Gregg Berhalter is the latest young former player to be named head coach of a Major League Soccer team. The Columbus Crew pulled the trigger by hiring the Englewood, NJ native as its seventh head coach in club history and the club’s first Sporting Director.
Berhalter, who played from 1994-2009 in Europe, comes to Columbus after two years as manager of the Swedish side Hammarby IF, where his team posted a respectable 18-11-16 record. Berhalter improved the team to fourth position and during his tenure the club had the lowest goals against average in all levels of Swedish professional soccer during that timeframe.
“We are thrilled to conclude this expansive and thorough search for our next leader, a process that spanned three continents. Gregg’s strong vision, passion, work ethic, intelligence, data-driven decision making, broad soccer network and playing credentials separated him throughout this search,” said Crew Chairman and Investor-Operator Anthony Precourt.
“Gregg was a pioneer as an American captain of two Bundesliga teams, and as the first American to manage a European soccer club. I expect great success for the Columbus Crew under Gregg’s leadership in the years to come.”
The Englewood, New Jersey native made international soccer history in 2011, becoming the first American to manage a European professional club, when he was hired as the Head Coach of Swedish side Hammarby IF ahead of the 2012-2013 season. Berhalter was introduced to the sport’s technical side at 1860 Munich, where he scouted opponents for the German club from 2007-2009.
From his time in Europe, Berhalter holds both UEFA A and B Coaching Licenses. Berhalter began his coaching career in earnest as a player-coach in his final season under Bruce Arena at Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy in 2011. There, he prepared training sessions, video analysis and scouted opponents en route to the club’s MLS Cup championship. In the previous season, Berhalter helped the Galaxy secure the first of its two consecutive Supporters’ Shield titles.
In two years with Swedish side Hammarby IF, Berhalter posted a record of 18-11-16, securing points for his club in 34 of his 45 matches as boss. After inheriting a side that finished in 12th place in 2011,
Berhalter’s 18-year run as a professional soccer player saw impressive stays in Holland, England and Germany. In 1994, Berhalter departed the University of North Carolina and signed with Dutch Second Division side FC Zwolle. From 1996-2000 he split time in Holland between two First Division clubs, suiting-up for Sparta Rotterdam (1996-1998) before playing for SC Cambuur where he was a two-time Player of the Year and was voted second-best defender in club history.
In 2000, he had the opportunity to play for England’s Crystal Palace FC in the Football League Championship. After reaching the Quarterfinal of the 2002 FIFA World Cup with the United States, Berhalter signed with Energie Cottbus of the German Bundesliga, serving as team captain. While with the side from 2002-2006, the club was relegated and then promoted back into the Bundesliga and the American captain was later named to the club’s All-Time Best XI.
He then signed with fellow German side 1860 Munich, playing at the club from 2006-2009 where once more he served as team captain. In his time in Germany, he made nearly 200 appearances as captain over the course of seven seasons. Berhalter returned to American soil in 2009, when he signed with Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy from 2009-2011, serving as vice-captain.
Complementing his domestic and international club career, Berhalter also earned 44 caps with the United States Men’s National Team and made his senior roster debut at the age of 21
“I am excited about the opportunity to join one of Major League Soccer’s original clubs,” said Berhalter. “The Crew has a strong history of winning and a dedicated fan base, and I aim to bring a style of play that resonates with our supporters and results that will make the city proud.
Berhalter joins an impressive list of former MLS players now coaching in Major League Soccer including Salt Lake City’s Jason Kries, Houston’s Dominick Kennear, New England’s Jay Heaps, D.C. United’s Ben Olsen, New York’s Pretki and Kansas C8ty’s Peter Vermes.