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Gregg Berhalter, Columbus Crew SC excited to bring back Artur for 2018

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The Black & Gold already have an important piece secured for next season.

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York City at Columbus Crew Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

When Columbus Crew SC announced the loan deal for young Brazilian central midfielder Artur in February, head coach Gregg Berhalter was clearly excited with his new piece for 2017.

"Artur is a young, dynamic player who was a key contributor to a Sao Paulo FC program that is one of the most decorated in South America, winning trophies at the state, national and confederation level," Berhalter said when the addition was announced

On Wednesday, the Black & Gold made official what was reported by Brazilian media that the American club agreed to sign the 21 year old on a permanent basis.

Once again, Berhalter was excited in the assurance that Artur would remain in Columbus.

“Artur has certainly an outstanding quality and we know what we have with him. So it was imperative that we wrap this up rather quickly,” he said.

“When we’re thinking about alternatives in that position, we came to the conclusion pretty quickly that we wanted to make it a priority to sign him.”

The Brazilian registering one goal and three assists in his debut season with the Black & Gold. He led Crew SC in successful tackles (73) and recoveries per 90 minutes (8.01), as well as finishing sixth in Major League Soccer in tackles per 90 minutes (3.86).

“Artur had a very typical first season as a real pro,” Berhalter said. “He had great moments and he had moments where he was adapting to the speed and the physicality. But what became apparent is that he was progressing, and that’s what we saw.”

While it was a very productive first year in Columbus, where he made 27 total appearances (22 starts), Berhalter sees more from Artur.

At such a young age, and with only one full season of professional soccer under his belt, the Crew SC head coach believes Artur is “one of the most promising young players” in MLS.

Berhalter believes there is plenty of room for growth from the Brazilian, but also understands that his potential must still be realized.

“I think it’s taking what he’s done and just doing it a little bit better,” Berhalter said of where Artur can improve. “He’s very good with his ground cover, he’s very good at winning balls. That determination to win the ball back is excellent. When he has the ball, the ability to drive with it, dribbling is great. I think he’s improved his shot. All of these things you want to keep developing.

“Hopefully we can help bring it out of him, but the thing I do know is (he has) the character and the mental make up to succeed.”

With this move complete, Crew SC have now locked up three important pieces in the team’s central midfield.

The combination of Artur, Wil Trapp and Mohammed Abu was important for success in 2017 that saw the Black & Gold reach the Eastern Conference Finals, losing 1-0 on aggregate to Supporters’ Shield winners Toronto FC.

Berhalter believes with the trio in place so early in the offseason, and no need to teach new players in the center of the field the team’s system, Crew SC can be even better in 2018.

“We’re a step ahead of where we were last year obviously not having to integrate two new guys,” he said. “So that’s satisfying. Now it’s up to those three guys to take their game to the next level to help the team even more and I’m confident, when you look at the character of those three players, they’re going to improve next year. And we’ll be in a better spot than we were because of that.”

As for what more to expect from Crew SC this offseason now that Artur is secured for the foreseeable future? Berhalter said the focus is on improving the team for an even better 2018 MLS season.

“We’re going to keep looking and try and strengthen our team in all areas,” he said. “Our goal is to come back a stronger next year and the conversations with the guys, that was their tone as well. We’re going to do it from the existing players, but also bring in new players. And we want to be more competitive than we were this year.”