Berhalter is back as coach of the USMNT?
In a complete and inexplicable turnabout that is eerily reminiscent of the strange and opaque manner in which Carlos Cordeiro ascended to the presidency of the USSF when Sunil Gulati resigned following the USA’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and then the manner in which Cindy Parlow Cone ascended to the presidency when Cordeiro subsequently, abruptly resigned, our soccer federation reinstated Gregg Berhalter as our USMNT head coach six months after allowing his contract to expire.
Everyone knows why the federation allowed the coach’s contract to lapse, what is unclear is how we still ended up with the same coach. That he was hired while the new sporting director, Matt Crocker, had yet to assume his job begs the question—who hired the coach? Interestingly, Crocker, interviewed soon after being hired but long before assuming his role, said that he would be interviewing candidates for the head coach position in June and July. Oops. But here we are, it is still June, and 22 of the 23 USSF board members confirmed the hire. What happened? And how?
What seems just as curious is the fact that given the generational talents available to whoever coaches the team—such as the unheralded B.J. Callahan who just led the same squad, if a different line-up, to the best back-to-back performances of his charges’ careers (Mexico 3-0, Canada 2-0) to win the 2023 Nations League—there would be a need to bring back the coach responsible, after being at the helm for four years, for the 3-1 loss to the Dutch in the 2022 World Cup. USA gifts Dutch
That critical loss, in our sport’s greatest stage, was the result of the most amateurish USA performance in recent memory and each goal scored against us was a repeat of the previous one—defensive blunder after defensive blunder after defensive blunder. Our draw with Wales was similarly predicated on an 82nd-minute defensive blunder that saw us lose two points. Our draw with England was partially due to our inability to put but two shots on goal the entire match with the most gifted offensive USMNT ever. We had the players, we had the potential line-up, and yet we did not have the coach, and thus we eked our way to the cup and through the cup. Oh, we did beat Iran 1-0.
According to Yahoo Sports, “U.S. Soccer scored and ranked [potential coaching] candidates in eight key areas to arrive at their chosen coach: relationship building, planning, self-managing, communication, decision-making, innovation, people development, and whether the coach had a ‘vision-led identity’ that aligned with U.S. Soccer.”
So Berhalter convinced USSF that he had the ability to build good relationships (Reyna?), was good at self-managing (HOW summit), likewise at communication (see his remarks after the 2022 Dutch game), decision-making (see the prior three), innovation (where and when, please?), people development (it would have been more meaningful for a coach had the requirement been “player development” right?) and whatever that eighth one meant. So, exactly how did we end up with Berhalter?
Photo: Gregg Berhalter, Shutterstock ID: 2224799681, by Lev Radim