When the Galaxy sent recently retired defender Gregg Berhalter to Sweden to coach at Hammarby IF in 2011, the idea was Berhalter would serve a short apprenticeship there before returning to coach in Major League Soccer.
But when Berhalter returned to the U.S. on Wednesday, it didn’t happen quite the way they had planned, with the former Galaxy player-coach accepting the top job with the MLS rival Columbus Crew.
Berhalter succeeds interim manager Brian Bliss as the Crew coach and will also serve as the team’s sporting director, leaving him in charge of all player personnel decisions. Crew President Mark McCullers, meanwhile, will give up his duties as general manager to focus on the franchise’s business operations.
The Crew finished 12-17-5 this season, missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The team hasn’t posted a winning record since going 14-8-8 in 2010.
Berhalter, 40, a former U.S. international, played professionally for 18 years, making stops in the Netherlands, England and Germany before finishing his career as a player-coach with the Galaxy in 2011.
With Hammarby, he became the first American to manage a European professional club. In his two seasons there, Berhalter’s club went 18-11-16 in the Superettan, earning points in 34 of 45 matches in the second-tier league. Hammarby, which finished 11th the last season before Berhalter’s arrival, improved to fourth a year later. But he was dismissed last July, at the midpoint of the Swedish season.