U.S. defender Gregg Berhalter today inked a one-year deal with Energie Cottbus of the German Bundesliga, departing Crystal Palace of the English First Division after a rocky eighteen months. In an interview with ussoccer.com , Berhalter talked about the transfer and his feelings about leaving England...
ussoccer.com: It seems like a long-awaited move for you has finally come through. How did the talks with Cottbus come about?
Gregg Berhalter: "Obviously I had people looking because of my situation here. I got a call from my agent saying that Cottbus were very interested and they wanted me to come over and look at the city and meet with the team. I thought it would be a great opportunity. It only took two days to do the deal. It was very easy. They were really straightforward and open with me. I talked to the coach and management, and they made me an offer. We came back two hours later and agreed terms. It was quick and simple. They acted very professionally, and I had a good feeling about that."
ussoccer.com: What did [coach] Eduard Geyer tell you about his expectations?
GB: "Basically they've been struggling with their defense. They saw the World Cup performances, and they had some recommendations about me. They want me to come in and help the defense. Cottbus aren't off to a good start, and staying in the Bundesliga is the main objective. From all indications I'll have a chance to play straight away."
ussoccer.com: You mentioned your World Cup performance. How much of a factor was the U.S. performance in creating opportunitites like this?
GB: "They had gone back and looked at the tapes. Obviously I played in the Germany match so they all saw that. They were very impressed with our players and our team. There's no question American players have earned more respect after the World Cup."
ussoccer.com: Obviously you had a difficult time at Crystal Palace, rarely getting a chance with the first team. What will you take with you from your experiences there?
GB: "It was a lot of things. It was frustrating. It was disappointing. But I also learned a lot and met some good people. Crystal Palace is a good club. There were a lot of different factors that added up to me not being able to make the impact that I would have liked. It's disappointing, because you never want to walk away from a club like that. My days here were clearly numbered and that was clear from the manager, so I had to do something."
ussoccer.com: You must be looking forward to getting a new start...
GB: "Absolutely. The Bundesliga is one of the top four leagues in the world. Great teams, great stadiums. It's a better league than I'm playing in now, and it's a terrific chance to get back into first team football. I've talked to Frankie [Hedjuk] and Eddie [Lewis] about the same things. We all wanted to move and get a chance to play. From a soccer perspective, it's a great move, and I'm looking forward to playing in the Bundesliga. My wife and I are very excited."
Berhalter can make his Bundesliga debut against Hannover 96 on September 11 in Hannover.