I’ve kept my feelings about the Gregg Berhalter hiring pretty close to my chest mainly because I didn’t really know how I thought about it. On one hand I liked that he isn’t some re-tread international coach. He seems like a progressive guy that wants to really build something for US Soccer. On the other hand, he’s still just an MLS guy with no European experience. He seems like a guy that will champion the corporate US Soccer mantra and focus on their interests, which is money, rather than actually growing our talent.
When Jurgen Klinsmann was hired as USMNT manager, I was adamant that we had to give him ample time before judging him. He was trying to change things from the top down. Those changes don’t happen overnight. That’s especially true when you’re dealing with an older team like Klinsmann was.
The same is true for Berhalter. He’s putting in his system and he needs time before we make any judgements. In fact, his results have been pretty good, he won his first three matches along with a draw and a loss.
Berhalter has named his 23 man squad for his first international tournament with the US and let me tell ya, if he doesn’t win it, the fans opinion of him is going to change real quick.
Berhalter has recalled Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez. The three leaders of Bruce Arena’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign. Not only do none of the fans want to see any of them wear a US shirt again, after the (lack of) effort they gave in 2017 they don’t deserve to wear the shirt.
Not going to the Gold Cup is the United States’ best defender John Brooks. Why? Great question. For all his flaws no other US defender has the box presence of Brooks and his skills on the ball are unmatched.
Joining him on the couch is budding 19 year old striker Josh Sargent, the striker with the highest ceiling in the pool. People may say it’s because he’s not getting first team chances with Werder Bremen but that’s a load of crap.
Sargent is getting the shaft because he doesn’t know Berhalter’s system. A system he hasn’t gotten a fair chance at learning.
That my friends is the ultimate problem. Berhalter’s god damn system. It’s going to be his, and our, undoing.
I understand the concept behind the system. It’s designed to give maximum space to duel number 10’s Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie. Ideally that’s good.
Unfortunately it’s a vastly different system to what any of the players have played at club level. That’s a problem!
It’s not a coincidence that we haven’t had one pretty game under Gregg Berhalter. Every game the US looks like a disjointed mess as they both collectively and individually struggle to grasp this new system.
Being an international manager is hard. You need to figure out how to maximize the talent of your best players. Your team is always changing due to form and injuries. For the most part you only get two weeks with your players at a time.
Berhalter being married to his system puts an additional strain on the players. Two weeks, and really just a few training sessions, is not a lot of time to learn a new system. And they have to do that in between fighting for a place with their club teams by playing the way their manager tells them to.
Contrast that with England boss Gareth Southgate. Prior to last summer’s World Cup Southgate installed a system that was designed to have each player playing a role incredibly similar to the one they played for their club.
Right back Kyle Walker played as part of a back three, because that’s what he does when Manchester City go on attack. When England were defending he slotted over to more of a right back role, because that’s what he does. Raheem Sterling plays a very central role next to Sergio Aguero for Manchester City. By playing with a back three and wing backs Southgate was able to get Sterling off the wing and in a central role next to Kane.
That’s what international managers have to do, build a team around their players.
That’s not what Gregg is doing. Instead he’s deploying the teams best midfielder at right back because, well he can. Adam’s has played some right back for his club and Berhalter’s system has the right back slotting in as a central midfielder when the US attack (with the rest of the defense shifting to a back three).
It’s ~similar~ to Southgate’s fluid England system but way more complicated. Not to mention what’s the point? The US has good right back options in DeAndre Yedlin and Nick Lima has looked solid. They don’t have good midfield options. Taking Adams out of the midfield because he has that skillset just seems like a waste.
Up front is even more of a disaster. Gyasi Zardes has the advantage playing under Berhalter at the club level and knows his system perfectly. There’s only problem, he’s terrible. Meanwhile the US left Josh Sargent off the U20 World Cup roster, where he could have gotten valuable experience, so he could play in the Gold Cup. Then they left him off the roster. What a joke.
I have to stop writing now. I’m just getting more mad. Since 2017 I’ve been waiting for the USMNT to start playing competitive games again. I’ve been wanting to splurge on a Tyler Adams jersey.
Gregg Berhalter has taken all that excitement away. He’s making it hard for fans to care again.