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U.S. Soccer Hires Berhalter, the Anti-Klinsmann

December 4th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Galaxy, Landon Donovan, soccer, Sports Journalism

That wasn’t such a chore, was it?

A mere 421 days after the U.S. national team lost in Trinidad and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup … and the Yanks have a coach!

That would be Gregg Berhalter, recently head man of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew.

Not a glamor hire, certainly. Berhalter was part of the U.S. World Cup teams in both 2002 and 2006, and he started two matches in the former tournament … and I have absolutely zero memory of anything he ever did. Maybe because he never scored a goal?

His arrival on the scene follows, at a remove, the ultimately disastrous Jurgen Klinsmann regime.

For most of this decade, the U.S. coach was an impresario. A celebrity. A global name.

Now, the Yanks have a coach.

All rational U.S. fans should prefer the latter.

It did take too long to find a coach. Hard to refute that. It was October 10, 2017, when the Yanks sleep-walked their way to defeat Port of Spain.

Let us choose to see the subsequent glacial movement in the national team as the difficulties of breaking down a failed system and creating a new one.

First, the ouster of Klinsmann, after the awful start to 2018 qualifying. The dreadful performances by several of the trusted veterans. The rot at the top.

Which led to federation president Sunil Gulati stepping down (before he could be voted down), and rise of Carlos Cordeiro to president, the hiring of Earnie Stewart as general manager of US soccer’s men’s team … and, finally, Stewart hiring Berhalter, who did a lot of good things as coach of the small-budget Crew.

Now, it begins. There will be a senior men’s training camp in January, and we will see about the new coach. What he wants to do, what he likes to do.

As a man who played in defense throughout his career, we probably can anticipate a focus on hardening the back four and a long look at the goalkeeper situation.

For a quarter of a century, the U.S. had quality keepers pretty much stacked up … and then Tim Howard got old, and Brad Guzan seemed to win the position by default and, well, goalkeeper will need a long look.

The six or seven guys up the pitch … none of them is a sure thing except Pulisic, assuming good health for the team’s one elite player.

Berhalter’s recent history is as a coach in the MLS, so we can assume he will not hold it against Americans who choose to play domestically. Nothing like the Klinsmann prejudice against them. That is good, because the U.S. still does not have a whole bunch of guys tearing it up (or even playing much for strong clubs) in Europe.

The blessing for Berhalter is that he gets to start from scratch. No trying to pick up the pieces of the rotted-out structure Klinsmann turned over to place-holders Bruce Arena and Dave Sarachan (who led the senior side for the whole of the 2018 non-season).

This is Berhalter’s team.

He is 45, old enough to have seen much, young enough to remember what it is to represent the U.S. on the pitch.

Landon Donovan likes the hire, and that counts for something. Leading scorer (along with Clint Dempsey) in U.S. history, former teammate of Berhalter’s (both on the national team, and with the LA Galaxy), and Klinsmann loathed him, which only makes Landon look better.

It should be an interesting year, 2019, for the Yanks. A year in which they will play in the Concacaf Gold Cup, which should give us an idea of how much progress they have made.

They should be good enough to qualify for Qatar 2022, which should be the minimum threshold for the new coach. And he certainly couldn’t disagree with that.

So, yeah, it took 421 days, but the U.S. finally has its management team in place. From covering the 1994 team, I know Earnie Stewart is a good egg, and we can assume Berhalter is, too.

The buildup now begins.




1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Gene Hiigel // Dec 4, 2018 at 9:22 PM

    Your memory fails you here. In the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals against Germany, who took the memorable shot that Thorston Frings cleared off the line with his arm? Gregg Berhalter.

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