Some insider notes from the soccer world:
• The Columbus Crew named Gregg Berhalter its new head coach and sporting director on Wednesday, and I spoke to owner Anthony Precourt on the phone about it soon after the announcement. One of the most interesting things Precourt said was he liked Berhalter’s data-driven approach, explaining that Berhalter broke down the current Columbus team from a macro level by examining the allocation of its cap space toward different positions and the return the club has been getting on its investment in those players.
“He’s progressive,” Precourt said of Berhalter. “He also analyzed passing accuracy and goals-against and a number of different metrics in terms of players’ return on investment. As it relates to our performance on the field, he believes in using GPS and monitoring players’ health and all the scientific things you can do to take care of our players. He’s very analytical and has a detailed plan.”
When I asked Precourt if he was concerned that Berhalter was fired a few months ago from a Swedish second-division team that’s 49 percent owned by AEG honcho Phil Anschutz (Hammarby), Precourt said he certainly considered that, but he pointed out that coaches like Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena have been fired as well in their coaching careers and weren’t written off because of it. In fact, Precourt said he was so impressed with Berhalter that he decided to give him total control over the Crew’s soccer decisions.
• Staying with Columbus, new owner Precourt said the team’s rebranding would likely happen in 2015. The club will still be called the Columbus Crew and the colors will still be black and gold, he said, but the logo and crest are likely to change.
“The three workmen and the ‘hardest-working team in soccer’ feels a little manufactured,” Precourt said. “I can’t say that completely resonates with what Columbus is really about. It’s a youthful, smart, progressive city. We want to try and resonate a little more locally and be more relevant nationally.”
• A source close to AC Milan texted me on Wednesday to say that the old guard of Milan greats, including Paolo Maldini, is in talks to potentially head into leadership positions in the club. Maldini, the legendary Italian defender, has not been involved in the club leadership and has been living part-time in Miami.
• World Cup 2022 is very likely to be moved from June and July of that year due to Qatar’s heat, and a European source tells me FIFA is supporting November and December of 2022 at this point. January and February will be difficult due to the Winter Olympics taking place then, while European Club Association chair Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is supporting April and May. A lot of politicking remains, but we’ll see if Sepp Blatter gets his way on November-December.