Berhalter Back as USMNT Head Coach
Minutes before the US facing Mexico in the Nations League Semifinal, news linked that Gregg Berhalter is the likely candidate to return as head coach for the US Men's National Team.
What an evening it was, soccer fans!
In the midst of the US Men’s National Team taking the field and dominating Mexico, including a brace by Christian Pulisic and goal from Ricardo Pepi, the US soccer world when wild over news that Gregg Berhalter was picked to return as head coach for another cycle.
While there are certainly many questions that linger, Berhalter’s re-appointment is hardly a surprise. He has been a successful coach for the US. Their showing at the World Cup at least met expectations. The depth of the first team national pool is better than it has been for a long time. There is a growing sense of how these teams want to play and express their ideas on the field, at all levels.
Credit to Berhalter for getting US Soccer in a strong direction, even after there were suggestions of nepotism in his initial hire.
Some fans are complaining about this news. Questions should be welcome. That’s a good sign for this program. Berhalter is not a perfect head coach. No one is. There are risks and rewards to any potential hire.
Here are some of my thoughts to the key questions.
Why wait to hire him now? Why not renew his contract earlier?
It’s no secret that Berhalter’s contract ended in December, and the US Soccer organization was in a weird place at that time. There was much transition. And oh, yeah, there was that whole scandal involving the Reynas, a past incident between Gregg and his wife, and an appropriate investigation.
It made sense, I believe, to give everyone a pause and give the organization and even Gregg himself to evaluate what is best. If the investigation had led to Gregg concealing other damaging actions or mistreating players, then the organization wouldn’t have had to fire him so soon after renewing the contract. And who knows if Gregg was ready to sign an extension after all that happened? Maybe he needed to take a breath and figure out what he wanted to do.
In the interim, there have been mostly meaningless games, although the timing of this with Nations League and Gold Cup games in the midst is a bit awkward.
Overall, I always prefer an organization take their time and get things right, rather than rush into something that they might regret.
What about the players who have frayed relationships with him?
Professional soccer is a sport, like any other, where players have to battle and compete for minutes. Dealing with a coach who may not be your biggest fan happens at every level of the game. Sometimes, it is simply unjust, but often, it is another piece of adversity one has to overcome.
If Ricardo Pepi has issues with Berhalter not selecting him for the most recent World Cup, join the club. There are plenty of other players that experience this disappointment every time a major tournament rolls around.
If Gio Reyna is unhappy with Gregg back in because of the way he was treated during the World Cup, don’t play. Or get back in and try to convince Gregg that you are a professional who can work out of those moments of adversity and prove your worth. Relationships can be rebuilt.
I get that sometimes people can truly mistreat one another, and it can be hard to move on. I hope relationships on the national team are not that damaged, but I get that players and coaches take all of this very personally. It is hard. Gregg was no doubt asked how he would handle these kinds of situations going forward, how he might mend broken fences and take a fresh look going forward.
Can Gregg continue to grow?
More than anything else, this is the central question. Did the break for Gregg in this work remind of the need for every person involved in a project like this to continue to grow? Will Gregg be supported with new voices and coaches around him that will challenge him to keep evolving? Can he become better and more flexible in his tactics and approach and getting the most out of the pool?
What if it doesn’t work?
What if we hired a new coach and it didn’t work? You cut your losses and move on. Who says we are locked into Gregg forever? Or any coach? US Soccer will still have time to make changes, if they need to. No need to panic, even if you are disappointed.
What other questions would you add?
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