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USMNT pays the price for Berhalter’s ill-advised squad rotation


When Panama national team coach Thomas Christiansen made the decision to stick almost the entire same starting lineup through the first four World Cup qualifiers, it felt like a bit of a gamble given the potential for fatigue and injuries caused by the grind of qualifying. While the other seven teams in the Octagonal rotated their squads a healthy amount, Panama used nine starters in all four matches heading into Sunday’s showdown with the United States.

One person who considered that continuity a strength rather than a potential flaw or mistake was none other than U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter. Asked by SBI Soccer the day before Sunday’s match whether the Americans could have a leg up on the Canaleros due to having the more rested squad thanks to heavy squad rotation, Berhalter saw things differently.

“I think it’s an advantage for Panama, because of the continuity,” Berhalter said. “They’re playing together all the time.”

The fact Berhalter made that point on Sunday makes his own lineup decisions for the USMNT all the more puzzling after Sunday’s 1-0 defeat. Some lineup changes were always going to be part of the plan for the Americans heading into their trip to Panama City — what with Weston McKennie and Antonee Robinson missing the match — but Berhalter’s decision to make seven changes and sit his most in-form players went beyond what anybody could have expected.

Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos

The result was the worst USMNT performance of the Berhalter era. Sure, there were some truly poor showings by players most USMNT observers would have suggested to start —Tim Weah, Yunus Musah and Kellyn Acosta to name three — but as much as the players chosen to take the field in Panama deserve a share of the criticism, it is Berhalter who should shoulder the majority of the blame. His lineup choices felt like a gamble made by a coach who was either being too worried about running some of his best players into the ground, or too confident in his bench’s ability to perform, or both.

You could understand if Berhalter was worried about Ricardo Pepi’s workload, and whether he might be exposing the red-hot FC Dallas striker to an injury (losing Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna to injuries in September’s qualifiers might have had him a bit gun-shy), but Berhalter didn’t stop there, going on to make several decisions that came together to turn an exercise in squad rotation into a painful example of squad deflation.

Here are the lineup decisions that came together to form the dominoes of disappointment on Sunday:

Sitting Ricardo Pepi and starting Gyasi Zardes

Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos

The minute Zardes was announced as the starting striker ahead of Pepi it was a decision that Berhalter would be judged most harshly for, and if Berhalter had stopped here, and not made so many other changes, he might have avoided this move looking so bad.

Zardes isn’t the kind of player who can make things happen on his own, so when the supporting cast fell so painfully flat, the Crew striker was never going to be the one to rescue the train wreck of a starting lineup.

Starting Paul Arriola again.

Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos

The D.C. United winger was excellent against Jamaica, giving his all in an inspiring 90-minute performance. As impressive as Arriola, it was difficult to envision him being called on to start again just three days later in Panama, especially when he only recently returned from a stint on the sidelines due to an injury.

The result was an invisible showing for Arriola, who didn’t win a single duel and completed just seven passes during his 45 minutes before being subbed out at halftime.

Sitting Miles Robinson, starting Mark McKenzie

Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos

It was clear to see that Miles Robinson wasn’t at his best against Jamaica, so if there was something in the way he was training, or something his testing and fitness readings was showing to leave Berhalter concerned, then fair enough, but choosing McKenzie over Chris Richards was a head scratcher.

Yes, McKenzie has more international experience than Richards at this point, and he showed well against Honduras in September, but he has not been playing regularly for Belgian side Genk, which may have been why he looked so tentative against Panama. Richards has been a regular starter in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim, and had been rated ahead of McKenzie going back to their time as teammates on the USMNT Under-20 team.

As for the idea that Richards might not be ready to start in a road qualifier, consider Berhalter’s own words when asked by SBI about his young centerbacks last week:

“They do lack experience,” Berhalter said. “But the only way to get experienced is by actually getting on the field.”

Resting Adams and Aaronson

Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos

The most perplexing of Berhalter’s changes wasn’t sitting Pepi, but rather sitting Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams, who had come together to establish themselves as the heart and engine of the USMNT, particularly in the extended absence of Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna. Facing Panama on the road was always going to be a battle against a physical and experienced team, the exact kind of battle Adams is more suited to fight than any single player on the USMNT roster, and as much as Berhalter may have had concerns about Adams, the fact Adams was able to come on at halftime made it that much more difficult to understand how he would be left out of the fight from the start.

Aaronson, much like Pepi, has been on an absolute tear, and he has also been playing heavy minutes, but Aaronson is no stranger to heavy workloads and should have been deployed from the start ahead of Arriola.

Starting Shaq Moore over DeAndre Yedlin

Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos

We all remember how impressive Shaq Moore was during the Gold Cup, but the harsh reality is Moore lost his starting job with Tenerife and has been playing very little in recent months. Meanwhile, DeAndre Yedlin has settled into a regular starting role for Galatasaray, has significantly more international experience than Moore.

The result of all these moves together was the worst performance by the USMNT in a competitive match during the Gregg Berhalter era, and it came in part because of Berhalter’s second straight failed attempt at deploying the right lineup for a road qualifier.

The good news for Berhalter and the USMNT is that they still find themselves sitting in second place in the Octagonal, and a win on Wednesday could potentially leave them with a four-point cushion in the top three. Weston McKennie and Antonee Robinson should be back to start, and the trio of Pepi, Adams and Aaronson should take their rightful places back in the starting lineup.

As brutally disappointing as Sunday’s loss was, it could still be of value to the USMNT if Berhalter learns from the lesson and accepts the blame he rightfully deserves. Much like his young squad, Berhalter has some things still to learn as a national team coach.


  1. 95% of the comments…..IF the players I hate had played better then the players I love would ahve been able to do something. People commenting need to review their own posts for incredible bias. Many players had a chance, it was terrible, and not because of a coach, although he wasnt good either, because of them. Zimmerman, that was it. All ther rest dont need excuses, they need to play better.

    Enough with excuses for the parts you like.

  2. Hmm, if he sends the starters from the previous game out there on not enough rest and they play at that level of intensity and success.
    The articles and comments read, should trust the back ups, US is deep.

    100% sure of that.
    I have no reason to defend him, or the game, but I am 100% certain of that.

  3. Interesting GB said before the game the us player had to not be ckcky and think they already qualified. Then he sends out a lineup as if we already qualified. SMH

  4. Horrible manager, he won me after the Gold Cup but he lost me again. I am just sick of watching Lletget and Acostas in the same midfield. Even during the gold cup it was painful to watch as they provide no service to our forwards. I just don’t get this coach

  5. Panama is a bad team truth be told and we should have brought back one point minimum. Unfortunately GB let his arrogance get in the way and thought a roster with subpar players included would suffice in an away game in WCQ.
    Evident coaching blunder at least he owned up to it in the press conference so let’s hope he learned his lesson. In WCQ don’t overthink and project to the next game. Take the points as they come. It’s hard and nothing will be easy. Start the best 11 you bc can every time. Don’t leave anything to chance and go one game at a time.
    Now there is strong pressure for a W vs CR at home. Won’t be there easy based on past WCQ campaigns and I don’t care it CR isn’t as good as they used to.
    Under the strong probability we don’t win in Mexico, Canada, or CR, these next few home games become so important if we lose to underdogs like CR
    Overthinking and projecting beyond the next game seems to be GB’s issue and one that can be costly in the end.

  6. Should have started Yedlin and Roldan on the right. Sounders players have played I Central America in tough concacaf champion league qualifications. Berhalater is losing me, better win against Costa Rica

  7. The problem was not that a bunch of new starters rotated in, that was necessary, the problem was that the wrong ones were chosen and the ones chosen did not perform. Lletget and Acosta absolutely killed us, they could not advance the ball, so Weah never got the ball. Zardes is usually decent at chasing long balls and holding up play and he did neither. Hindsight is 20/20, so in retrospect one of Busio/DLT may have made the difference. I would never have expected Acosta to play so poorly, can’t blame that on Berhalter. I would definitely have gone with Yedlin from the start and it is criminal that Hoppe didn’t get time, that seemed like his kind of game to be effective.

  8. – Agree with Yedlin not starting. He is an upgrade over Moore.
    – Arriola didn’t make sense either after 90 hard minutes Thursday. His game is hustle and energy, which he greatly lacked Sunday.
    – McKensie wasn’t bad but not outstanding. Richards may have pushed up more.
    – Pefok over Zardes? Not a chance. Pefok requires service in the box, cannot create chances, and doesn’t track back well as Zardes. Zardes will never be our #1, and doesn’t finish as well as others, but he will put in the full two-way effort when his name is called.
    – So many called for Musah (myself included), but being pulled at halftime was a mercy call. The Panama MF were licking their chops with pinching him into so many easy turnovers. and I don’t recall if he won any of those back. He will be back, lessons learned.
    – So much was expected of Weah (me too) in his first start, but really minimal impact. Like Musah, a learning experience.
    – Zimmerman was a bright spot. Called in to replace Ream, played well until cramping up, he has moved up the depth chart. Ream may see his stock drop in return.
    – –
    It is on the coach, no question, but also on the players. This was the game for players on the bubble to make an impression. I cannot recall watching a US game where the team collectively lacked heart and desire, and let the opponent dictate the game. Opportunity lost…

    • Musah may have been injured, may have needed to come off. But if not, then the solution to his couple of turnovers was to replace outlets (Acosta, Lletget, or both), not yank the one player semi-competently moving the ball.

      • I think those were prematch determined subs. Adams and Yunus both coming off injuries, they were not going to push either beyond 45 after playing a bunch Thurs. I think Gregg said something about it in the presser.

    • The comment made by QuakerOtis regarding Musah is spot on and can also be applied for Weah’s lack-luster performance. If Arriola, Lletget, Acosta, Roldan, Bello, & Moore weren’t as bad as they were than Maybe Weah & Musah would have had a chance to build on their Jamaica performances. The fact that he had No service or support from any of the other outfield players punished them.
      Weah & Musah could not make up for the diminished skill level fielded around them. They shined with other quality players (Dest, Robinson, McKennie, Adams, Aaronson) were around them. But there was too little skill/quality around them for most of the game.

  9. Any of the players who started last night would be fine and are reasonable additions to the roster. However, they can contribute in isolation, as in if you put Lleget in MF with Wes and Tyler, or Arriola with Pepi and Aaronson. Bello with MRobinson and Adams. But when you throw them all out there at once everyone is trying to put out each other’s fires and no is where they are supposed to be. Which I think is why you saw passes to no one, ineffective pressing because the distances were too great, being too long on the ball. Everyone looks like they aren’t trying but in reality they are just all slightly out of position so they can’t get there. I don’t think it was squad size either because there were players there that didn’t play that could have made a difference. You know Panama is experienced and unlikely to be rattled so why set up to press all over the field. If you just want a draw play Roldan and Lleget as 8s and play a conservative mid block and play direct balls to Zardes and wingers in space. If you want to win put LDT or Busio in as an 8 alongside Musah and make their defense move.

  10. for a period of time in the first half we were defensively arrayed 451, as i had suggested, where we sit back and the formation does more of the work. this idea was criticized as being throwback and not modern. setting aside that “fashion” debate, if you set out to chase around and press, you are going to run through players faster. klinsi learned this when he had us playing frenetic his first year coaching here. we would be exhausted and need 55′ subs. you want everyone chasing around instead of letting them come to us, that requires subbing and rotation and a deeper pool to keep fresh.

    you wanna run out the same team 3 games in a row? come up with tactics where they catch a breath a while. sit back in a 451. i am resting. you come to me and do the work. i can then counter behind your higher line.

    personally i think aligning a 433 to play defense is internally contradictory. it’s an offensive alignment with basic holes in it. pack the mids central the wings are open. spread them out like klinsi did and you’re swiss cheese route 1. so we run out a bunch of hustle players trying to cover the vulnerable formation. so we run around like mad men compensating. surely we have some formation we can use that lets the formation do more of the work?? i can’t believe the only working strategy to beating jamaica and panama is chasing their backs in a vulnerable 433.

    for that matter, considering another option, people have apparently decided 3 backs didn’t work when it did work for mexico. which to me is the gold standard. and have not considered maybe it was particular backs were the problem.

    • we are coming off of berhalter ball — perhaps good long term if he lands well — but he’s unclear where he wants to take it now. danger to me is we kind of overcome our own tactics to get results and that’s bad news if we’re in some pivotal one-off situation when you want to be a well oiled machine with a practiced mechanism for extracting results.

    • We rarely defend in the 4-3-3 shape, we in the past drop into a 4-4-2. I’m not sure why we pressed harder last night with less athletic players, on short rest in high heat and humidity. Against a more experienced team no less. So many head scratching mistakes.

      • rarely? you mean 90% of the time. complete rubbish. the whole reason adams is the man of the hour is he sweeps up the swiss cheese mess this had otherwise become. i don’t think we’d be lauding the man if we’d really shifted around bodies.

      • Adams has to do that at times because our FBs don’t get back in time. So in transition we’re actually forced to defend in a 3-4-3 when teams skip lines. Panama was able to just slowly build on us at times so the 4-4-2 was just very obvious. Usually it’s Pulisic with the CF, then Reyna and a MF, with Ty and Wes central MF, and then the backline. Even against Mex in NL we defended as a 4-4-2 with Ream operating as the LB and Dest LM. If Adams is drawn out to cover for FBs then one of the other MFs is supposed to rotate into the central space. If you listen to Berhalter it’s almost always the defensive plan we just don’t always execute very well.

    • I have no idea whether your ideas would have been valid or not but at least they are internally consistent and though out. Berhalter on the other hand, a guy who gets paid millions to come up with ways of rotating players while still getting points, gave us a game plan that amounted to a pile of disjointed dreck. Does anybody even know what he was trying to do?????? Inquiring minds want to know.

      • i thought it was a bruce arena special, or him trying to recapture gold cup. play a lot of team defense and even pick the forwards for it. then maybe adjust about 60-70′ based on how the game went. as in couva, we fell behind early and so the game no longer fit either desired game plan channel — play for a tie, or play for a win. he didn’t seem to have a personnel or tactical idea for “come from behind because the tie didn’t hold.” mind you, it’s not quite couva because he did some rotation, but the idea seemed to be the same, defend hard more so than score ourselves. i think he was spoiled by the late goals all summer and now assumes they will happen like magic, even if he’s subbing backs and roldan on. reality was that team had some layers of wingbacks and forwards he could bring on to create. we were critical of having too many 9s and no wings but there are worse things like too few strikers. way this is working he’s taken some good strikers plus pepi and turned it into just pepi. and then his wing choice deprives them of much service.

        i think he got away with what he did this summer because he rostered more interesting and dynamic players on his bench, who could bail him out at the end of games. as quali progresses he’s veering back to 2019 personnel ideas of hustle favorites and they are little help opening whistle and not going to save you at the end. what he needs is nico sargent pefok that were saving him this summer as well as green holmes and some more dynamic players. while the gold cup team was drilled to do this stalemate stuff the selections at the forward line were different and more attacking, at least after arriola got hurt and lewis stunk. to me we’re basically back to gold cup games 1-3 and why on earth would you go back there.

  11. Berhalter needs to go. Unfortunately I don’t see this happening. He’s a mid level coach at best and only got his job thru nepotism. I still think we qualify but it’s starting to feel like the last cycle. Even if we do qualify does anyone have faith that he can lead us deep into the knockouts of the World Cup?

    • Barring the wheels fall off, I think US Soccer sticks it out with Gregg this cycle. Let’s face it, whether the USMNT goes deep in WC22 is not the objective. I think US Soccer is looking at this WC as a learning experience. We all know that US Soccer is looking at WC26 at home to make some noise with a lot of our players in their prime. Gregg will get dumped after WC22 and US Soccer will hire the next coach. Probably a big name.

  12. GGG’s selections and actions suggest that he wants his SYSTEM to win. Not the players. He won’t be fired. But I can still want it. I can still know that the team would be better off with a better manager and discuss this hope. Nothing knee-jerk about wanting this 2-year track record of “creative” personnel management to end.

    • But he scrapped his system post Covid. If anything he’s gone so pragmatic that there is no system for how to create chances. We haven’t seen anything resembling possession soccer being attempted since Honduras in NL and in it’s true sense since the Toronto loss.

      • not true. it was alive and breathing through roughly canada quali game. could still be revived. i agree that he is flailing around elsewhere at the moment, and feel like what i saw yesterday, while a three-part pastiche of different stuff, looked similar to his personnel choices for group round gold cup when we looked awful. zardes, arriola, stalemate, play for a goal. he had to reboot it as the tournament progressed because it looked like trash, at which point hoppe and others emerged. he then went back to arriola and stalemate again for quali. as i suggested, hoppe was a surprise and his druthers are instead arriola. what did we play gold cup for? kind of like we learned at NL that horvath could play keeper even if he sat in club. deal is his head is in paper and so he misses concrete learning. he’s always reverting back to what he hoped would work. to me this is lousy international coaching, which is you get a chance or two, and if guy x plays well and you don’t, who cares what the paper analysis suggested.

        i also feel like he missed the whole 2017 lesson of “gold cup didn’t mean crap” and “show up to road games like couva with some tactical variety in case you fall behind.” he learns everything the hard way. so he’s now iterating through arena’s 2017 lessons. luckily his team is better and not at risk the same way.

      • not complicated. he has a paper idea of a system. he has a paper idea who to pick for it. he tends to get pleasantly surprised in terms of how we look and who shows well when he drifts from the paper but then instinctively goes back to his paper ideas over time.

        re horvath, what team doesn’t want its best players in camp, regardless if they all see the field. he has clearly unlearned “mexico” and gone back to sean johnson is my guy. this does not dwell in reality.

        you seem to be saying poor selections are harmless if they don’t play but to me they pervade both those he uses and those he doesn’t. enough selection mistakes and the team rightfully begins to get mocked as “isn’t this the C team?” because it ceases to resemble a choice selection. rotation is subtle and let me field my B+ players, not here is the chance for my paper favorites who are C or D teamers on performance.

        our coaches have typically had a small olsen or bornstein blindspot and not a 5-man (or more) disrepancy with the optimal.

      • Johnnyrazor: I suppose I was a little unclear. I’m not only referring to GGG’s original System, which IV points out is still lurking in the background here. I’m also referring to GGG’s love for his own process, his own personal vision, and how he generally fails to competently adapt to game conditions, if at all. He is a manager who plays not to lose, develops a game plan based on a desire not to drop points rather than win them (unless playing the worst team in the Ocho), and generally fails to adapt in real time.

    • Quaker: I get that. As a Crew fan from the beginning, we were always terrible on the road under Berhalter. I always thought it was because budget limited our roster options. Now I’m coming to your thinking. I don’t want to research it but his road record for Colombus had to be abysmal. But the thing I don’t get is if you want to draw why is he high pressing and getting us stretched every where. Even if those guys he didn’t use aren’t fit and their keeping it quiet (doubtful) why set the guys you do have up to fail.

      • re “road form,” said it before, said it again, 433 is an aggressive, attacking, home game formation. the home team has fan energy behind them and is more rested. they can run around like mad and take attacking risks. you take that on the road and it’s a swiss-cheese midfield formation to stop transitions. the dynamo have a horrifying road record ever since they abandoned kinnear’s 442, when we used to travel well, for a 433. 433 you leave midfield gaps, either wide or route 1 depending how you deploy. inherently vulnerable. you can put defensive players out there every position, you can hustle hard, it’s still swiss cheese. the one thing the dynamo did that ever worked for road games was briefly cabrera started either pushing a mid up and dropping the wings (442) or dropping the wings (451). you then maintain the mid compactness but get wing coverage. otherwise it’s an inherently vulnerable formation and you’re depending on sheer effort or player choice to overcome it.

        i get 433 is fashionable but a lot of the teams mentioned for it are huge checkbook teams that dominate on talent alone, but are vulnerable amongst the elite. barca until last year would destroy most teams, but the right quality attacking team could drub their defense. but most teams would get stuck defending messi etc. we are not barca, we have who we have, we cannot do transfers and wield a checkbook. so if we cannot attack teams into submission with the 433, then what is the point? it’s risky defensively. the coach apparently feels his personnel have to compensate and hustle. ok, if you feel uncomfortable, switch tactics. fix the alignment instead of trying to make a 433 less risky by turning it into a defensive vehicle.

        i say this but italy is a favorite of mine. but they are a special case, they press 11 men, and they have forwards who are not just willing to play a defensive role but are technicians who finish exceptionally. so you give them the ball once edge of the 18 and it’s in the net.

        anyhow, i don’t think a 433 travels well. i felt like what he did was try and rejigger a 433 to travel by turning it into a bunch of defenders. we kept them to 1 goal but looked a mess on our own attack for all but abut 15′.

      • and to clarify, this was on defense. we can slide into an attacking array on offense but then drop into something else on defense. the loss in doing so is initial wing positioning for outlet passes, but we rarely get out and run wide early. if we don’t intend to send “alberth elis” over the top wide early, then what would it hurt to drop into a 451 defensively? the wings can then push to the forward line on offense. it’s more running, but if we insist on a 433….which i wouldn’t….but anyway….

    • IV: I get that overall point I just don’t think Horvath proves it and you bring him up all the time. Turner hasn’t been the problem. I think you could find some better examples like CMs. I don’t think it’s paper picks though how does Lleget look better than anyone on paper. I think it’s heart picks because Lleget doesn’t do any of the things Berhalter says he wants.

      • i could easily mention others, including turner. basically left out for years and then the starter. that he has blind spots even for people who do see the field in club a lot. but my point re horvath is the “micro-form” club analysis of club benchings doesn’t seem to work. under other coaches he was being groomed for a role in the top 3. when he played mexico, he looked like he deserved that role — even if the 3rd shirt. his club situation should be immaterial, and that game proved his club situation is not an impediment to NT performance. yet you want to continue to micro-analyze individual club games to talk him down in favor of some mediocrity who never did a thing on the NT. i don’t actually believe we have a pro MLS bias. what i do believe is the folks like you fanboying every week of club ball have turned us into neurotic, weekly “micro” form watching obsessives who can’t seem to get that sometimes, regardless how their clubs treat them, player A is simply more talented than player B, and that if this has no effect on NT play, we shouldn’t care, because no team with a brain leaves off a NT performer because of their club problems. not sure why this works for steffen but no one else. why is he the one player whose talent (sometimes witnessed for the Nats) is simply presumed regardless how pep treats him each week?? once you have a NT track record the sole issue on “form” should be literally have you become so out of shape and rusty you would be no longer recognizable. otherwise IMO weah and horvath busted this argument this summer for good. a disciplined, fit professional who barely sees a club field can be a dominant international player. conversely, a player with significant club stats can be a complete country mess. at a loss when this false equality became gospel because there is plenty of “wondo” vs “donovan” history disproving it.

  13. I agree with most of this article, but I don’t think Zardes was necessarily a mistake. What was the mistake was having Arriola in there instead of Hoppe. Berhalter has an infatuation with some players and Arriola is one of them. Also, here’s an even more obvious point to me. If Berhalter had brought Pefok into camp, then he could have played him as striker, but no, for reasons known only to Berhalter, he decided he didn’t need Pefok. A stupid, stupid decision. Meanwhile he brings a quality defender in Richards and ignores him for someone clearly inferior in McKenzie. Needed to play Dest on the left instead of Bello and Yedlin on the right. As for the midfield, I didn’t see Acosta instead of Adams as a problem to start since Acosta has done so well for quite a while and seemed reliable, but when Lletget proved deficient why not bring in De La Torre instead of Roldan? Roldan is another guy Berhalter values too highly. There were a couple of days you could do some practice between games, so Berhalter should have starters for Panama playing together in practice. If he didn’t that was a terrible mistake. Starters should have been Eah, Pefok and Hoppe along the front, Acosta at the 6 with Musah and De La Torre in the middle. Although I must admit before the game that I thought Lletget would have been up for the game. A back line of Dest, Zimmerman, Richards and Yedlin or Robinson for Zimmerman. Whoever you want to start vs. CR should have rested of those 2 since they are our best CB’s.

    • I forgot to mention Busio whom I though should have gotten some minutes either starting or as a sub. Another case of bringing in a good player and then ignoring him.

      • Bingo 2.0. I had Zardes starting for rotation in my mock lineup. I had Roldan starting as well. I wanted Hoppe, Aaronson, and Busio off the bench early in the 2nd half. GGG didn’t see it that way. Hoppe is arguably the most creative, gutsy guy on this roster. Not using him, or someone like Busio who can provide service on set pieces, and instead bringing Roldan off the bench while trailing is… head scratching. Just stuuuuuuupid.

      • Gary: The article focuses on his starting line-up, which IMO is a little bit of hindsight; there are reasons why he made all those decision like Musah and Adams are both coming off injury. You might not agree with the decisions but I am quite certain he had reasons for all of the decisions he made. IMO, it is the in-game decisions he made that are more cause for critisms. If your starting lineup isnt working, that is where adjustments need to be made and none of his worked. If starting Aaronson was part of the answer, why was he also ineffective in the 2nd half? I am not sure why I am responding to you but I already typed it so I am going to hit send anyway. Ha!! Right after I finished typing my daughyer banged my phone and I dont know if it even sent. Hope this xoesnt show up twice. Until next game with better results hopefully

    • c’mon dude, be real. zardes is about his only other choice for 9 — unless he redeploys hoppe inside. that is a botch right there. second botch is zardes over pefok and sargent. you include them and a a better wing and this suddenly looks better and more effective. third botch is this weird idea where we should match sloppy panama with sloppy america. our whole advantage for decades has been that we can match athletes and then our athletes can be a little more composed and skilled. this tilted way too far over to matching their sloppiness and they were at home. i thought his whole sales pitch was we need to be more skilled to handle concacaf easier. what i saw was like 90s era US road tactics, particularly by the kickball end. scrappy players, skip the midfield, whack it forward. i thought we grew out of this c. reyna donovan mathis. make them have to defend a superior technical side. they might athletically bang one in but maybe as with the 2014 team we can put 2 of our own precision shots the other way.

      • Berhalter clearly felt comfortable with the four wings he used so using the Bundesliga and La Liga starting CF doesn’t seem that extreme.

    • Dare I say it but I would rather have Jozy on this team than Zardes! Zardes is garbage! He can’t score. The last goal before his own goal for the USMNT was a ball that accidentally went in off his face. Sorry but this guy is a waste of space. Hoppe would have been a better choice for CF in the Panama game.

    • Dare I say it but I would rather have Jozy on this team than Zardes! Zardes is garbage! He can’t score. I just remember him scoring a goal against Guyana in 2019 accidentally off his face. Sorry but this guy is a waste of space. Hoppe would have been a better choice for CF in the Panama game.

  14. Quote GGG –

    “We didn’t have control in midfield, and that really hurt us in that game,” Berhalter said. “I’m going to look at the touches that our midfielders had individually, but it was nowhere near what we expect. The distances were too big, the connections were too spread out.”

    Not exactly what he was thinking starting Lleget. Lleget is not a midfield control, and he is just not a forward passing player. He had Busio and DLT. Even if Lleget is his guy, why play him 90 when it is not working?

    The other headscratcher is McKenzie over Richards. McKenzie is not playing. Play the kid GGG!

    This one is on GGG.

  15. I don’t understand how you take people that everyone universally rates as ‘Starting XI’ players and stick them in a lineup with players that do not make sense for them to play with.

    For instance… you are starting Arriola and Zardes, so why Weah?? If Weah, Pepi and Aaronson are our best attacking options in this window, why saddle Weah with the other two?? Use Hoppe or Roldan there, and save the first line for subs if that is how you want to do it.

    Same with Musah. If Adams, McKinnie and Musah are your first line, why would it make sense to play him with Acosta and Lleget??

    What we’ve essentially done is make Weah and Musah basically unplayable vs Costa Rica due to ‘rotation.’ Maybe Aaronson and Adams?? If the plan was to tie on the road and win at home, why do this??

    I am OK with the Acosta/Adams switch at 6 for the away games, but it is downright criminal to play Arriola two days after 90 mins at his pace and a flight. Same with Musah.

    As a coach, if I am playing for a tie (which we don’t have anymore, but used to), rest them all so you have them vs Costa Rica at home.
    Either play for the tie, or make your halftime subs to chase the 3. More importantly, everyone is ready for Wednesday.

    Last note… you throw Pepi and Aaronson in to chase the tie, and you choose…. Roldan to take OUT Weah??

    • see what i think you’re leaving out is when you dress too much trash then by nature you’re going to have mixed bag malfunctioning personnel management. arena barely takes any attackers to couva. down 2 the dempsey sub works but nothing else does. i could say the unit he chose from the misfit toys was mismatched — fair enough, sharp analysis — but i could also say, where are the missing parts. he left off some players who scored recent gamewinners. he left hoppe out. he left off a list of alternative parts. some of that sub process is, who is even available to sub? how hard did they play over the weekend. etc.

      • While I see your point, none of it makes sense. Did we go playing for a draw, or for a win? Regardless, the lineup makes no sense. Without knowing all of the fitness levels and such, you still have to have a gameplan. You still bring in 27 guys for 3 games in 7 days, knowing you have to rotate and all of the other factors at play. My whole point is that, regardless of the formation and personnel, what was our identity?? Muck it up Central American style with Arriola and Zardes?? Push the pace and steal a goal with Musah and Weah?? Play solid D with Zimmerman, McKenzie and Acosta?? Try new guys?? Work in guys who haven’t been playing regularly??

        Just seems as if there was no plan. When I play tournaments with a dead game, I play defense and try to force PKs. I am not sure what the plan actually was.

    • 352 the weird thing was it was pretty much the starting GC roster. Weah for Hoppe (seemingly an upgrade) and Musah for Williamson (again seemingly upgrade) and then McKenzie for Robinson (downgrade but not enough to completely flatline). From what Gregg said in the presser it seemed to be similar plan, how could they fail so epically to execute it. Panama gave up 3 goals each to Qatar and Honduras and didn’t get out of their group.

      • JR, the difference for me was that the Gold Cup guys were trying to prove they belong and were playing with an energy and chip on their shoulder while this group was playing like they were already in, or were tired (Probably were, in the case of Musah and Arriola)

        The #1 goal of a coach/manager is to set your team up for success and put them in a situation to be successful. Not to beat a dead horse, but all of the things I mentioned before tell me that there was a mixed gameplan. If the plan was to play Musah and Arriola 45′, why play them at all?? You have Hoppe and Busio ready to go. That is a waste of two subs. Why does Adams need to play 45′ WITH Acosta?? They either play as twin 6’s or one plays RB… Why does Aaronson play 45′ but Pepi 20′?? The whole thing makes no sense to me. Player management was a real issue here.

        I guess that I am saying that in a dream world where I am the manager, I have a plan. This is the plan for each game. Just like on my teams. If X happens, this is the response. If Y happens, this is what we do. With dudes like Hoppe, Busio, and Richards just sitting around, it makes little sense to rotate like we are. I realize that Coach Guru would have taken some heat with my lineup above to start, but at 60′ when we are still 0-0, I send in Aaronson, Pepi and Weah to attack, and Yedlin and Adams to shore up the backline, convert to an attacking 4-3-3, it would have made more sense in the end than to do this nonsense. At least there would have been a clear plan, and I could have defended it publicly. And hell, maybe Hoppe, Zardes, Shaq and Busio play above board and show why they belong and we are not 0-0 at 60′, and more like 1-0.

  16. Starting Musah and Arriola were the most surprising and inexplicable inclusions as far as I was concerned — I was fine with Zardes starting and thought he was actually better suited for the match against a physical team away, and for Pepi to rest a bit and start against the Ticos…Mckenzie and Bello on the left was also clearly a mistake, and agree that Yedlin should have started ovr Moore on the right. But with exception of Zimmerman, the entire team was just flat, and Panamanians at home after tough loss to El Salvador team were under huge pressure, and just seemed to want it more.

    All of this being said, my biggest complaint with Berhalter was him again using all our available subs early — this time by the 68th minute, I believe; this simply is not done. I was yelling at the screen that we might well have to play a man (or two) down for the last 20-25 minutes if someone got a hammy or got cut (Acosta) or cramped up very badly, and again we were just fortunate that this did not come to pass. You should always save one sub for the last 5-10 minutes, just in case. Lastly, what was the point of bringing in Yedlin and particularly Roldan when we needed a goal? Yedlin perhaps to stretch the right and get forward to get crosses in (did not happen a bit), but do we ever really need Roldan and Lletget on the field at the same time? Why not Hoppe for Weah (who was very disappointing) and Busio for Lletget?

    Overall for me, and with exception of Zimmerman and Turner, I don’t think anyone on the field or coaching staff really showed up and performed last night. Now let’s go get three points against the Ticos in Columbus!!

  17. personally i think you have to do some rotation for 3 games in 10 days, panama away is actually the sensible throwaway fixture to do it, and the error was more the poor selection, both in terms of who got rotated, and who was left off to begin with. to me if CCV or richards is coming in instead of mckenzie, that likely holds. there are better mids and forwards than who we played, arriola, zardes, roldan. hoppe on the bench, green, holmes, etc. you call the right people and the rotation looks less frightening and likely plays a lot better.

    to me it’s a potential other 5 point scenario if we play the starters away again — some of whom looked gassed — then come home with them tired and have to play the subs for a revived costa rica at home, and maybe play that to a tie. 2 wins and a loss is 6 points. way i would have chased 9 is not roster a bunch of hustle players but have more skill on the roster where the rotationals aren’t just grunts. i thought we were getting past literal stalemate tactics, i thought sloppy and physical mirrored and played down to panama. ironically last night of all nights he needed some technical players out there playing soccer they had to chase and foul. the history of these games is some zusi or AJ scores some well finished goal. not arriola chases ineffectively after a bunch that is already a track team. did we not catch on that jamaica was just flat lazy in a way panama was not?

  18. Ives, do you really think he’ll learn the lessons from last night? I’ve never been a big GGG fan, but not one to just throw him under the bus either. However, time and again his poor lineup choices have resulted in poor play with lack of continuity. His playing favorites like McKenzie, Arriola, etc. when others sit the bench makes no sense. Also, someone mentioned in the previous thread that 1 or 2 of these players can perform valuable roles with a solid starting group. However, they are not replacements either. The only saving grace this cycle is that a lot of other teams are having the same issues including Mexico. Only Canada and Panama look like they actually have a plan, as well as El Salvador who lack the players.

  19. I would like to sincerely thank you for the tireless work that you (USSF) have undertaken to ensure USMNT fans that the specter of October, 2017 will never again arise. The first sign of promising change was the careful and exhaustive head coach vetting process [which likely involved a grand total one person] which yielded us our own American “Pep Guardiola gem” in Gregg Berhalter. Coach Gregg has truly injected some much needed change into this program. The genius of Coach Gregg’s strategy of disrupting the opponent with the ball CANNOT be understated. His preferred penchant for playing European-based players in somewhat unfamiliar positions confounds opposing coaches. Coach Gregg’s policy of benching or even excluding quality European-based players in lieu of technically-deficient MLS players bewilders the opposition and forces them to hastily reevaluate their in-game tactics. On the pitch, Coach Gregg’s preferred central midfield lineups comprised of technically-inept MLS midfield and forward players have proven to be an overwhelmingly impossible obstruction for opponents to surmount: incessant backward passes, the slowing down of attacks and counterattacks, and cheap turnovers when time and space are compressed by [usually] MLS-based players masterfully bait our opponents into needlessly exhausting energy to capitalize on these “misperceived errors”. In spite of the looming personnel threat to our program by solid American players plying their trade in top-5 European leagues, Coach Gregg has wisely steered us back to our soccer roots – scrappy topsy-turvy affairs and chasing games from a goal down that we as USMNT fans have cherished for decades.

    The future truly looks bright for the USMNT. With our exciting new prospects whom Coach Gregg has groomed such as Sebastian Lletget, Christian Roldan, Gyasi Zardes, Kellyn Acosta, Mark McKenzie, George Bello, Jackson Yueill, and Paul Arriola, I truly expect great things from the USMNT next year during our fourth-placed playoff game against a yet to be determined foe. Thanks for all the hard work guys and keep it up!


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