US Soccer needs a better coach than Gregg Berhalter

Despite reaching the knockout stage, it is clear that US Soccer needs a better coach than Gregg Berhalter to take this team forward. There is no other way to put it than to say that Gregg Berhalter has been massively underperforming with the US Men’s National Team (USMNT).

The World Cup run for the US came to an end on Saturday after a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the Round of 16.

The US was completely lost defensively and the Orange scored three open goals. Offensively, the US proved to be as challenged as ever. They only scored one goal and only four shots on target.

Berhalter’s lineup selections and substitutions throughout the tournament were disappointing. Despite getting everything possible from US Soccer, Berhalter still found a way to underperform. He should not continue as head coach of the USA.

Berhalter’s team cannot score

The USMNT played 16 games in 2022. They were held scoreless in seven of those and just one goal in five others. That means the US could only score multiple goals in a game in four of its 16 games this year. Only one of those games was against a team that qualified for the World Cup (a 3-0 friendly victory over Morocco).

Going back even further to the last two games of 2021, the USA were unable to score as they were held to one goal in both games.

So the USA has scored multiple goals in a game only four times in their last 18 games in the last 13 months. Frustrating yes, but not at all surprising given 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 USA 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 only automatically placed themselves on the edge of their seats because of the goal difference. During that qualifying campaign, they drew at home and lost en route to a Canadian team who lost every game in Qatar and were eliminated before playing their third game.

The USA also lost on the road and struggled mightily in a home win with Costa Rica. In qualifying, the Ticos combined to beat the USA 3-2 over the course of two games. That same Costa Rica team went on to lose 7-0 to Spain and 4-2 to Germany in their group, failing to advance to the knockout round for a second consecutive World Cup.

The signature victories of Berhalter’s tenure with the US all came against Mexico in 2021. They defeated the Mexicans 3-2 in the Nations League final and then 1-0 in the Gold Cup final. They then produced another frozen Ohio “Dos a Cero” during qualifying and followed it up with a third consecutive draw at Azteca. But the shine came from those results with Mexico’s poor performance at the World Cup. El Tri drew Poland 0-0 and lost 2-0 to Argentina. They beat Saudi Arabia 2–1 in their final, but were knocked out in the group stage for the first time since the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

Berhalter struggles away from home

Maybe it was because he was the brother of the CEO of US Soccer. Maybe it was because he came from the MLS. But there’s no denying that US Soccer did everything it could to beat Gregg Berhalter’s record by hosting easy friendly home matches.

During Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure, the USMNT played road friendlies against Belgium, France, Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, Chile, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany – to name a few.

Going back even to the days when Bob Bradley was in charge, the US prepared for the start of World Cup qualifying with a series of tough friendlies. Their three pre-season friendly matches in 2008 were away to England, away to Spain and at home against Argentina.

Berhalter did not have to go through such a process. At no time prior to this World Cup was his team ever voluntarily tested. He opened his tenure with friendly home matches against Panama and Costa Rica. Ahead of the 2019 Gold Cup, he conceded two home friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela. He managed to lose them both. 2020 saw another soft home game against Costa Rica before the outbreak of COVID. Throughout Berhalter’s entire tenure as U.S. manager, he has only had to officiate 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 matches were played behind closed doors.

And because they were never put to the test in friendlies, their performance in games that mattered suffered. In fact, during Berhalter’s time in charge of the US, they posted a 6-7-8 (WLD) record in games played outside US soil. That’s a win rate of just 48%. But that goes for real road games as well as neutral field games (such as the World Cup. In real road games, Berhalter only went 2-5-5 for a 38% win rate. If the US wants to be a real football power, that’s not an acceptable number.

Wasted talent

The sheer amount of generational talent at his disposal makes Berhalter’s massive underachievement that 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 rise of stars. Guys like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Ricaro Pepi, Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson and others.

For reasons known only to himself (since no one in the American football media seems able to find the answer), Berhalter opted to leave Ricardo Pepi off the World Cup squad in favor of Jordan Morris. Pepi scored three goals in World Cup qualifying. He flourished thanks to a recent transfer to FC Groningen, where he scored six goals in nine games. But that wasn’t good enough to make the squad over an MLS player who hadn’t scored since August for a club that missed the playoffs.

Once the World Cup started, Berhalter decided to play matches 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 hurt.

In the next game against England, Reyna came on as a substitute against England for seven minutes. Before the decisive group game against Iran, Berhalter was again on Reyna for the entire game. It wasn’t until the U.S. was in trouble 2-0 in the Round of 16 against the Netherlands that Berhalter finally gave in and sent Reyna in. But by then it was too little, too late and the US was out.

A change must be made

The 2026 World Cup will be played in North America. It turns out to be the biggest and best World Cup ever. If the US really wants to compete for a title in four years’ time, they absolutely have to leave 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 improve his record. He was lucky to have the greatest generation of talent this country has ever known. They gave him a hundred million dollar hotel and base camp at the World Cup. And he was still massively underperforming.

At the 2010 World Cup, Bob Bradley won one game and was eliminated in the round of 16. Four years later, Jurgen Klinsmann won one game and was eliminated in the round of 16. In Qatar, Berhalter got so many more tools and had so much more talent to its disposal than any of those previous World Cup teams. However, he also won only one match and was eliminated in the Round of 16.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Sven Simon

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