With snow falling in central Ohio, most Columbus Crew SC fans are probably jealous of the Black & Gold who just completed the first week of preseason training in sunny Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Crew SC left Monday and spent the week working on soccer, fitness and getting to know each other.
Since then, Columbus announced the signing of three players in midfielders Mohammed Abu and Abuchi Obinwa as well as acquiring Cristian Martinez on a full-time basis.
On top of training, the team will also play three preseason games, including against Sao Paulo FC. This is different than previous preseason trips where games have not occured until later portions.
On Friday morning, head coach Gregg Berhalter joined members of the Crew SC media on a conference call from Sao Paulo to discuss how things are going and the new additions.
Conversation with Berhalter
- Over the first few days, Crew SC has focused on offensive teachings, but that will shift to defense over the weekend before the first game.
- Berhalter said the games will be a chance to evaluate all of the players, not just the new guys, and everyone will receive playing time.
- The goalkeeper situation has been an interesting topic since the Black & Gold did not re-sign Steve Clark. Berhalter said he is comfortable with Brad Stuver and Zack Steffen, but the team hasn’t done enough to evaluate the two (plus rookie Logan Ketterer) so far in preseason. Berhalter did not rule out the possibility of adding another keeper, but said it would depend on performance.
- Berhalter has been surprised with how quickly the new guys have been fitting in with the rest of the team.
- There are a couple of Crew SC international players who are close to getting their Green Card, per Berhalter. This would help ease issues for international spots, which the club is currently over.
- On new midfielder Mohammed Abu, Berhalter said he’s impressed with how quickly he’s fitting in with the playing style. There’s still a long way to go, but it sounds as if this central midfielder is a good fit after making the move to the Black & Gold.
- While he didn’t say it was an intention, Berhalter admitted the team is happy to be getting younger. The oldest addition this offseason is 28 years old, while Columbus no longer has older players such as Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl or Conor Casey.
- New signing Abuchi Obinwa is a player Berhalter called “interesting.” Said the midfielder’s got good mobility and good defensive attributes. He also said that the staff plans to use this preseason to evaluate Obinwa and see if he can make the roster.
- Asked about the three-man backline, Berhalter said that will be something they will look at during preseason. He said team wants to attack relentlessly and defend well and three at the back makes sense for their players.
- Berhalter said the team signed off on Wil Trapp being with the national team for the full January camp and they’ll see how that plays out before knowing when he will rejoin the team.
- Asked about the challenges of having new defender Jonathan Mensah at the African Cup of Nations with Ghana and missing preseason, Berhalter said there’s no challenge at all. He said they will integrate him when he returns and the club is looking at Jonathan for the long term and this international tournament is another great experience for him.