Despite making it to the knockout stage, it’s evident that US Soccer needs a better coach than Gregg Berhalter to move this team forward. There’s no other way to put it than to say that Gregg Berhalter has massively underachieved with the US Men’s National Team (USMNT).
The World Cup run for the US came to an end on Saturday following a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the Round of 16.
The US was completely lost defensively with the Dutch scoring three wide-open goals. Offensively the US proved to be as challenged as ever. They managed just one goal and only four shots on goal.
Berhalter’s lineup selections and substitutions throughout the tournament were disappointing. Despite being given everything possible by US Soccer, Berhalter still found a way to underachieve. He must not be allowed to continue as the US head coach moving forward.
Berhalter’s team can’t score
The USMNT played sixteen games in 2022. They were held scoreless in seven of them and held to just one goal in another five. That means the US was only able to score multiple goals in a game four times out of 16 games this year. Only one of those games was against a team that qualified for the World Cup (a 3-0 friendly win over Morocco).
Stretching even farther back to include the last two games of 2021, the US couldn’t score as they were held to a single goal in both of those games.
So the US has scored multiple goals in a game just four times in their last 18 games in the last 13 months. Frustrating yes, but not at all surprising considering that Berhalter lost his job in Sweden for it.
Third best team in a weak confederation
Berhalter won both the Nations League and the Gold Cup for the US in 2021. This should have been proof that the US was the dominant team in the region. Unfortunately, the World Cup Qualifying process saw the US undo all that hard work. They finished third and only automatically qualified by the skin of their teeth because of goal difference. During that qualifying campaign they drew at home and lost on the road to a Canadian team that lost every game in Qatar and was eliminated before they played their third game.
The US also lost on the road and struggled mightily in a home win with Costa Rica. During qualifying, the Ticos combined to outscore the US 3-2 over the course of two games. That same Costa Rica team then proceeded to lose 7-0 to Spain and 4-2 to Germany in their group and fail to progress to the knockout round for a second successive World Cup.
The signature wins of Berhalter’s tenure with the US all came against Mexico in 2021. They beat then Mexicans 3-2 in the Nations League Final and then 1-0 in the Gold Cup Final. Then in qualifying they produced another frozen Ohio “Dos a Cero” and followed it up with a third straight draw at Azteca. But the shine came off those results with Mexico’s poor showing at the World Cup. El Tri drew Poland 0-0 and lost 2-0 to Argentina. They beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in their finale but were eliminated in the group stage for the first time since the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
Berhalter’s struggles away from home
Maybe it was because he was the brother of the US Soccer CEO. Maybe it was because he came from MLS. But there’s no denying that US Soccer did everything they could to pad Gregg Berhalter’s record by scheduling easy home friendlies.
During the tenure of Jurgen Klinsmann, the USMNT played friendlies on the road against Belgium, France, Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Republic of Ireland, Chile, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Germany — to name a few.
Even going back to Bob Bradley’s time in charge, the US prepared for the start of World Cup Qualifying with a string of tough friendlies. Their three games warmup friendlies in 2008 were away to England, away to Spain, and at home against Argentina.
Berhalter did not have to go through any such stretch. At no point prior to this World Cup was his team ever voluntarily tested. He opened up his tenure with home friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica. Prior to the 2019 Gold Cup he got two home friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela. He managed to lose both of them. 2020 saw another soft home friendly against Costa Rica before the outbreak of COVID. During the entirety of Berhalter’s tenure as US manager, he has only had to manage two friendlies in three road environments. Those were away to Wales in 2020 and away to Northern Ireland and Switzerland in 2021. It’s worth noting that all three of those games were played behind closed doors.
And because they were never tested during the friendlies their performances in games that mattered suffered. In fact during Berhalter’s time in charge of the US, they posted a record of 6-7-8 (W-L-D) in games played away from American soil. That’s a win percentage of just 48%. But that counts true road games as well as neutral site games (like the World Cup. In true road games, Berhalter went just 2-5-5 for a win percentage of 38%. If the US wants to be a true soccer power, that is not an acceptable number.
The sheer amount of generational talent at his disposal makes Berhalter’s massive underachievement so much more frustrating. Christian Pulisic had already established himself as the future of the USMNT during the previous World Cup Qualifying campaign. But this cycle saw the emergence of stars. Guys like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Ricaro Pepi, Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson, and others.
For reasons known only to himself (as nobody in US soccer media appears capable of finding the answer), Berhalter opted to leave Ricardo Pepi off the World Cup roster in favor of Jordan Morris. Pepi scored three goals during World Cup Qualifying. He was thriving on the back of a recent move to FC Groningen where he bagged six goals in nine games. But that wasn’t good enough to make the roster over an MLS player who hadn’t scored since August for a club that missed the playoffs.
Then once the World Cup started, Berhalter decided to start playing games without Gio Reyna. Reyna was an unused substitute in the disappointing draw with Wales. Berhalter told the media it was because Reyna was injured. Reyna said he wasn’t injured.
The next game against England saw Reyna come on for seven minutes as a sub against England. For the deciding group game against Iran, Berhalter again sat Reyna for the entire game. Only when the US was in dire straits down 2-0 in the Round of 16 against the Netherlands did Berhalter finally relent and send Reyna in. But by then it was too little, too late and the US went out.
A change must be made
The 2026 World Cup will be played in North America. It figures to be the biggest and best World Cup ever played. If the US truly wishes to compete for a title in four years, they absolutely must move on from Berhalter.
US Soccer gave him everything to succeed.
They gave him an extra year to gain experience with the Columbus Crew. They scheduled numerous home games against easy competition to pad his record. He lucked into the greatest generation of talent this country has ever seen. They gave him a hundred million dollar hotel and base camp at the World Cup. And he still massively underachieved.
At the 2010 World Cup, Bob Bradley won one game and got knocked out in the Round of 16. Four years later, Jurgen Klinsmann won one game and got knocked out in the Round of 16. In Qatar, Berhalter was given so many more tools and had so much more talent at his disposal than either of those previous World Cup teams. Yet he too won just one game and got knocked out in the Round of 16.
Photo credit: IMAGO / Sven Simon
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