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Berhalter’s USMNT library off to imperfectly perfect start


The Gregg Berhalter era with the United States’ Men’s National Team is off to a solid start. Record-wise, it’s a perfect, 2-0 start with five goals scored and none conceded.

Berhalter wants to build a library full of training and matches. His USMNT library has a happy start, although, an imperfect one.

“When you don’t have a body of work to go on, it’s very hard to evaluate the process,” Berhalter explained postmatch. “Now, with these two games, at least we have a starting point, as a reference point of what we need to do to move forward.”

The USMNT’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica on Saturday in San Jose was anything but perfect. The Americans struggled to really create any legitimate chances in the first half and missed on a few big chances in the second half – Nick Lima’s rocket of a shot bounced off of the far post in the 54th minute and Cristian Roldan missed a should-be goal in front of the net just 10 minutes after.

In last Sunday’s win against Panama, the USMNT took a while to really start establishing any sort of consistent flow in the attack before Djordje Mihailovic’s opening goal in the 40th minute. They adjusted and we’re much sharper in the second half then as well.

“First of all, the mentality of the first half was too passive,” Berhalter said about Saturday’s win. “We want to be much more aggressive. Secondly, the speed of the ball, especially on the backline was much too slow. When we’re able to speed it up, we’re able to catch them out of position and find some spaces, so there are some things that led to a much better second half.”

The pair of shutouts closed January camp on a high note, but Berhalter knows that there’s a long way to go as the program looks forward to their upcoming friendlies against Ecuador (March 21) and Chile (March 26).

With a foundation now in place, the next step of the process is mixing in the Americans who are in Europe with what was an all-MLS roster for January camp – guys like Christian Pulisic, Timothy Weah and Weston McKennie who would replace guys like Cristian Roldan, Jeremy Ebobisse and Corey Baird, for example, in the coming friendlies.

“I think it’s going to be a work in progress. When you integrate new players into camp and you expect to integrate new players in March, it’ll be a process,” Berhalter said.

“What we learned was how to effectively teach parts of how we want to play in short periods of time. We’ll go back and evaluate training sessions, evaluate how well players are able to learn based on what we’ve provided in the training sessions, and we’ll hit the ground running in March and, hopefully, it’ll be much tighter and much more concise and we’ll see some improvement.”

A big part of that process is teaching through video. The team evaluated their performance in their win over Panama in the week leading to Saturday’s friendly and plan to do the same through video files sent to the players who are heading back to report to their respective MLS training camps.

“They will have access to all of the training sessions and all of the games, so that will be important,” Berhalter said. “But, more importantly, it’ll help us create a library for what we’re trying to do as a group.”

The videos aren’t just for the MLS players who spent the last month in January camp, but also for those coming in from abroad in the coming FIFA international dates.

“Regarding the European guys, it would be nice to get them online, share the video with them and start to have these discussions,” Berhalter said. “When we start in March, they’ll already have an idea of what we’re trying to do.”

Berhalter’s process still has a long way to go. They want to start faster, be more efficient, and aggressive. But this is a team that proved that, eventually, they’ll get the goals – better late than never.

The beginning of Berhalter’s library has two wins, two January camp wins that have the value of newspaper clippings. The real tests that will add immediate value to this new library will come later this spring and into this summer’s Gold Cup.




  1. We’re in great shape with Berhalter. Tactically the best manager the nats have ever had…maybe Bora would be close. Light years ahead of the rest…he’s just getting started, but the off the ball movement is cohesive and impressive. Once he integrates a higher attacking skill level from the euro based players, we’ll see some wonderful stuff…really stoked.

    Lima, Lletget and Long are going to be in the conversation for starting 11…as well as MB. He does a lot of things Berhalter values.

    I can’t wait to see the March roster and his starting 11 for the Ecuador game.

  2. I think the thing I took away from these matches is that Berhalter is going to be good for the USMNT. He isn’t the greatest manager in the world, maybe not even the best in MLS, but he is bringing a level of professionalism and some modern tactics to the team that is long overdue. It’s a breath of fresh air really. For the first time in a couple years I have hope for the future.

  3. I saw Lletget in Galaxy games and he looked very good before he got hurt and now looks like he is back to his old self. My belief is that he will be a mainstay to the MNT going forward. Lima seems to be a player while Mihailovic seems to have great soccer IQ but needs to be more accurate with his passing. Roldan also did some great work….All in all I hope our MNT will be able to get back on rising trajectory with the help of these new faces.

  4. Berhalters approach is very professional. He is using a similar approach to the way that professional development is done in higher education. Train, execute, evaluate, adjust, train, execute, evaluate, adjust, train…

    He makes training materials easy to access and rewards those who improve their performance within the system. Its the death of the good old boy system, because forthe system to remain valid all participants have to be held to the same standard.

  5. I was pleased at the results which are like water in a desert but my general impression was the teams would look better second half which suggests the lineups were done wrong.

    • Also a tad odd and Sarachan-y to get through the second game with 3 subs. Put some other faces on tape, reward people for going to camp. Your starting lineup didn’t look so sharp that you should arrogantly act like you have it all sorted.

      • You are ignoring a lot of factors.
        1. It is January, do you know if Lletget is ready for 90 minutes of action or even 60. Perhaps the reason Lletget didn’t start was because his fitness level was for 30-40 minutes. The same with Ramirez or Lewis.
        2. The US created plenty of chances with the starters n both matches if any one of those goes in it completely changes what comes after. Yes, the starters should have finished a couple more, but a deflection, a slip, or a missed assignment, because a new defender is on, has as much to do with when the goal comes as the players on the pitch. Costa Rica had made 4 changes before the first goal and 2 more before the 2nd. Panama made 5 changes after the first goal. So the US subs were not playing against the same team as the starters either.
        3. As for Lovitz, you seem right he was not great and doesn’t seem to have any reason to be on the field for the US going forward. The mistake was made by calling in only 2 LBs, but typically for any camp a manager calls 2 at each position. Garza got hurt, Acosta who could have been cover having played LB a few years ago was sent home because his fitness level was sub par. There truly weren’t a whole lot of other LB options in MLS. Ben Sweat who was not great last fall against better competition, and then either Villafana or Farfan from Portland.
        4. Only 20 dressed for either match so you have to wonder if minor injuries were an issue as to why all wouldn’t at least dress. USMNT doesn’t want to play a player with knock in a meaningless friendly just to game film of them if it risks missing significant time out of the MLS season.

      • I’m not ignoring squat. I am working with the facts we know. 3 subs in the second game. 3 players survived the cut and played no minutes. No one was sent home hurt after the cut for either performance or injury. What do you know that when they all came into the same camp that let’s theorize that one was fitter than the other. Lewis didn’t look unfit. Lletget didn’t look unfit. You’re literally just speculating to excuse lineup choices even as it’s like hmmm yeah you’re right about Lovitz. OK, if him, why not Zardes? Why not Steffen not needing 2 starts? Why not the team had 1 first half goal, none from the starting forward, and several 80’+ goals when he went out, or when someone else drifted in his slot?

  6. The January Camps have there use (extended training session where coaches can dig for players who are diamonds in the rough and try out new tactics), but they are not clear indicators of how a team is going to be long run.
    Berhalter was able to get 2 wins with a group of inexperienced and rusty B/C players against two CONCACAF sides who were basically playing with their own rusty “B” squads. The March friendlies will be a better test for GB and his coaching staff. They’ll need to be able to instill their desired style to basically a hole new squad of players in a minimal period of time (days instead of weeks) than face 2 teams who are of a significantly higher quality than the past 2 opponents.

    So what did we actually learn from this camp….
    1) There are a handful of players in MLS who, for the moment, will be in discussion when rosters are announced (Lima, Long, Zimmerman, Bradley, Trapp, Arriola, Lletget, Mihailovic, Roldan, & Zardes.) That’s not to say that they’ll all be called up every camp, just that their names will be discussed ahead of camps.
    2) We’re starting to see a pecking order among the player pool. Hihailovic started ahead of Lletget in both games. Trapp got the 90 against the better team Vs. Bradley who was subbed out against the weaker of the 2 games. Zardes was the best striker option in this MLS Camp.
    3) Berhalter’s system has some merit in the international game. If it works beyond CONCACAF competition is yet to be determined.
    4) At least among this group of players there appeared to be some cohesion and joy among teammates. They celebrated goals and strong plays. They communicated, w/out recriminations, after breakdowns. Something that was lacking down the stretch last cycle.

    Now Berhalter needs to do the same (in a quicker time frame) with the European players. He needs to get Pulisic, Weah, McKennie, Adams, Brooks Miazga, Wood, Sargent, and the rest introduced and buying into his system.

  7. Hmmmm I wonder if his videos will show just what a waste of space Zardes has been? or will he still start next time too?

    Im not sold yet on GB. He hasn’t played anybody and hasnt looked good either first half ot the two games he has played

    • Two games in and there is nothing to indicate that GB isn’t going to be solid. Zardes is not going to be the first choice striker . But, coming out of this camp, he was the best option. I don’t know why people think a coach sees players every day in practice and will decide to play the worst one considering their what they want to accomplish.

    • You complaining about Zardes being a waste of space. He has done way more than Marky Delgado who was awful under Sacrachan and still getting called up and he is not good nor impressive.

      • Being better than Marky Delgado doesn’t mean Zardes was any good. He had a completely free header and it wasn’t even on frame. He must be a nice guy, and a hard worker (his passing and holdup play is good), but doing something sparkling once in a great while shouldn’t keep him in the team. I have the same feeling about Trapp: objectively weak on the ball, slow but capable of making a beautiful pass.That’s not enough for start at the international level, is it?

    • I thought that Zardes worked much harder than I have ever seen him do. That improved his involvement in the game, but sadly did not help his skill level. He has gotten where he is with physical talents, and has been allowed to skate on tactical and technical by a series of coaches (or he just ignores the coaches). Apparently Berhalter managed to influence his tactics a bit in getting him to be mre active, but that is not enough.

    • Zardes was showing back to the ball and holding it but was a joke on balls into the box. More I watch him it’s like he can’t time a later run. He sprints downfield and if the square ball is on bingo he poaches. But ball to feet in the box, nope, and he’s in the box so early, and not dynamic, where he either doesn’t get the cross or when he does, heads it wide. My big disappointment was he basically didn’t give anyone else an extended opportunity to show they were better than that junk. As it was Ramirez had a goal in his first cameo.

    • To me the telling thing is the offense picks up in his absence. The whole way these two games got handled with his old players makes me question his bias and ability to talent evaluate. I mean, Lovitz? Trapp? Lletget barely plays and has a goal and an assist. Ditto Ramirez, goal.

    • Zardes played considerably better vs. CR than he did against Panama. I’ve been following him since his first game in MLS. I think too many people here don’t notice all the little things he does that coaches appreciate. He never takes plays off, he has a lot of stamina and can go full speed all game, he helps out a lot on defense (at one point I saw him all the way back by his own 18 yard box with help defense), and he is an unselfish team player. Klinsmann played him most all of the time as a starter (on the wing), Arena played him and nurtured him at the Galaxy, when he was in college he was offered a tryout by Roy Hodgson in England, and Berhalter obviously likes him since he gave up Kamara to get him and got the most goals of any American in MLS last season. So, either all these coaches are wrong, or he brings more to the table than many fans here realize.

      • I actually like Zardes too. He’s a great team guy. Will do any job asked of him and work his butt off on both sides of the ball. If we had more guys with his mindset we would be a much stronger team. Unfortunately for Zardes he just does not have the talent to produce at the international level. He may get the occasional minutes in concacaf games but he’s not good enough to be a regular of the squad.

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