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Berhalter says it’s not the end for John Brooks with the USMNT, but it feels like it


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  1. I view this as a tactical decision. Brooks is still athletic, has arial ability and he can still run fast, but his quickness is questionable at best. Last summer, he made some bad defensive mistakes, so bad that my wife noticed it and wondered why he was playing for the Nats. My opinion is he had a bad summer and he is best when he can defend in an organized group. He is good at cutting out crosses and does well when everything is in front of him, less good when he must turn and face his own goal.. The way the US is playing in CONCACAF right now where they have long spells of possession and push the backs up to near the opposing team’s half puts Brooks in spots he does not deal with well. Against better teams where the US must spend much more time defending in the last 1/3 of the field he is at his best. Tactically it makes no sense to put him on the field in the qualifiers, but he may yet find a role in Qatar where the US will be expected to defend deeper much of the time. OTOH, if you are optimistic about the USA’s ability to push the attack, Brooks is probably not the guy you want in back. Long is the guy I think he is in direct competition with for the 4th CB spot, Zimmerman, Richards, and Robinson being the first 3. Ream is another guy who plays more effectively if he is always deep and facing away from goal, you can’t rule him out for games in which the US is likely to spend a lot of time defending deep especially if injuries take a toll on the defense. But, Ream is even slower than Brooks and playing up near midfield with lots of open space behind him is an invitation for disaster.

  2. Have to agree with Lost on this one. You’re forgetting a lot of Brooks history. When Brooks showed up, he was a great defender — I remember awesome 40-yard come from behind goal saving tackles. How about the incredible MOM performance vs Paraguay in 2016? Now he’s slower but his aerial ability and his passing (long diagonals etc) are still solid. Not a first choice, but definitely a LCB with plenty to offer.

  3. This is bull. No way some of these other guys are getting opportunities with poor form, lingering injuries, and more while he gets snubbed without some other factor at play. On top of that, GB’s comments make it seem like it’s start or bust. What does he know that the coaches in Germany don’t regarding Brooks? Just plain stupid…

  4. I agree on paper Brooks is a quality starting centerback. He plays at a high level in the Bundesliga, he’s an athletic guy, he scored a vital goal for the USA in 2014 so we all love him, and along with Yedlin he’s one of the few veteran presences on the roster who has actual prior World Cup experience.

    Just saying, though, he’s looked mighty bad at times in a US shirt…and he was no small part of the reason we didn’t qualify in 2018, and as IV mentioned, he does seem to get caught ball-watching and lose his man entirely too much for a CB of his alleged quality.

    I honestly wonder if it’s arrogance. He often doesn’t seem to respect his opponents, particularly in CONCACAF, and he appears to switch off or make a bad decision too often as a result and get burnt thereby.

    I still might CONSIDER working him back in this summer just because while Zimmerman, Robinson, and Richardson would seem like automatics-if-healthy at this point, I’m still unsold we have a better fourth CB, and certainly not one who is left-footed, but I do understand why Berhalter is leery of him and may want to see some provin’ before he works him back onto the roster. If Eurosnob arrogance is really Brooks’ problem – which there have been hints of – it would seem unlikely Brooks would be prone to the same mental lapses on the biggest stage in soccer, since that’s when everybody brings their A-game.

    • i feel like if you watch some finesse teams in europe, particularly holland and parts of england but also where brooks plays, they play a soft zone and stay in formation to excess. MLS, MX, spain, tougher german teams, they mark and play physical defense. you do not get time on the ball. concacaf is closer to MLS and MX for obvious reasons. brooks struggled to mark concacaf players in the 2015 gold cup, 2018 qualifying, nations league, 2022 qualifying. like i said, i think he’s fine in a more technical environment playing no-fault zone defense. if he has to mark, not so good. concacaf you can’t get away without marking. world cup, most nights, same. personally as a defender if you can’t mark you’re not really much of a defender. against high level or fast opponents that shows.

      if i wanted to be indulgent, “misfit.” we have some history of players before like wondo who on paper should be awesome but they don’t fit the international game. wondo was too sloppy. brooks is like if you turned soccer into touch football. it’s not gone that far in terms of turning the game pure finesse, so it shows.

      • Interesting thought and reading you and Tele57’s takes I don’t disagree. I have noticed those oddly passive zone defenses a lot in Europe – for all they like to make of how “tough” their leagues are! – and I agree with Tele57 that he definitely seems like a better LCB in a 3-man (or 5-man) backline than he is as a central partner in a typical American 4-man backline. That said, his marking and awareness have definitely been issues and I’ve lost track of how many times his guy has gotten off his back shoulder and there’s Brooks oddly ball-watching like a U10, loping along covering nobody, especially in transition. And as Tele57 mentioned, his catch-up recovery speed is an issue so he gets dribbled a lot.,,and there’s this air of, I dunno, arrogance to him, like I said, and I’ve noticed him dive in like a U10 sometimes too like he just KNOWS he can impose himself on this chump, and winds up pulling up his shorts. It’s like: decision-making, fella. Stop.
        Still think he’s got something to add as our #4 CB…particularly if we’re going to be the ones bunkering against a superior opponent like Brazil or Spain or France, which we’re gonna at some point if we advance far enough.
        Good posts, both of you. Appreciate ’em.

    • Quizzel – my take is that Brooks is a very good LB in a 3 centerback formation and a very bad CB on Greg’s 4-3-3 where most teams are bunkering, our wing backs are primarily attackers, and our centerbacks are left alone to defend quick counters. Brooks is relatively slow, not particularly quick, and doesn’t have good recovery speed. The rest of the elements of his game are pretty good like winning duals, air balls, possesion, passing etc. IV will say he loses his man all the time but I dont think that is accurate; people dribble by him all the time because of the aforementioned reasons. However, Greg’s 4-3-3 seems unrealistic for the World Cup and having flexibility to play multiple formations should be important in final roster selection. If the US plays with 3 CB, IMO Brooks is by far the first choice at LB and it wouldn’t even be close. At the WC, assuming US makes it, they will play two European teams. It would have to be a pretty favorable draw to get a European team that will plan to bunker and counter attack against the US so the tactics will likely be different.

  5. I could see Brooks making the WC squad. I’d expect the offensive tactics to be more conservative in a WC which would mean more cover for a CB like Brooks whose weakest attribute is his pace. Together with his excellent track record in tournaments (vs windows) and his prior WC experience his inclusion wouldn’t surprise me.

    • excellent track record? are we saying that if you are so bad you helped us miss 2018 that counts as “null” — because we played no games in russia — as opposed to — you helped kick the dirt over us? that we just skip over and go back to 2014? ignore costa rica and getting your coach fired? ignore the spotty defense ever since? reality is he scored as a sub in 2014. given the opportunity to start and own it they sucked his 2018 cycle. (ditto yedlin and some others this coach loves. ) but then this coach dines out on the german handball that didn’t go in, when he was for most of 3 world cups a bench back, including getting obliterated 4-0 by germany in a friendly before his last 2006 tournament, which basically ended his international career and starting chances. he, too, on paper would have a statistical excellent track record despite getting water bottles for pope and lalas and agoos and boca and gooch and conrad most of his career.

      also odd on track record people ignoring that the initial impression dwindled down to getting klinsi fired in that costa rica game he got burned for 3 goals personally, and then the next 2 coaches pretty emphatically pastured him. if there is a middle ground it’s maybe arena should have run him out there instead of omar, before he got pastured this cycle as the CB pool recovered. but it feels like people are still back in 2014 before the lousy gold cups and quali runs and friendly nightmares and getting klinsi fired. that, too, track record.

      • Off topic: So does Klinsmann’s decision to play Brooks factor into his dismissal or is it purely because the players he chose failed to win despite his coaching prowess?

      • IV- Brook’s track record as a LB in a 3 CB formation against top level European players is very good and far superior to anyone else in the current player pool. If US makes Qatar, they will play two Eoropean team in group play. You yourself have said many times that Greg’s 4-3-3 is unrealistic for a World Cup. I personally agree with you. If Greg does too, his tactics and player selections could change.

      • Master: IMO we had a development down ebb from about 2012-2018. in strong periods, like now, we produce several good players a cycle, eg, reyna, weah, etc. for most of that period pulisic was about the only good player we produced. so you had the bradley-donovan-dempsey era grinding to a halt and for one cycle or so what we produced to replace them was like wondo, nagbe, zardes, miazga, bedoya, arriola, very meh. not more dempseys and donovans. pulisic was the only one of our usual higher standard. the team slumped. klinsi brought in his handful of dual nationals who filled the domestic development lull. jones, FJ, chandler, AJ, green. this patched the hole. klinsi also gave up on his reform ideas — which GB has revived — and went empty bucket, which played to the strengths of his good mid personnel eg Bradley Jones. that got us through 2014 competitively. bradley beckerman jones donovan FJ beasley etc. then all aged out moving into 2018 cycle. AJ got hurt. Green got shoved out for reasons unclear. chandler decided he wasn’t sure if he wanted to fly/commit. the patch popped. you could see how bad the development was. lot of poor defenders, limited attack, we brought dempsey back, and we had horrible goals against. with this new 2022 cycle came a much stronger development harvest. anyone coaching this would look a lot better. my beef is it could look even better with the right coach. personally i think miles and walker are twice the defender brooks is, and richards is close behind them. i feel like this wanders into a fanboy thing where the Champions League type fans can’t believe at that CB position MLS has better players right now. “but he’s in the bundesliga.” emphasis on right now because they are a transfer away from being european — like what happened at wingback. other positions either the good MLSers already transferred (steffen, etc.) or the euro based are better (attack). personally i think the “mix” is in flux because it’s a young team. when they get older it may be loaded with people playing in europe as those teams recognize the level of talent of this cycle. people act like europe produces our success but perhaps it just is a lagging reflection of it. when we develop well they come knocking. when we were less successful they didn’t come in and snap up our zardes and nagbes.

      • Tele: I played 352 in select and college and don’t understand why people think it insulates defenders. have people forgotten what venezuela did to 3 backs before 2019 gold cup? we’ve selected better teams since then, but it’s a formation where you end up doing a fair amount of island defending just like a 4 man backline with robinson cheating way up. if your wing gets caught up you are on your own. i think in those situations brooks is immobile to handle things alone. personally i think his fans overrate his ability to mark in close quarters with help, as i have seen teams like colombia in 2018 have their high quality players create goals at his expense when he gave them space to turn and face. that’s part of where i say he’s just a zone back people want for passing, even when he’s in formation and has help (not just on counters) he’s usually a little lackidaisical and not draped on his man like a shirt. he has the build of a great CB and some aerial ability but he’s slow as molasses and unlike, say, gooch, not brought up in our old school notions of organization and man defense. but then neither is dest.

      • IV – I think you’re over simplifying the history of Brooks with the USMNT, and in some cases completely omitting some of his contributions. At the 2014 WC Brooks & Green were the unproven young prospects. Both contributed in that WC even though they had little experience. In the Copa America JAB was by far our best CB, and was one of the few players who had a complete tournament.
        Not saying that JAB is a player without faults in his game….because he does have some clear weaknesses (defending in isolation & players on a quick turn), but he also has some significant strengths (Distribution, defending crosses, etc…). Yes he’s struggled with the travel required in CONCACAF, but when in tournaments where the travel is less he does significantly better.
        Blaming JAB for the 2018 failure is a serious over simplification. The vast majority of the player pool were either aged out (Howard, Jones, Omar, Bradley, Zusi, Beasley, Dempsey, etc….) or Injured (Jozy, Fabian, etc…). JK was fired after the 2nd game of the Hex and when Bruce took over he (just like his disciple Gregg) pushed/played his favorites (Omar, Bradley, Zusi, Beasley, etc…) regardless of their form. Bruce put his trust in players he had experience with when he last coached the USMNT, who he coached in MLS, or coached against in MLS. It was Bruce’s & the player arrogance that caused us to miss the 2018 WC.

      • LIS: he wasn’t just fired “after the second game” in the abstract, he was fired after brooks got torched for 3 goals by costa rica at their place (we gave 4 total but he was a lot of it) after we couldn’t hold mexico at home. arena had the defense fixed for a period but then brought in omar. i think it’s a fair argument brooks was better than omar, or green better than some of the attackers. arena only had so much to work with, but he kind of flipped out on the dual nationals and thus didn’t have his best team. and omar sucked. but my point is this would be a second straight cycle, in the time period when people thought brooks was going to step into a starting role, where he ended up pastured instead. i don’t think brooks can mark well enough to be a starting back. personally on a “wondo” basis i don’t believe in rostering people we thought would be good, hoping they turn out, against all track record, but with the idea maybe they don’t play so it never gets tested. wondo is a classic example of sometimes that end-of-bench decision gets to play and you get punished. berhalter was going to hand out water bottles in 2002. agoos gets hurt. you’re in. brooks himself got subbed in a world cup game. i’d assume anyone we roster might play and pick accordingly by proven performance.

  6. GB is nuts to be suggesting long term issues of a player {“deficiencies”) can be fixed overnight. like, let’s check back in a couple months and see if you can mark someone then. really? the way he’s been treated in recent windows is rational. typical of this coach to be like, “there’ll be another opportunity for him where we can really start addressing where we think his deficiencies are, to be the starting center back in our pool.” like you weren’t good enough for quali but let’s see if we can convince ourselves to put you back in not just the roster but the lineup just in time for the biggest stage of all. berhalter’s lineup in his head is always fighting back and trying to override what analytical ability he has. at some point, dude, you need your “arena loves olsen but it doesn’t work” moment where you wake up. where he separates from the other “modern era” US coaches is the sheer number of these ideological favorites he has (including arriola) that he just can’t let go of. trust your darned eyes, dude. every coach has an idea in his head how it could look. only he keeps retreating to it.

    and can we not pout about it? dude got to play in a world cup and score a goal. dude just never turned out to be the starter people hoped. he actually did get his moment in the sunlight. he should have to earn anything else and didn’t. go with the ones who did.


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