my eyes. I think we’d be in contention for anyone coming back.”

Berhalter said the leverage that the top spot brings is useful for multiple reasons.

“The first thing is that you have first crack at any players, any one,” he said. “Any name that you want to throw at me, we’ve got first choice at. The second thing is that you have leverage. If it’s already reported that [Jones] is going to Chicago, well, if it has to go through us, that means that we have to give up the spot.”

While he understands the caveat of big-money Designated Players skipping allocation order, Berhalter did not seem too concerned with that possibility. Any movement that might occur in the order, he said, would only be to gain something and still be able to use their selection.

“What I would say is that we’re not talking about big movement here,” he said. “If it’s movement, it’s a slight adjustment that puts us right back into position … but there have been no specific, real talks about that. But we’re not ready to give that spot up.”

Berhalter admitted that things might move quickly, noting that the “timeframe for that is Aug. 6,” the close of the MLS international transfer window.

While he didn’t rule anyone out, Berhalter also would not specifically comment on the Kljestan rumors.

“I learned my lesson when answering this question,” he laughed. “I’m going to say that I’m only thinking about guys that are here, and I won’t comment on guys that aren’t at our club.”