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Berhalter: Brooks has huge potential


Gregg Berhalter was in Germany this weekend to watch several of the American-based players in Bundesliga action. Saturday’s match between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg saw U.S. Men’s National Team centerback John Brooks put in a strong shift with his new head coach watching from the stands.

Berhalter admitted he was impressed with Brooks’ performance, in which the veteran defender recorded an assist in Wolfsburg’s 3-0 road win. The 26-year-old Brooks also helped silence a dangerous Gladbach attack featuring the likes of Thorgan Hazard, Alassane Plea, and Lars Stindl.

“I met John in December,” Berhalter said in an interview with “He’s got a good profile, when I think of his towering frame and how he passes the ball. We’ll be coming over to watch him again because we think he has huge potential.”

Brooks has won 36 caps with the USMNT and is a likely candidate to be one of Berhalter’s future starters in the backline later this year. After dealing with injuries in 2017-18, Brooks has made 22 league appearances this campaign and looks back to his best self after making only nine appearances a season ago.

Brooks finished the match with 51 completed passes, five successful duels, six clearances, and one tackle. Wolfsburg made it back-to-back 3-0 league wins and now are up to fifth place in Germany’s top-flight.

John’s a very good defender,” Berhalter said. “Obviously Bruno Labbadia works with John every day and knows him better than I do, but he’s one of those players I’m trying to reach out to and to get to know.”

The USMNT will continue friendlies under Berhalter in March, as they face Ecuador and Chile on the 21st and 26th respectively. Should Brooks continue the form he’s on, the defender will have no problem being called into Berhalter’s second camp in charge.


  1. he is oddly talking about him like he’s siebatchau or something. you didn’t discover america. he’s been on previous world cup teams. the question is can he be retrained to man mark or not. if not, i think he is an imposing physical presence for zonal clears but tends to mark space and not a man. half our problem right now is backs who mark space and not men.

    • Yeah, I was thinking the same (what a strange way to answer). I guess in all fairness, I’m sure GB would have clarified if asked (if he didn’t already clarify). Brooks isn’t potential. He’s a finished product that either fits or doesn’t fit GB’s iteration of the MNT.

    • i see where you are coming from, but I would reconcile it as “is a good player” but “has huge potential.” my response: he’s 26, not one of your U20 prospects. it is dangerous to play the potential game with a player right at prime age. if he isn’t actualizing the upside maybe it doesn’t exist. i worry about berhalter bringing back Bradley etc., that we’re not dealing with strict sharp analysis here, that he buys into a lot of the same fallacies as recent coaches.

    • I’m not sure it’s either. He’s easily our most talented defender but he’s been wildly inconsistent. Can Berhalter get Copa America Brooks or Costa Rica Brooks….?

      • i should re-word that. that’s what a coach might think, or more particularly, how you can reconcile the contradictions of the interview. i was a defender and i am old school about this. the very fact you have regular glitches makes you a poor defender. he has a poor night and costa rica destroys us at his expense and we end up basically one point short of qualifying. to me defensive talent is 99% of nights you give up nada. he ain’t that talented. he has a big body and he gets how to win headers and clear balls marking space. but the main part of the job is man marking. go back and watch the tape of, for example, the guy from colombia who turns away from his and scores that great bent shot from the corner of the 18. hard shot but the defender wasn’t on the man and that’s what can happen at that level. i think he’s a liability but there is deep confusion on this team that our problems are offense and not defense, though in reality the opposite is true.

      • “there is deep confusion on this team that our problems are offense and not defense, though in reality the opposite is true”….. bingo for me. I actually think there is plenty of cause for optimism in our attacking options. But our back line is rife with questions marks that have vague or no current solutions

      • Personally I worry more about the attack still. I’d argue our defensive issues can be much more easily fixed by fielding disciplined , hard working, intelligent players. We’ve had very solid defenses in the past. We’ve had a structural and mindset issue imo.
        Attacking issues are more fixable through talent. Other than Pulisic we do not have anyone we know can produce for us yet. The Dempsey/Donovan sized hole is not as easily remedied as many of us would hope.

    • Well, to me Brooks is similar to Omar Gonzalez, only Brooks is a better passer. Both are big bodies who are good in the air and both can be beaten off the dribble by quick players because they aren’t as nimble as some. Also, like Gonzalez, Brooks can lose focus at crucial times, as in the Mexico game in Columbus in the Hex. However, I don’t know that we have anyone better. I certainly would take Brooks over OG. Even though MLS has improved considerably, guys like Long aren’t playing at as high a level of competition as Brooks. As for CCV and Miazga, they have the same situation regarding level of competition and they still need some maturation.

      • I don’t care where anyone plays club ball, I think that drifts into the whole big club snobbery problem that plagued Klinsmann. Even Arena seemed unable to get out of the personnel box, over time drifting back to many of Klinsmann’s mistakes. I want to see who plays well of the group and I don’t care if Steffen was/is a MLS asset and Parker and Long are MLS assets, they are the best in their spots right now. That may reflect a vacuum of world class choices but it’s also not fighting against what your eyes tell you. FWIW my eyes say the expeditionary corps dominate the attacking positions….Sargent, Wood, Pulisic, Weah. I thought the idea on the new coach was someone who didn’t play favorites either way. So show it on the field for us and I don’t care where you get your regular paycheck. We’ll be a lot better off when this goes back to performance and away from club-as-proxy-for-playing-well.

    • While I get what Gomer & Imperative are saying it’s not the whole story. Brooks has some weaknesses in his game (nearly all defenders do), but his strengths outweigh his weaknesses.
      Strengths: passing/distribution, speed of play, reading the play, Arial challenges, ability/willingness to high press, recovery speed
      Weaknesses: Organization (directing the other defenders – when passing off attackers), tight man marking against agile attackers, consistency.

      Our best CB pairings nearly always were when we had a large physical presence teamed with an organizer. Think Gooch & Boca. The 2014 cycle was hindered/plagued by the decrease in productivity of our Organizer (Besler/Cameron) more than the issues with Brooks.

      Another issue that hurt our defense last cycle was the lack of bite from our CDM. Bradley didn’t do enough of the dirty work (fouling when necessary to break-up the flow) or cutting out passing lanes to make the attack more predictable (funneling to our strengths).

      IF Brooks can stay healthy and develop more of a leadership/organizational presence he should become more consistent and find success in Berhalters system. Especially with Adams & McKennie playing in front of him.

      • I generally take “but he’ll have x in front of him” to be damning with faint praise. It says he needs help, and might do better with more help. I think we could come up with better team defensive schemes than the past 5 years but I don’t see a ready made 6 to shield him, even among the kids. I think some players like Adams could grow into the role. But the idea we can cope right now with his failings because he will get bailed out today doesn’t reconcile with recent results, where young players saw plenty of minutes and both he and Miazga were exposed. There is time. There will be new U20s coming in each 2 years. But I think he is overrated and I don’t see currently he has cover where we need not worry about his issues.

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