It doesn't seem all that long ago that Columbus Crew SC players and coaches were saying their final goodbyes and giving their last quotes of the year to members of the media. Maybe that's because it wasn't.
A month and a half after the team left for the offseason, the players reported back for the first day of entrance physicals and tests on Friday morning. While there isn't much to report in terms of on the field, all of the players still present when the media members arrived seemed in a very good mood. There is a clear sense of desire from this team to get back on the field after losing MLS Cup 2-1 to the Portland Timbers.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter spoke to the media after everything concluded, giving an update on the offseason, what he expects from preseason, and some other good nuggets.
Conversation with Berhalter
- The first bit of news was on new Crew SC signing Emil Larsen. Berhalter said Larsen fits a different profile from the other players the team has at the attacking midfield positions.
- Berhalter said it's important that Larsen is here for preseason training and he will be here as soon as his visa is approved. Expected to be at least a week.
- Larsen is expected to make an impact. Berhalter said he will likely push to be a starter and called him a quality player. Said he can play at any of the three attacking midfield positions (wide or centrally) due to his versatility.
- Berhalter admitted it's going to be hard to keep Larsen, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay, and Cedrick Mabwati happy. Said the team knows Meram and Cedrick will be gone at points with national team call-ups as well as Finlay who could be gone with the U.S. team.
- The goals for preseason are the same as in previous years. Learning style of play comes first followed by competition when the Black & Gold will compete against other teams.
- Plenty of players will miss time during preseason. Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, and Finlay are currently with the U.S. team in January camps and Waylon Francis is with Costa Rica. Berhalter mentioned Kei Kamara is returning to fitness but didn't elaborate on that situation. Also said Meram was getting back from a surgery.
- Berhalter said it is safe to assume the roster is not complete. He said they will bring someone else in the striker position.
- Berhalter called bringing all 11 starters back, plus plenty of other players from last season, "hard work." He said it will bring continuity and belief and they are working to be better than last year.
- All players who were expected to show up on Friday did.
- Berhalter was asked if he's talked with 21-year old American goalkeeper Charlie Horton, but said he doesn't comment on players that aren't on the roster.
- The MLS Cup Final is over, "that's history." Berhalter called it was a great event and good for the city, but he's looking forward now and doesn't want the team to dwell on that.
- Berhalter said it's hard to keep a core group together because of the league's salary cap structure, but this group still has time together and they will be more prepared than last year.
- On Ben Swanson, Berhalter said he did well during his time in Germany last season. He said the club hasn't ruled out sending him back over there. The head coach said he's not concerned with Swanson's age but if he's ready to play. Said if he's ready, he'll stay here and play.
- The preseason lays the foundation for the year. Berhalter said they've had excellent preseasons the last two years, which has been important for the team's success.
- D.C. United announced today that former Crew SC midfielder Kevan George is training with the team in preseason. Berhalter was asked if the Black & Gold had to give permission or will receive anything if he signs with United. He said the club waived George over the offseason and he is free to go anywhere.
- In terms of the partnership with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Berhalter said the two clubs have talked about a strategy. He said their coaches will be observing a part of preseason and they will come up with a plan after that.
- Berhalter has spoke with the four players away on international duty. He said they are doing well and enjoying their experience.