[MLS SPOTLIGHT] The Columbus Crew has named Gregg Berhalter as head coach and sporting director, giving him full control of the technical side of the club. The former U.S. World Cup defender had most recently been the head coach of Swedish second division club Hammarby, owned by AEG.
The move means that Brian Bliss, the club's technical director and interim head coach following the departure of Robert Warzycha, is out.
Crew chairman and owner-operator Anthony Precourt, who purchased the Crew over the summer, said Berhalter emerged as the clear choice during an extensive search process.
“Gregg's strong vision, passion, work ethic, intelligence, data-driven decision making, broad soccer network and playing credentials separated him throughout this search," said Precourt in a statement. "His unique skill set gives us great confidence in boldly changing the structure of our soccer operations, with Gregg leading as our first-ever sporting director. I believe this structure will allow us to achieve a consistent winning culture and best practices that will lead to repeatable success, year in and year out. Gregg has been a winner and a leader at every level, and will fit in well with the Crew as a team of firsts."
The move follows the decision by the Chicago Fire to hand Frank Yallop control of its soccer operations. Sporting Kansas City (Peter Vermes), the LA Galaxy (Bruce Arena) and Philadelphia (John Hackworth) have similar structures with their coaches carrying the titles of manager.
It was at the Galaxy that Berhalter finished his MLS career as a player-assistant coach. He is credited with helping Omar Gonzalez become of the top defenders in MLS. The Galaxy was his only stop in MLS after 15 years in Europe with six clubs.
Berhalter said he was impressed with the energy that Precourt, a young San Francisco-based energy investor, had brought to the Crew.
“I've been lucky enough to play against the Crew and play in Crew Stadium with the national team, and it's an amazing environment,” Berhalter said in a national conference call. “It's an environment that's very pro-the home team. It's special to play in.”