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Gregg Berhalter defends USMNT’s progress ahead of October’s Nations League matches

There are plenty of different coaching philosophies around the world. One of the more general ones is molding a system to your players’ characteristics in an effort to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Another approach is to have a preferred style of play in mind, and choosing players that best fit that idea in order to execute the desired gameplan.

Gregg Berhalter has opted for the latter ever since his appointment as U.S. Men’s National Team head coach nearly a year ago, and he does not seem inclined to reverse course.

A 26-man roster for the USMNT‘s upcoming camp was announced on Wednesday morning, and Berhalter held a conference call shortly after in which he defended his insistence on implementing a possession-based system that will require time and patience to install and perfect.

The USMNT head coach was asked whether he believed he had sufficient time to implement his ideas, especially given how few times a national team gets together over the course of a calendar year, an amount that is significantly less than what Berhalter had when he previously introduced a similar system as coach of the Columbus Crew.

Berhalter disagreed with the suggestion that the time it took to successfully install his system in Columbus is evidence of it being an impossible task with the USMNT.

“I think the first thing is you’re assuming that we’re doing it exactly the way we did (with the Columbus Crew) and I think that starting point is incorrect,” said Berhalter. “We have changed a little bit of what we’ve been doing. The second thing is, whatever type of challenge it is, we’re willing to take that on.

“If that means that we have to be smarter and we have to work differently and we have to work with the guys outside of camp and we have to work with their clubs, we’re willing to do all of that because I think it’s something that’s worth doing. I believe, and I’ve said this before, we have the players that are able to do it and now it’s just about continuing to get better.”

Recent results and performances in Berhalter’s possession-based system have led to plenty of discussion as to whether the USMNT is actually making enough progress ahead of the start of World Cup Qualifying next year. The Americans most recently tied Uruguay, 1-1, in September but suffered a 3-0 loss to Mexico just days earlier. The USMNT also lost to El Tri in the Concacaf Gold Cup final in July.

Those results have led to some concern among USMNT fans that the team is struggling to make progress, but it is a notion that Berhalter is not buying.

“I’d completely disagree,” said Berhalter. “To say we didn’t make progress in the last camp I think is a disservice to the team, I think it’s a disservice to the fans and I completely disagree with it. I think we have to look at expectations. I’m not sure what the expectations (from the outside) are but we had very clear objectives for the game against Mexico, and it was to be able to attempt to play out under extreme high pressure.

“We know there’s not many teams in the world that press the way Mexico presses and we wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. As far as I’m concerned, we made progress in that game. I’m not happy with the scoreline, I’m not happy with how we gave up the second and third goals, but as far as progress, I think we made progress.”

The USMNT head coach, who will soon begin preparing his side for the start of the Concacaf Nations League later this month, similarly thought that there were positive developments on display in the stalemate with Uruguay.

Berhalter was pleased with the strides he saw his players make in his preferred style of play in that encounter, even though the team produced just one goal via an opportunistic finish from Jordan Morris.

“When you talk about Uruguay, it’s the fifth-ranked team in the world and we should take that into consideration,” said Berhalter. “They’re missing two of their top players, we’re missing five of our top players. We made progress in that game. When I think about a very physical opponent, when I think about being able to disorganize them and create goal-scoring opportunities, we did that in that game.

“I’m proud of the way the guys responded. I think they showed bravery, particularly after not coming out of that Mexico game in the way we wanted to with the result and they stuck to it and I think we played a good game. It does take time. I think we’ve been making progress and we’re happy with it.”


  1. Having coach for many years in my youth, I have seen so many new coaches come in into a team and want to install a program that doesn’t fit the players they have. Sure in GB case he has professionals that should be able to adjust but failing to get the results needed shows that that GB training is lacking what it takes. Tab Ramos figured it out and had his U20 team play a beautiful game maybe he should be the coach.

    • Since their total salary was less than one of TFCs DPs, and about half of ATL it’s not really surprising. MLS parity keeps the standings close because left unchecked the big clubs would be spending 5 or 6 time what Crew did. To suggest a system can overcome half the salary just isn’t true.

  2. He wants a possession style but rarely calls in Green. That’s stupid. A 3-0 loss to Mexico is progress when we lost to them only 1-0 a few months prior? He is delusional. I can understand wanting to stick with his system, but he is slavish and seems to not make changes when necessary. It obviously wasn’t working in the last Mexico game, but he insisted on passing out of the back even when it led to disaster. You have to be flexible and change to fit your personnel. I spent 10 years as a manager in a large organization. At one point the big boss wanted to reward his loyal secretary, so he sent her to me to fill an administrative position for which she was unqualified. I could have insisted that she just do as her predecessor and set her up for failure. Instead, I modified her duties, and knowing what her strengths were, gave her a new assignment that fit her strengths and de-emphasized her other duties. As a result she flourished and the organization benefited. Berhalter doesn’t seem to understand this. BTW, Tab Ramos is able to implement that style with his youth teams and he has less time with them than Berhalter does with the national team. Coaching makes a difference. Berhalter is not a positive difference maker. Our best hope as fans is that the team muddles along and manages to qualify for various events and this continues until our youth players in “Europe flower and mature into good internationals. At that point hopefully even Berhalter won’t be able to muck it up so bad.

    • The 2nd goal came after we had made 5 subs. Up to that point would actually played better than we did at least in the 2nd half in the GC. The first 15 minutes of the second half we were the better team easily breaking their pressure and possessing the ball in the Mexican half. Mexico played us even the next 15 and then the wheels fell off as we had subbed half the lineup. The 2nd goal came directly after Trapp the six subbed out for Lletget, the squad had to rotate moving McKennie and Morales into new roles, 1 minute later those two combine with Steffen to gift Mexico a goal. The game then gets stretched and we get caught on the break by Napoli’s $40 million man. The game was defined by those five minutes. The other 85 we played decently well. We tried the 4-4-2 counter strategy the last cycle it didn’t work out very well. If you read the comments from Tata and the Mexican players after the match they talked about how much better the US getting in possession and how we are getting harder to play. The long Time Uruguayan manager talked about how they didn’t expect the US to be able to play between the lines and they had to change their game plan after 20 minutes. We may lose to Canada, it’s their one chance to make the Hex, but this team is close if we can get Adams back and we can get one of our young attackers to develop.

  3. His System. MLS is a “Parity” league (sort of). So someone with an amazing System should dominate in a league with equal talent. Columbus didn’t dominate anything under GB.
    Why does he have such belief in his System?
    Why is this referred to so much?

  4. I would love a reporter to ask him straight up: “Much of the fanbase is disillusioned because, you, like previous coaches seem to have a blind spot for certain players. Especially those that played for you in Columbus. How do you justify the continued inclusion of Trapp and Zardes? And what about Bradley?”

    • he wishes this was just the odd bornstein fetish. this is 6-10 players on the team who don’t belong and off the team who should be there. matter of degree,

  5. “Gregg Berhalter defends USMNT’s progress…” what is he suppose to do, talk against it? Also, talking about “implementing a possession-based system” yet you have Bradley, Roldan and Trapp in the line-up as your core midfielders……like you are trying to build and implement “THE BACK-PASSING QUARTET”.

    I understand patience and time needed to make things work, but those are only in existence and seem logical base on player selection. If you select the SAME PLAYERS (or watered down shadow of the original) that didn’t work for BETTER COACHES like Klinsmann and Arena …..and expect different results with GB, that is the simple definition of insanity.

  6. The whole “Berhalter Out” argument is an embarrassing waste of time right now. Wake up. For better or worse, I can promise you it ain’t happening. Not for 18 months minimum (basically we would have to be badly flunking the Hex before the conversation even starts)
    Anybody who is paying attention at all knows that the USSF is pot-committed on Gregg. It would be a stone cold humiliation for Cordeiro, Stewart, Jay Berhalter, and pretty much everyone else who is important in the USSF to even consider this option. Fair? No. Appropriate? No. But it is what it is. Sorry but people need to wake up and stop imagining they are bringing some sort of “hot take” here.

    • Homer, Jamaica recently beat the USMNT at Audi park. What are they gonna say if Cuba wins, or how about a draw to Cuba at home? Yikes!!! I mean, thank god we have junior as a buffer for the game in Toronto, and a dash of jozy. But a loss to Canada at home and your 18 months becomes 1. I’d expect Dest to file the one time switch after these two games, but before the next two.

      • Guarantee you he won’t be fired in any of the scenarios you describe. GB cannot be fired by fans or journalists buddy. At this point that has to come from Stewart. And after the half-assed coaching search he ran, an admission of guilt like that is basically impossible.

      • i agree that the hiring system and scouting process we have set up, where stewart’s job is to hire people, and then his job is also to help with selection, make it difficult to the point of almost conflict of interest for him to critique who he hired and who that coach selects for the team. in the past some exec with different incentives — ie i want to win — would lead this process.

      • And how would a Dest leaving be Berhalter’s fault. A guy has lived his entire life in the Netherlands, plays professionally in the Netherlands, stands to make millions more in endorsements if he plays for the Netherlands, improved fitness because he doesn’t have to fly back and forth, and gets to play for a team that’s traditionally a top ten team every year. Why on earth would he choose the US over the Netherlands?

    • i agree with your practical assessment but i don’t think removing the heat from the stove helps anything get cooked. i want it where anyone defending this right now goes out the door with him, if it comes to that.

      • Bielsa (currently with Leeds) , Pekermann (available) mohamed, guus hiddink… Ill even recycle Bradley as he has gained international experience …

    • Adams, Pulisic, McKennie, Brooks, Miazga, Altidore, Yedlin, Steffen. Missing 5 is pretty short of the mark in my opinion. Ream and Cannon the only 2 that would probably start if everyone is fit.


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