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Columbus Crew Welcome Their New Man

Photo Credit: Robert Ivory/

On Tuesday, the Columbus Crew welcomed their newest member as former USMNT defender Gregg Berhalter became the Crew’s seventh head coach and the first-ever Sporting Director in club history.

“The vision I have for Columbus is a club about community and a club about togetherness,” Berhalter said at the reveal Tuesday. “Our goal is to have a team that is successful. I am looking at the roster now and I am pleased with what I see, but it’s a good group of guys. It’s a team that driven, a team that’s hungry.”

“Columbus is a young, progressive city and I think it’s a great fit for a young, progressive coach,” Crew President Mark McCullers said of his new coach.

Berhalter joins the Crew after a playing career that spanned nearly 20 years and included playing in Holland, Germany, and finished his career in MLS at the LA Galaxy. After finishing with the Galaxy, Berhalter managed Hammarby, a Swedish Second Division club.

“My ideas about soccer are attacking-minded. I’m looking for a dynamic team that can get quickly forward and move the ball quickly. I believe in a possession-based game,” Berhalter said.

As a defender in his career, the defensive side of the game will be one in which Berhalter will look to perfect quickly. “I want an organized defense. However, I want the team to play nice, attractive football. The game revolves around holding the ball in my eyes.”

The humble Berhalter also becomes the club’s first-ever Sporting Director and will become an intricate part of the franchise, rather than just managing the team.

“I feel that having the title helps streamline decisions and bring efficiency across the staff,” Berhalter said of his role. “I think it will prepare the team in the best way possible. I am excited about the position and it will give me room to operate.”

A big selling point that Berhalter had going for him was his relationship with  former USMNT manager and current Galaxy head coach Bruce Arenas.

“There’s a lot to learn from Bruce,” Berhalter explained. “He has a great way of managing his players and a way of getting the best out of them. He also manages personalities very well and gets everybody to buy into their role.”

Also when asked about coaches Berhalter will look for, Columbus favorite Frankie Hejduk was suggested and Berhalter agreed that Hejduk would be a great fit to wherever he would end up in the organization.

“He has a short-term vision for getting the club back to its winning ways, but has an intermediate and long-term goal for the team. He believes in the market of Ohio and hopes to continue with the success of homegrown talent of Ohio,” Crew Investor-Operator and Chairman Anthony Precourt said of the newest coach of the Crew.

Event Photos

AS Roma Beats MLS All-Stars in Impressive Fashion

Photo Credit: Robert Ivory/

All the glitz and glamour was on hand Wednesday night in Kansas City, as the MLS All-Stars lost 3-1 to Serie A heavyweights AS Roma in front of 21,175 fans, a new Sporting Park attendance record. It marked the 10th time the MLS played an international side in an All-Star game (7-2-1) and marked the fourth loss in the past five years for the All-Star squad.

“It was a good match against a great MLS team,” Roma head coach Rudi Garcia said via an interpreter after the match. “We still have a lot to work on, seeing how we did not keep a clean sheet. They were a very strong side and for us to win is a good sign. It was important for it to be like a league game and to beat a strong side was really important.”

Goals came from Kevin Strootman, Alessandro Florenzi, and Junior Tallo, while Omar Gonzalez notched the only MLS goal in extra time.

“I really appreciate that AS Roma was willing to come in and play this match,” MLS All-Star and Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes mentioned. “It’s important for us to have high class opponents in this game and they were obviously great tonight. It was great for the fans to see and the players did a great job of representing their MLS clubs on and off the field.”

Hometown defender Matt Besler said of the event: “We look forward the most as players is facing these guys all season long, but you never get to sit down with them, that’s an exciting part for us players. We get to come together for a few days and have some fun, that’s what I will remember.”

Photo Credit: Robert Ivory/

Many storylines swirled around the All-Star match, but none was more prominent than former MLS player, member of the USMNT, and current AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley making his return to the States.

“This was a good chance for us to go against a good team in a great environment to move ourselves forward,” the midfielder remarked. “There was motivation since I play against guys who are teammates on the national team, a lot of friends. It’s motivation and to come with your club team knowing that these are talented guys and it’s uplifting.”

Bradley would play all 90 minutes and added an assist.

The Roman squad got off to a terrific start as newly signed Dutch international Kevin Strootman scored just four minutes into the match. Strootman was hit perfectly in stride with a ball from Alessandro Florenzi that beat the MLS center backs. The ball took a slight deflection off a sliding Aurelien Colin, a Sporting KC defender, but still beat FC Dallas keeper Raul Fernandez for the early 1-0 lead.

“We scored quickly and it helps us in the game, and after that, not too many problems. We were lucky were could score the goal and wait a little bit,” the Dutchman said.

Roma followed after the half with a goal from Florenzi, who put away a right-footed shot from the cross of Federico Balzaretti past RSL’s Nick Rimando, fresh off a CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship. The Romans followed with a goal in the 67th minute from Tallo, as the Italian side controlled the ball in the attacking third and a series on sharp passes (starting with Bradley and finishing with a center pass from Strootman), as the Ivorian Tallo had no problems lifting his squad to a 3-0 lead.

“We played really well and I am happy that the third goal was collectively a team goal,” Garcia remarked about his squad’s final goal.

Finally, in extra time, LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez broke up the clean sheet with a difficult header off an in swinging free kick from the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Camilo.

“I don’t think that the result was the key focus,” Vermes said. “It was really about a vision that becomes a reality. When you look at the overall picture of the past few days, it’s a first class experience and great event, we’re not losing three points, so it was a great opportunity to show Sporting and Kansas City.”

Event Photos

As for the player’s reaction about KC, everyone was very positive about their experience:

“It was nice to see the supporters fill the stadium, always singing, it was very special to play in this kind of game. It was very good to be here.”  - Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman

“It comes very close (to the supporters in Seattle), of course I have to give it to my hometown, but Kansas City was great. The fans are amazing and a lot better than I expected. So kudos to them.”  - Seattle Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin

“They are a class act here. I think this was a big week for everyone, and everyone will learn from this. it was odd being on the home side in this place. You are doing the national anthem, but you don’t know anybody, but they are cheering for you. It was fun and I thought the fans were incredible, so it was fun to be on the home side. ” – Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman

Crew Lose 3 Points, Schoenfeld To New England

When fourth official Daniel Fitzgerald lifted the board to 19,323 fans at Crew Stadium to show four minutes of stoppage time, the Columbus Crew figured they had at least a point in the bag.

Then disaster struck.

In the four minutes of stoppage time, New England won 2-0 on goals from a header from defender Jose Goncalves for his first MLS goal and the clincher came from second half sub Diego Fagundez.

It’s the first time the Revs won in Crew Stadium since October of 2009.

“It’s a rough sport sometimes,” Crew defender Josh Williams said of the loss. “Tonight we were just so unlucky, it definitely didn’t bounce our way. That’s happened a lot. I think we just need to work harder.”

With the loss, the Crew drop to 6-9-5, 23 points and sink six points behind the last Eastern Conference playoff spot, where as New England goes to 7-7-6, 27 points and sit just two points behind the Houston Dynamo. Despite the tough luck, Crew welcomed back goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum to the starting lineup after missing the last two matches with a shoulder ‘tweak.’

“We have to keep fighting,” Crew head coach Robert Warzycha said after the loss Saturday night. “We played well for 90 minutes and lost in the last four minutes of the game. We created a lot of chances, but could not find a goal.”

The 19,323 was the 2nd highest attendance of the year at Crew Stadium.

More bad news came for the Crew in the 36th minute when forward Aaron Schoenfeld fell awkwardly clearing a ball in his own end. His challenge with defender Jose Goncalves ended with him falling on his shoulder and quickly heading to the Crew locker room.

Schoenfeld was later diagnosed with a separated shoulder, but would be reevaluated on Monday.

The first half finished scoreless with no team with the apparent upper hand, as the Revs held the only shot on goal.

Columbus and New England went back and forth, as Columbus nearly hit the game’s opener late, when in the 89th the ball bounced around and Ben Speas, who came on for Schoenfeld, took a right footed shot from outside of the corner of the 18 yard box, Columbus’ closest chance on the night.

“I thought it was going in,” Speas said of the shot. “It bent at the last second. I hit it with my laces, so it bent out.”

On a corner just about a minute into stoppage time, Goncalves headed the ball with a bounce right in front of Gruenebaum, which went through his legs for the goal. A.J. Soares looked to screen the ball since Gruenebaum did not swipe to push the ball away.

“The ball came over, I had my man, it went over my head and he (Goncalves) put a good header on it. At the end of the day, that’s my man, I can’t let him do that,” Williams humbly admitted after the match.

As Columbus set up their attack in the middle of the park, Crew defender Chad Marshall played an errant pass to Federico Higuain, who could not get to the ball. Revs sub Lee Nguyen played a nifty one-touch pass to a streaking Fagundez, whose right-footed shot beat a charging Gruenebaum for the 2-0 New England win.

Crew now face lowly Toronto FC on Saturday (July 27) in Canada with a matinee kickoff.

Strong Second Half Sees FA Cup Winner Wigan Beat Crew In Friendly

In their first match after being relegated from the English Premier League, Wigan Athletic defeated the Columbus Crew with a riveting second half, 2-1. Goal scorers included James McCarthy (on an assist from Ohio State product Roger Espinoza) and Marc-Antoine Fortune for the Latics and Ryan Finley with the lone Crew goal.

Photo Credit: Kevin Cross/

“We knew it was always going to be a tough game,” Wigan manager Owen Coyle said after his first match as Latics’ boss. “The Columbus Crew are a very powerful side with a physical presence. We’re here for fitness, so come August 3rd we peak.”

Crew head coach Robert Warzycha also used the match as a training ground for the second half of the MLS season, “I’d rather give up a goal today rather than Saturday against New England. We wanted to play possession in the back because it does not hurt us today.”

Coyle brought on Espinoza at the half and the Honduran international made the difference right away. With the ball on the left flank, Espinoza played a nearly perfect cross to McCarthy that put Wigan on the board after a forgetful first half. After a minute of second half play, Wigan led 1-0.

“Every time I get to come here, it’s exciting,” Espinosa declared. “It’s inspiring to come back to Columbus.” Espinosa played collegiately at Ohio State before playing for Kansas City and moving on to Wigan. The Honduran play all 45 minutes of the second half.

“I thought the two goals we scored were tremendous quality,” Coyle added. “The cross was exquisite and James McCarthy showed his quality.”

Photo Credit: Kevin Cross/

Scottish midfielder Frasier Fyvie played the perfect through ball behind the Crew defense and Fortune made quick work of the Crew keeper in 63rd minute to give the Championship side the 2-0 advantage.

“Two good teams entered the game and we were disappointed not to get a clean sheet,” said Coyle.

The Crew goal from Finley came after the MLS side pressed for a goal for some time. Eric Gehrig had played a low cross into the middle and Ryan Finley chipped in the ball from inside the penalty area through traffic.

Columbus hosts New England on Saturday, July 20 as the Latics continue their summer tour with a match against the Dayton Dutch Lions (July 16) and then the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on July 19. Wigan begin their Championship marathon on August 3 at Barnsley.

“We have been very humbled by the hospitality we have been shown here in Columbus and the Crew have been fantastic. We’d love, in time, to come back,” Coyle added.

Match Photos

Timbers Fall Short in Ohio Reunion

Photo Credit: Kevin Cross/

On a hot and muggy mid-Ohio day, the Portland Timbers’ hot streak of 15 unbeaten was finally snapped by the Columbus Crew Sunday in front of 15,051 fans. Portland played down a man for nearly 80 minutes after an early Pa-Modou Kah red card and already 1-0 down dropped the Timbers in their only match against the Crew this season.

Timbers (7-3-9) stay on 30 points after 19 matches and the Crew jump to 26 points with a 7-8-5 record.

It was an Ohio showcase as nine Ohioans were featured in the match, including Portland Timbers manager Caleb Porter, who was the coach of the University of Akron soccer program during their successful run in the NCAA (183-17-18 in seven seasons under Porter).

“It was a rocky start for us, but it was admirable the effort we put into the match,” Porter said after the loss. “I don’t think I have ever seen a team go that long without giving up a goal.”

Portland would quickly see keeper Donovan Ricketts’ 401 minute shutout streak snapped just five minutes into the match as the Crew jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a Bernardo Anor header of the corner. Portland then went down to 10 men in the 12th minute after Kah made a challenge with a high boot in the penalty area and collected the straight red card.

Despite the man advantage for the Crew, the Timbers survived the Higuain penalty from the red card and controlled the possession throughout the first 45 minutes. No shots on goal, but the Timbers did hold nearly 60 percent of the ball and at times looked to have the advantage.

“Maybe it was a wakeup call,” Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury said. “We were disappointed in our star (Kah). I think we are a team that likes to posses the ball, whether we have 10 or 11, it’s not going to change much for us.”

Photo Credit: Kevin Cross/

In the second, Andrew Jean-Baptiste nearly hit the equalizer in the 55th minute as he headed a corner just off the post and had the Timbers closer to the goal they needed.

“It’s not a bad thing to taste defeat,” Porter said. “We haven’t for 15 games.”

Akron product Darlington Nagbe, playing in front of friends and family, nearly had the equalizer in the 87th minute and forced Crew keeper Matt Lampson to make the diving save and keep the clean sheet.

“It was fun to play against guys that I played with growing up,” Nagbe said of the event of Ohioans dominating both rosters. “It’s always fun coming to play in front of family and friends, you don’t get to play in front of family when playing across the country.”

Although Porter didn’t see the result he was looking for, he did have the accomplishment of having many of his players from Akron playing in the match, including the Timbers’ Ben Zemanski, Michael Nanchoff, and Nagbe as the Crew featured Wil Trapp, fresh from his time with the USA U-20 World Cup squad, in his first start in the Black and Gold.

When asked if there was joy in his return to Ohio the Timbers’ manager replied, “I enjoy every road trip. I love my job. This is a great group of guys and they are disappointed we lost. It was great to see the guys that I worked with (at Akron), and I’m happy for any of the guys that I coached, obviously I want to be on the winning side of things.”

The Timbers host the Los Angeles Galaxy next Saturday night (July 13, 8 pm PT) for their next MLS matchup.

50 Match Photos (Photo Credit: Kevin Cross/