After two successful seasons as the sporting director and head coach of Columbus Crew SC, Gregg Berhalter was given a contract extension on Wednesday. Berhalter had his option already picked up through the 2017 season, but the extension ties him to the club for the foreseeable future.
"It is a great way for us to start off 2016 with this announcement," Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt said on a conference call. "For me, it was our highest priority as a club going into the offseason. Gregg is a central figure in our revitalization of the club and I thought it was really important for us to have the comfort that Gregg will be with us for many years to come as he shapes our entire soccer operations, from the first team to the Academy and beyond."
In his first season with the Black & Gold, Berhalter returned Columbus to the MLS Cup Playoffs, the club's first appearance in the postseason since 2011. The team finished with a record of 14-10-10 and made a big jump to a third place finish in the Eastern Conference with 52 points.
In year two in charge, Berhalter and Crew SC exceeded the bar set in his first season, improving to 15-11-8 and finishing second in the East on 53 points. The Black & Gold went on to conquer the East for the first time since 2008 and appeared in and hosted the 2015 MLS Cup Final before losing to the Portland Timbers 2-1.
"It feels great," Berhalter said of the extension. "I think that the support that we've been given from Mr. Precourt we all feel and it makes a great working environment. Not only that, you're motivated. You're motivated to do well and want to succeed and continually improve because you know you have the support behind you. That was a big factor in deciding to extend this deal because the working environment that's created and the direction that I feel that the club is going, both from the technical side and the business side."
Not only has the team improved, but the organization as well. Berhalter has helped to reshape the Crew SC Academy and rebuilt a staff that was once stagnant.
After the 2015 season, Berhalter is in rare company. He became only the third head coach in MLS history to reach the Final within his first two years at the helm. Bruce Arena (D.C. United) and former Crew SC head coach Sigi Schmid (LA Galaxy) both accomplished this feat in the early days of the league.
Berhalter is atop the Crew SC coaching record books as the most successful coach in team history. Over his first two seasons, the club has earned 51.5 percent of the points available and he is the first Columbus head coach, without an interim tag, to lead the team to the postseason in his first two years in charge.
While he's gotten the best out of his players on the field, Berhalter has also demonstrated a knack for finding and bringing in talent. Names such as Giancarlo Gonzalez, Steve Clark, Kei Kamara, and Harrison Afful, among others were all the head coach's acquisitions and have played a major part in the club's success over the last two seasons.
"I would like to thank Mr. Precourt for his continued support," Berhalter said in the Crew SC press release. "I am proud to be part of this club and I am grateful to the players for their hard work, bravery and commitment to our style of play. My family and I are extremely happy in Columbus and are touched by the support of the city and the fans. We look forward to continued improvement in 2016 and I am honored to call this club home."