In the American soccer landscape, there aren’t many leadership figures who are better connected than Gregg Berhalter.
The Columbus Crew SC head coach and sporting director spent his formative coaching years under Bruce Arena, who was named the head coach of the US national team Tuesday. As head coach of the LA Galaxy, Arena made Berhalter a player-coach before the defender retired in 2011.
But Berhalter’s USMNT connections run deeper than just Arena. The Crew SC boss was capped more than 40 times himself for the national team, and his brother Jay is currently US Soccer's chief commercial director.
Arena’s appointment to the USMNT post after the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann means that Berhalter’s name has come up as a potential member of the Arena staff.
Meanwhile, the open head coaching position with the Galaxy makes for more rumor fodder for Berhalter, who won an MLS Cup and two Supporters’ Shield trophies with LA between 2009 and 2011.
With Columbus, Berhalter and owner Anthony Precourt have been transparent about finding budget-friendly ways to build a team, while a Galaxy organization known for signing major Designated Players would represent a different challenge for Berhalter.
In a conference call with members of the media Wednesday, Berhalter initially declined to comment at all on the idea of a USMNT position or interest in the LA vacancy.
But in a phone call with MLSsoccer.com afterward, Berhalter said his focus is on Crew SC.
“Their search for new candidates is their search and I’m not involved in that at all and I can’t control that at all,” he said. “My focus is on building a good team in Columbus and preparing a roster that can compete for the Eastern Conference Championship next year.”
When asked if he would answer a call from US Soccer or the Galaxy, Berhalter said “it’s a very difficult question,” but reiterated his stance.
“What I would say is that’s not my focus right now,” he said. “My focus is on Columbus and getting the right group together to push for a title next year.”
Berhalter felt it was “not appropriate” to comment on Klinsmann’s firing or the Arena hire, especially due to his ties to both. He is, however, empathetic.
“Coaching is a tough profession, and sometimes decisions are made that you can’t control,” he said.