Q&A: Gregg Berhalter, Columbus Crew coach

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From the December 5, 2013 edition
  • Photo by Meghan Ralston

When it comes to the game of professional soccer, Gregg Berhalter is all business. Since the New Jersey native and head coach of the Columbus Crew became a professional soccer player at 21, he’s earned a slew of accolades and international respect. As the first American to become a club manager of a professional European soccer team (Hammarby IF in Stockholm), Berhalter led Hammarby IF from 12th to fourth place during his first year with the team. With a dedication to the sport and a determination to help players grow on and off the field, Berhalter aims to take our hometown heroes to the next level.

Columbus is a lot like Stockholm (where I once coached) in that it’s very progressive. Columbus is always changing. There is an amazing food and art scene here.

The Crew is a special club because it has strong ties to the community. This is the game in town and the fans are very enthusiastic and dedicated. We have a unique place in the culture here. The fans are very supportive.

The US is catching up with European soccer clubs. Soccer has been around in Europe for much longer than the U.S., but the culture here is shifting and soccer is really growing. We will catch up.

The hardest part of my job is letting players go. You become very close, and nobody wants to be the guy to do it, but it is a necessary part of the job.

(Under my leadership) the players are going to be stretched in ways they haven’t been before. I plan to help them improve their playing style and build an organization the city and team can be proud of. How we pass the ball, how we set up plays, all of that I plan to work with them on and hopefully improve.

I believe my players should have responsibility, both to the team and themselves. We can’t force it out of them, but hopefully we can guide them to it and they grow as both people and players.

In my spare time I like to spend time with my family. I have four children, ages 12, 10, 6 and 6 months. I really missed having a baby in the house, so that is fun. I also like to read. God, that makes me sound boring.