The United States men’s national team picked up another Nations League success under Gregg Berhalter. Berhalter has shown massive success in North America as the man in charge of a pair of Nations League crowns and the 2021 Gold Cup. Plus, he got the squad back to the World Cup after the disaster of 2018. Still, critics point to a lack of results against top teams from outside North America and the Caribbean. With a host of talented and powerful nations coming to the United States this summer in the Copa America, Berhalter will be under mounting pressure to pull out results.

If Copa America does not go well for the United States and Berhalter’s USMNT exit in the group stage or the round of 16, Jesse Marsch would be a natural replacement. Ironically, the two engaged in some petty back-and-forth throughout the Nations League. That stemmed from Marsch questioning Reyna’s inclusion in the squad on the CBS podcast Call it What You Want based on his availability and experience at Nottingham Forest. Berhalter hit back with a comment directed toward Marsch.

“I think I heard somewhere that someone asked, ‘Why did Gio get called into camp?’ did you guys hear that?” Berhalter said. “Anyone? I think he showed why tonight. It’s clear he deserves to play on this team.”

Certainly, Berhalter was right. Reyna picked up two assists in the Nations League semifinal against Jamaica before scoring the second goal in the win over Mexico in the Nations League Final. Yet, the comments directed at Marsch highlighted another issue for Berhalter. The past issues with Reyna are a microcosm of player selection issues. Haji Wright, for example, was not in the original squad, and the Coventry City striker only joined the side after an injury to Josh Sargent. He scored a brace in extra time to defeat Jamaica.

Marsch critical of USA under Berhalter

Player suggestion is one thing. Berhalter has also been under fire for his in-game tactics and managerial decisions. The USMNT relies on possession, which it often dominates in each game. However, it is not clinical or dangerous in the final third. For example, the United States had far more possession than Jamaica in the semifinal, but it required an own goal in second-half stoppage time to force extra time.

Then, in the Final, Marsch directly questioned first-half tactics against Mexico.

“I don’t understand why we make all these complicated rotations, and for me, we are putting players in positions that do not access their best qualities,” Marsch said while working as an analyst for CBS during Nations League coverage.

In a way, Marsch is alluding to the fact that Berhalter has a talented squad of young USA players. Their ability could have played a bigger role in the side’s success on Sunday night than anything Berhalter did. The two goals did not come from brilliant build-up play nor did they capitalize on taking advantage of Mexico. The first goal was a stunner from 30 yards away from Tyler Adams. Marsch said Adams had never struck a ball that well in his life. Then, Gio Reyna’s second-half goal was another brilliant volley from just inside the 18-yard box after a deflected cross.

At this point, the talent gap between the United States and Mexico is the difference between the two sides. Success in the Nations League is a combination of elite USMNT players and a poor Mexico side. From Marsch’s perspective, Berhalter has yet to prove that he can out-coach a top side from anywhere else in the world.

Can Marsch make the USMNT better?

The United States has had similar instances of coaches being critical of USMNT bosses. The feud between Marsch and Berhalter resembles that of 2010 when then-ESPN analyst Jurgen Klinsmann said Bob Bradley was not doing well with the United States. Klinsmann then became the head coach of the USA men’s national team, where he led the side to the World Cup round of 16 in 2014 and a Gold Cup title in 2013.

The U.S. Soccer Federation sacked Bradley after losing the 2011 Gold Cup to Mexico, and Klinsmann stepped in. In 2024, Berhalter’s status with the USMNT could be contingent on success in the Copa America. The talent showed what it can do against Mexico yet again. Now, Berhalter must work to get the best out of his squad. If he does not, Jesse Marsch could prove to be the second critic-turned-coach as a replacement for Berhalter in the USA men’s national team.