Gregg Berhalter

USA Today

Hyped About US Soccer

They Will Win.

December 05, 2018 - 12:01 pm
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If you want a coach’s press conference to be hyped about, I give you US Soccer. Yeah, I said it. US Soccer. They introduced the new head coach of the Men’s National Team yesterday and I could not be more pumped.

I know I don’t dip my toe into the soccer waters very often, but just because I don’t talk about it on the air, doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of thoughts about it. I do. 

And my thought right now is: HELL. YES.

Because US Soccer introduced Gregg Berhalter yesterday as the man to lead the men’s national team and I couldn’t be more fired up.

Wake up Teddy Goals-a-velt, US Soccer is back. And I’ve only got six words for you:

I. BELIEVE. THAT. WE. WILL. WIN.

The process took a while. It’s been 14 months since the US was humiliated in Trinidad and Tobago and failed to go to this year’s World Cup. 14 long months. 

And now the wait is over. We, yeah I said “we,” have our man. And our man is Gregg Berhalter.  

Did you want a flashy name? Keep moving. Because Berhalter is not flashy. He’s a grinder. But just because he isn’t Roberto Martinez, doesn’t mean he isn’t the right man for the job. 

The US men’s national team doesn’t need a great name, they need a great plan. And Gregg Berhalter is a man with plans. Did you see what he did in Columbus, not just as head coach, but also as sporting director? 

With all due respect to “The Discovery City” it’s not exactly high on the list when international stars want to come play in the United States. You don’t have guys like Zlatan or Beckham saying, do I want to play in LA or Columbus? Columbus or LA?

So Berhalter had to build a team and develop an identity. And that identity is something that’s been lacking in US Soccer for a long time.

His Crew was adaptable. They disorganize opponents. They cause problems and those problems lead to goals. They don’t just come at you with one style, their brand is chaos.  

You think that might be exciting when you combine that with some of the pace and skill of the young Americans playing overseas who’ve broken through lately? 

Did you see how he used Higuain as a number ten? If that doesn’t get you fired up about how he might use a certain American star, I don’t know what will. 

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use Christian Pulisic the way he used Higuain, because Berhalter isn’t necessarily rigid when it comes to structure and formation. There’s flexibility there. He’s not going to slam a round peg in a square hole just because that’s what he’s used to. 

For too long, the men’s national team has lacked an identity. Berhalter laid out the identity he wants: “The idea is that we’re an attacking-based team that wants to create goal-scoring opportunities by disorganizing the opponent. It will do that in a number of different ways.”

FINALLY

If you’ve listened to this show for even a second in the last ten or so years, you’ve heard me talking about how I want a US men’s national team that is attacking based and that disorganizes the opponent. That’s right up there with “have a take and don’t suck” when it comes to mantras for this show. And finally someone is listening.

Did you hear what he said yesterday about how he wants this team to play? “Ball circulation, breaking lines, goal-scoring opportunities. That should be the DNA of this team.”

How many times have I opened the mic after a World Cup qualifier or a Gold Cup match and screamed those exact words? So many I can’t even count. 

Maybe we change up the tempo some, to keep our opponent out of rhythm. Can we get some ball circulation? Can we break the lines, PLEASE?!?

No longer are we just going to hope to score a goal off a set piece and then hang on for dear life on defense. 

But let’s talk about his history for a moment. You want someone who played at the highest levels? Berhalter did that as a member of the US National team with 44 caps and played in two world cups. 

And if it hadn’t been for one of the most egregious handballs in World Cup history, Berhalter would’ve scored against Germany in the quarterfinals. Instead, the Germans handled it on the goal line and referee Hugh Dallas disgracefully refused to call a hand ball. 

You want someone with European experience? He went to Europe right from college and made his way there as a player at a time where it was difficult for American players to gain credibility overseas. I’m going to guess that might give him some insight into what guys like Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent, and Tyler Adams are experiencing. 

He also went on to manage in Europe as well. But if you also want someone who knows MLS, Berhalter played in it and coached in it. You want someone who knows something about player development? Berhalter’s all over that. 

And he has something that no other American coach has ever had before: he has the karma. 

Jungle Karma. 

I’ve spent time with him. I’ve watched games with him. I do know him a little. I’d see him at the yard and around the hood not long ago: This guy doesn’t just know the game inside and out, he knows the details. He’s a detail and process oriented guy. There’s a method to everything he does. If you’re surprised that he’s the men’s national team coach today, you shouldn’t be. Not because it was rumored for months, but because he’s been working to put himself into this position for years. He has a plan and he works that plan.

And that is something the US men’s national team has not had for a long time. 

Would I have liked to see him get the gig earlier so that he could’ve managed some of the European friendlies? Of course. Sure, the coaching search may have taken longer than expected, but don’t let the process cloud the result: they got their guy. And more importantly, they got my guy.