The phrase "new era" has been ascribed to Columbus Crew SC under owner Anthony Precourt and, more specifically, head coach Gregg Berhalter.
One of Berhalter's first changes as manager was to trade 10-year Crew SC veteran Chad Marshall to the Seattle Sounders for a third-round draft pick and allocation money. The Black and Gold was all Marshall knew since he was 19-years old and selected second-overall by Columbus in 2004, but it was time for a change.
"It kind of seemed that way," Marshall said on Friday when asked if it was time for both sides to move on. "Myself and Andy Gruenebaum were kind of the last two players from that era and Andy left and I kind of felt like I was the old guy. They were obviously coming in with a new ownership group, a new coaching staff, so if there was ever a time to go, I guess that was it."
A time for change? Yes, but was the move made for fit purposes? Berhalter operates in a possession-based system that requires the center backs to do much more than defend.
"I wouldn't necessarily focus on that," Berhalter said when asked if fit played a part. "I would just say that I think it was time for him to get a new challenge."
In his first year in Seattle, Marshall won MLS Defender of the Year for the third time in his career and the Sounders won the Supporter's Shield for having the league's best regular season record.
Although it may not have been by intent, Berhalter's move of Marshall was tactical.
"By moving him we were able to bring in Michael and Giancarlo," Berhalter explained. "So it was just two parties going in a different direction. It was what was needed in both cases."
In his first season in Columbus, Michael Parkhurst slotted into the Crew SC back line seamlessly. A smaller center back than Marshall, Parkhurst uses his positioning to make an impact defensively. His experience playing both in the middle and out on the outside of the back line made him a good fit for Berhalter's system that transitions to a three-man defense when the team goes forward.
Gonzalez was acquired in early 2014 to partner Parkhurst in the center of the Black and Gold's defense. He brought size and physicality to the defense that went with Marshall, but still had the mobility and the tactical awareness to adjust positionally as the formation shifts.
The Costa Rican did well early for Columbus, earning a spot on his national team's run to the quarterfinals of the World Cup Finals. Gonzalez was named to Best XI of the group stage and earned attention worldwide, eventually leading to the MLS-record purchase for a defender.
Emanuel Pogatetz was acquired late in the 2014 season and has since established himself as both a bruiser and a technician alongside Parkhurst.
Although it may not have been Berhalter's intent, tactics has played a part in Marshall's move. Parkhurst's diversity and positioning allowed the team to play a fluid and open style offensively, while still being secure at the back. Gonzalez was on his way to a Defender of the Year-type season before his record transfer and Pogatetz appears to be another good fit.
Could Marshall have slotted into Berhalter's back line and been successful? Possibly.
A good move by both parties that will come to a head on Saturday night. Marshall will make his return to MAPFRE Stadium on the opposite side and have to deal with this new team, new system and new era of Crew SC soccer.