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4-1 Win Over LA Galaxy Has Special Place for Gregg Berhalter

The win over the Galaxy was big for everyone involved with the Crew, but for Berhalter, it was extra special.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night was special for the Columbus Crew and its fans. Before the evening's match, Crew owner Anthony Precourt announced Andy Loughnane as President of Business Operations followed by the best performance of the season in front of a sellout crowd.

The 4-1 win over the LA Galaxy earned the Crew a massive three points, but it was distinctive to many involved for different reasons.

"It was great. It was special. Bruce is someone who I've had a close relationship with for a long time and I think really highly of," Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the game. "He's the best coach in the league as far as I'm concerned."

Lost in the hype of the final appearance of Landon Donovan at Columbus Crew Stadium was the first meeting of Berhalter against his mentor, Bruce Arena. The veteran coach was in charge of the United States National Team from 1998-2006, the prime of Berhalter's playing career, and brought him home to America in 2009.

As Berhalter's playing days wound down, Arena approached the defender about becoming a coach and appointed him to his staff for the 2011 MLS Cup winning season as a player coach. This was the first step in Berhalter's journey that eventually led him to Columbus.

"He did a great job tonight," Arena said of Berhalter after the game. "He's got a great future in the coaching profession."

While it was special to have the teacher and the student matching wits, Berhalter was also going against several other familiar faces from his past.

"It was not only him, but guys that I played with," Berhalter said. "Collectively, it was a special night for us. I'm glad to come out on top."

Donovan is one of those players, as a teammate of Berhalter's in both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups as well as his three years with the Galaxy. Another was LA's associate head coach, Dave Sarachan. The former Chicago Fire boss was an assistant under Arena with the U.S. from 2000-2002 and worked alongside Berhalter in Los Angeles.

Others on the Galaxy staff who Berhalter has connections to are Curt Onalfo, Pat Noonan, Matt Reis, and Jovan Kirovski. All of these were players active during Berhalter's career.

Usually a big win for a head coach has to be celebrated momentarily and then put behind as he prepares for the next game. While Berhalter will want to focus the attention to the Houston Dynamo this week, the win over LA and what it meant to the organization, the players, the fans, and Berhalter himself will not quickly be lost.