After a successful playing career that included stints in Europe and multiple trophies with the LA Galaxy, Gregg Berhalter became the most prominent U.S. products to manage in Europe when he was named head coach of Swedish side Hammarby on Dec. 12, 2011. Although Berhalter left after his second season with the club, he quickly found his next gig: technical director and head coach of Columbus Crew SC. Crew SC has quickly adapted to its head coach’s possession-oriented style and was the second highest scoring offense in MLS during the regular season. As technical director, Berhalter has made changes to bolster the club’s present and future outlooks. In 2015, Crew SC identified and signed key contributors Kei Kamara, Cedrick Mabwati, Gaston Sauro and Harrison Afful. And at the end of the regular season, Crew SC announced that the academy at all levels will play the same aggressive and possession-oriented tactics as the first team. Berhalter has made big strides with Crew SC in only his second season full season in charge. A second MLS Cup trophy would further highlight Columbus’ bright future ahead.
After making only six starts in his first two seasons in MLS, Ethan Finlay has gone on to start 55 regular season games since Gregg Berhalter took charge full-time at the start of the 2014 season. During that time, Finlay has emerged as one of the MLS’ most dangerous wingers, notching 23 goals and 20 assists.
Finlay’s teammate Wil Trapp was among the most established young players in the United States when he signed a Homegrown contract with Crew SC in 2012. In his three professional seasons, Trapp has cemented himself as one of the crown jewels of Columbus’ growing stable of young talent, having been named vice-captain of the club at the beginning of this season as a 22-year-old. In September, Trapp was named the No. 4 player on MLSSoccer.com’s “24 Under 24” rankings. Due to his exploits on the field, Trapp was named the U.S. U-23 captain during qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Another young, key contributor to Crew SC’s successful season is left back Waylon Francis. The Costa Rican international joined the club in 2014 from perennial CONCACAF Champions League participants Herediano, and was an unused squad player for the Costa Rica’s successful 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign. In his two seasons in MLS, Francis has been one of the most potent fullbacks in the league, chipping into the attack with 13 assists in 52 regular season appearances.
Crew SC forward Kei Kamara’s improbable journey to stardom
After being selected ninth overall at the 2006 MLS SuperDraft by Columbus Crew SC, Kei Kamara bounced around the league, making stops with the San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City. It was at SKC where Kamara gained a reputation for being a target forward with the ability to score goals – 38 in total. English clubs took notice and Kamara joined English Premier League side Norwich City on loan in 2013. After scoring one goal in 11 appearances for Norwich City, Kamara then joined Championship side Middlesbrough, where he would go on to score four goals in 25 appearances for the club. Kamara suited up for Crew SC in 2015 and would have his finest season yet as a professional, tying the league-high in goals scored (22) with Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco, while adding eight assists. Kamara has come a long way after escaping Sierra Leone’s civil war as a child, to become the focal point for Crew SC establish imself as one of Major League Soccer’s brightest talents.