HARRISON, N.J.-- “No.”
That was Gregg Berhalter’s simple answer to a simple question: Can you tell us what’s next for you?
“I don’t think we need to talk about that right now.”
That was Berhalter’s simple answer to a more complex question: If this was the end for you in Columbus, what would you like to be remembered for the last five years?
Berhalter wasn’t much in a talkative mood in the immediate aftermath of Columbus Crew SC being eliminated from the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with a 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The 45-year-old has been swatting questions over his future as he has long been reported the frontrunner for the vacant US men's national team gig and certainly wasn’t going to start elaborating further on Sunday night, still warming his hands from a cold November night in North Jersey.
That’s fine, because while Berhalter didn’t want to chat about it, his former USMNT teammate and current Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas leant his thoughts.
“If he’s the next national team manager, then we’re behind him,” Armas said. “With another tier of players it would be fun to see what he could do. He would do great.”
Since Berhalter took charge of Crew SC in 2013, his teams have had a style nearly as distinct as their all-yellow kits. He prefers to play possession-based soccer in a 4-2-3-1 with a difficult to pierce defensive shape.
“I think we see his team is different, this year even more than ever,” Armas explained. “The way they defended, they’re very organized and stingy. The reality of trying to break them down is not always so easy.”
Berhalter’s system also consistently creates chances for the lone striker, irrespective of who has filled the role over the years.
He started with Kei Kamara, who posted a career-high 22 goals with Columbus in 2015. Then one Kamara left and another took over the chief goalscoring duties, as Ola Kamara duly posted back-to-back career highs in goals in 2016 (16) and 2017 (18). This season, Ola was sent to the LA Galaxy in exchange for Gyasi Zardes, who scored a career-high 19 goals this season after a career-low two last year.
“Gregg is just a student of the game,” Armas said. “We were national team teammates, I know him well. He’s just a pro, so his team carries on that way. Of course, you can talk about with the ball how good they are, they unbalance you and can give you fits. He’s a tremendous coach.”