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Columbus hires Gregg Berhalter as coach

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Columbus Crew hired former U.S. men's national team and Major League Soccer player Gregg Berhalter as their seventh head coach.

The Englewood, N.J., native replaces interim coach Brian Bliss, who took over during the recently completed Crew season for the fired Robert Warzycha, who had led the team the past five years.

''The Crew has a strong history of winning and a dedicated fan base, and I aim to bring a style of play that resonates with our supporters and results that will make the city proud,'' Berhalter said in a statement Wednesday. ''I am eager to get started, and my immediate priority is to reach out to the players and share our new vision for the club as we move forward.''

Berhalter became the first American to manage a European professional club when he was hired by Sweden's Hammarby IF. His Hammarby teams went 18-11-16 in two seasons. He was fired last summer, largely because the team had difficulty mustering goals - a problem he will also face with the defensive-oriented Crew.

He had an 18-year run as a player, including stays in the Netherlands, England and Germany and MLS.

Berhalter will also oversee all player personnel decisions with the team, with Crew President Mark McCullers relinquishing his duties as general manager to focus primarily on the club's business operations.

''Gregg's strong vision, passion, work ethic, intelligence, data-driven decision-making, broad soccer network and playing credentials separated him throughout this search,'' said Anthony Precourt, the Crew's chairman. ''His unique skill-set gives us great confidence in boldly changing the structure of our soccer operations, with Gregg leading as our first-ever Sporting Director.''

In his final season with the L.A. Galaxy in 2011, Berhalter worked under coach Bruce Arena to prepare training sessions, video analysis and scouting as the club won the MLS Cup championship. He also was on the coaching side at 1860 Munich, where he helped with scouting for the German Club from 2007-09.

After playing for the University of North Carolina, Berhalter spent time with Dutch Second Division team FC Zwolle and Holland First Division clubs Sparta Rotterdam and SC Cambuur before moving on to England's Crystal Palace FC in the Football League Championship.

He reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup with the United States before signing with Energie Cottbus of the German Bundesliga, where he served as captain while playing from 2002-06. He switched to 1860 Munich from 2006-09 before joining the Galaxy in 2009-11, serving as vice-captain.

He earned 44 caps with the U.S. men's national team.

Bliss leaves the Crew after six seasons as technical director. The club went 4-4-0 with him as interim coach.

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