Soccer: Crew was close to Diskerud deal, Berhalter says

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter said he learned two things from the Crew’s failed pursuit of U.S. national-team midfielder Mix Diskerud.

First, that investor-operator Anthony Precourt is willing to open the checkbook when it comes to landing a player of Diskerud’s caliber. Second, that a deal is not complete until ink has been put to paper.

“We were right there,” Berhalter said after practice yesterday at Crew Stadium. “In the end, I can’t say why it didn’t go through. We were in a position to present an offer probably 98 percent of the players in the league would take.”

Wednesday marked the close of Major League Soccer’s summer transfer window during which teams could sign players under contract in other countries. The Crew’s courtship of Diskerud began before the World Cup, Berhalter said. Diskerud has made 20 appearances for the national team and was on the World Cup roster but did not play during the tournament.

Several reports said the Crew had a handshake deal with Diskerud and his father, Paal, who was serving as his agent. Yesterday, Berhalter said that was not the case.

“I feel like we really got to a point where this thing was going, this thing was happening,” he said. “You take a step back, you look at what could have been better, how you could have finished the deal. But in the end, the player’s got to be totally committed to it, and it’s got to be something that’s right. Maybe for some reason it wasn’t.”

Last week, Berhalter said a “big national-team player” had reached out to the Crew. Yesterday, he confirmed it was not Diskerud.

With the transfer window now closed, the Crew has until Sept. 15 to sign players out of contract, such as Greek forward Dimitrios Papadopoulos, or to make moves within the league before rosters freeze.

The Crew still has the top spot in the league’s allocation order, which means it will have the first crack at national-team players or players who left MLS for a transfer fee, want to return and are out of contract.

The pursuit of Diskerud did not financially hamper its search for other players, Berhalter said, and hope remains of bringing in at least one player who can make an impact this season.

“That was a big fish we were going after because of the circumstances,” Berhalter said of Diskerud. “We put a lot of energy into that. We’ve been working on other things, and now you start to execute some of those other things. Now we’re talking about … a different profile (of player), but we still feel that we can find someone that can help the team in the short term.”

Diskerud remains a future possibility, he said.

The Crew did land a player who is part of the national team’s youth level, however. Nineteen-year-old midfielder Romain Gall was assigned to the Crew via a weighted lottery. He has represented the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels and played with Wil Trapp at Brad Friedel’s academy several years ago.

“I was in high school, and he was in middle school,” Trapp said. “He was kind of like a little brother to me back then, but he’s grown up. He’s a very technical player. Smart. Likes to get forward, likes to make stuff happen. He can play underneath the striker or out wide but an attack-minded guy.”

Berhalter said Gall is unlikely to make a first-team impact this year.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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