2014 Season In Review
Gregg Berhalter Year One Journey, What To Expect In Year Two
By Ryan Kozlowski/Crewture Editor
Gregg Berhalter started 2014 on fire, he was the talk of Major League Soccer with his tactics and attractive style of play; as well as a 3-0 record.
He was anointed tactical king, a guru, perhaps even the great one on this side of the Atlantic.
TopDrawer Soccer announced Berhalter's work as revolutionary three games in:
What Berhalter has done to the Crew over the course of the first three games of the season has been nothing short of revolutionary.
Most young MLS coaches – especially those in their first year because MLS hires unnaturally young – come upon league gates frowning down upon them, and only men like Peter Vermes and Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena stare back from the other side. Most young coaches opt to scale the craggy earthworks to either side, content to play it safe in lieu of attacking ideas. There are few in the league’s history who’ve had the temerity to take the gates head on. Berhalter appears to be one such man.
Gregg Berhalter's praise machine was in high speed. But, then the Crew tanked in their next eight games, losing four and tying four.
Columbus finally got a 'W' against third division opponents, Dayton Dutch Lions, the next time out. A team that after this season may no longer exist professionally and who struggled in the standings in their lower division.
Nine outings and only one win against the Dutch Lions. If were talking about breaking gates, Berhalter went from looking like Gene Hackman in The Heist, to Joe Pesci in Home Alone 2.
It was starting to look like that time, for the Crew fans known for their patience, to start the Fire Gregg Berhalter thread on Bigsoccer.
I think every Crew coach (including Sigi Schmid) has had that honor, some multiple times.
The Dutch Lions win, led to another win the next game against Chicago. Then, the Crew went on to lose four more games and tie four more.
And the thread was officially alive and well.
Since going 3-0, the Crew were 1-8-8 in Major League Soccer in the following 17 games. Ouch.
But, give Berhalter credit for resilience.
Since that low point, the Crew finished the season 10-3-2, rolling into the playoffs.
Talk about a massive turnaround.
In 2015, Berhalter will be looking for more consistency, compared to the roller coaster season his Crew embarked on in 2014.
But, a good sign was that the locker room never turned or gave up belief in Berhalter's plan.
Throughout the season, opposing teams and legendary players such as Thierry Henry said "the Crew will play out of the back, they'll play their game, no matter if their down 1-0 early or up 2-0. They're trying to play their game, their system no matter what."
In addition, Berhalter seems to have the right pulse on signing new players.
Crew fans would've perhaps liked more signings, especially up at striker. Yet, have to give Berhalter credit for not signing players that he didn't believe were a.) a fit or b.) would've got the job done.
On the other hand, when Berhalter did make a move, they were 100% percent the right guys.
-Michael Parkhurst, the consummate professional with US National Team experience.
-Steve Clark, who was brought in to replace the popular Andy Greunebaum and was 100% percent the right guy and then some.
-Giancarlo Gonzalez, who wasn't well known but played well for Columbus, exploded onto the scene with Costa Rica in the World Cup, and was signed by Palermo for a nice transfer fee; Giancarlo actually scored the game winner in his first game for Palermo.
-Waylon Francis, has done well but perhaps can be more attributed to Brian Bliss's work before he left.
-Emmanuel Pogatetz, didn't really get put into the mix as a late signing. But, great experience. Hopefully, he can make a strong partnership with Parkhurst in 2015.
No misfires yet. Which compared to Warzycha, with Sergio Herrera (was a complete misfire) and Andres Mendoza (might not be the best guy for a locker room); Berhalter could be seen, at the moment, as an overall upgrade in that department.
For next season, Berhalter has signed Swedish defensive midfielder Mohammed Saeid, former MLSer' Kei Kamara, and Icelandic winger Kristinn Steindórsson. In addition, he has graduated Ben Swanson to the first team.
Saeid and Steindorsson look like guys who will battle for starting positions and/or depth. In addition, there should still be more space for further key acquisitions.
Overall, I'm excited for the first year of CCSC. I think Berhalter will get the guys that will fit into his system and the Crew will be better overall for it in 2015.
I also think the ability to get over a rocky middle of the season, go 10-3-2 to finish the year, and make the playoffs for the first time since 2011 is something to build on. 2014 could've been a lot worse, Berhalter sticking to his plan turned it around.