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Berhalter breaks down process that led to Haji Wright winning USMNT third-striker race


The race for the third striker spot on the U.S. men’s national team World Cup roster had grown into one of the biggest storylines surrounding the roster for months, and Haji Wright’s emergence as the winner of that competition to join Jesus Ferreira and Josh Sargent in Qatar was one of the most surprising developments from Wednesday’s roster reveal.

Wright, who made his USMNT debut in June, has enjoyed a strong first half of the European season with Turkish club Antalyaspor. The 24-year-old has totaled nine goals in his first 12 Super Lig appearances, picking up where he left off while on loan with Antalyaspor last season.

Wright earned the nod over both Pepi and Jordan Pefok for Gregg Berhalter’s third and final striker spot, despite Pepi’s impressive run at Dutch side Groningen and Pefok’s success since completing his move to Union Berlin.

“If we would have made the decision mid-September, Jordan Pefok probably would’ve been a lock to be in, based on his form in [the Bundesliga with] Union Berlin,” Berhalter said in a conference call Wednesday. “But since then, it’s a different story.” Pefok hasn’t scored at all. “Haji is in great goalscoring form. They’re both physical strikers. Jordan maybe a little more so, but Haji has pace, he’s got the ability to go 1-v-1, he’s finishing with his head, both feet. And he’s performing really well.”

Pepi’s arrival in the Netherlands this season has given the 19-year-old a major confidence boost with the Augsburg loanee excelling for FC Groningen. Pepi has scored five goals and added two assists in nine combined appearances for the Eredivisie side, rebounding from a tough debut European season in the Bundesliga.

Although Pepi has enjoyed a strong loan spell this fall, Berhalter decided to go with both Ferreira and Sargent for his versatile striking options.

 “Ricardo was up against Josh [Sargent] and Jesus [Ferreira] and we thought it was valuable that Josh was playing in that competition [the Championship] where two of our opponents are coming from,” Berhalter said of the decision not to select Pepi. “The Dutch league, I think it’s a great league, but it doesn’t bring the same physicality that the Premier League or the Championship brings. That was something that went into the decision. 

“Ricardo Pepi has had a great run of form and maybe he should be there, and I can understand that, but we have to choose and we chose to bring three strikers and these were the ones we chose.”


  1. The thing about a World Cup is that teams from all countries have gotten away with all sorts of crazy stuff because all the players tend to be amped up just to be there.

    They will play out of position and run through walls and even do a good job because they are the best players and they should be capable of doing , only for a game or two, what is necessary for the team if asked.

    That is not too much to ask.
    DMB did a very good job as an emergency left back for JK in 2014. He’s often said that he hated playing left back but he also knew it was the only way that he could make the 2014 team. So he shut up put his head down and told JK he would be happy to play left back when JK asked him to.

    • It helps if it’s in a situation like Beasley where they are veterans in their 4th WC and also play out of position in a position which takes similar skills which they normally play. Forcing say 18 yr old Tillman to play as a 6 when he’s normally a 10 or Wing is a much bigger reach no matter how “amped” he might be. All of a sudden he comes in and tries to get “stuck in” because that’s what 6’s do and he’s off with a straight red on a studs under tackle.

      • JR

        Who said anything about playing Tillman as a #6?
        That would be a stupid thing to do.

        There are 23 outfield positions. 10 starters and 5 subs . Even if you rotate the subs it means there may be as many as 3 players who will not see a second of PT. Which means you can bring along a “specialist” player or two.

        We’re talking three games with about 3-4 days in between each game. If you do well vs. Wales, Gregg is not likely to want to make a lot of changes for England.

        If you want to play in a World Cup you should be willing and able to do whatever the manager asks you. If you can’t he shouldn’t pick you and you shouldn’t go. You needn’t be a DMB level veteran to be willing and able to do DMB level dirty work. For example, does Gregg have a player who can put the clamps on a Walker , a Trippier? Or a Kane or a Foden?

        All this noise about Pefok vs. Wright vs. Pepi or Tillman obscures the fact that our leading scorer is Pulisic.

        He’s not as popular as with USMNT fans as he used to be but he remains the key. He’s the one guy that the other teams will key on and worry about. And his best run in Chelsea was when he had a good thing going with Giroud. Wright is not as good as Giroud but Pulisic does best with a partner who has some credibility as a scorer of goals. .
        Hopefully Pulisic can establish that with Josh or Wright. I don’t see him doing that with Ferreira who is not a credible scoring threat, at least not as credible as Josh or Wright.

      • Vacqui, I know it wasn’t you but there were several posters replacing Roldan with Tillman. When we defend Musah or Wes drops deep next to Tyler. I’m sure Malik or Djordje have the heart to give it go but do they have the skill set to stop Mount dribbling at them? I guess we will never know. A lot of guys think roster construction is like video game soccer, I can just drop my forward who is 85 as a LB because my LB is a 68 and it will all work out.

  2. I don’t think GB left any players off of the roster who anyone would consider to be a starter or even a player who is planned to come on for fresh legs late in games. Even the “surprise” of Stephen and Pepi being left off does not change that. All the attention is regarding Wright and Pefok. I think picking the one with the better pace is smart since either of those guys would likely be used only later in games where the US was chasing a result. The “surprise” of Ream being included is not so much a surprise. Ream is a solid defender, but in games where the US enjoys lots of possession, like in most CONCACAF games, his lack his speed is a real shortcoming. When the US is defending deeper against stronger opponents, his ability to read the game and be in good defensive positions is invaluable.

    Sadly, the injuries to Long (who has kinda recovered), Robinson and Richards left an obvious vacancy, Ream is the likely replacement, others tried there have simply under-performed. In 2014, Beckermann, similarly was thought to be too slow, but his tactical awareness more than made up for that and he had a very good WC. In truth, I am more worried about McKennie’s performance in the last few weeks for Juve than I am about Ream. (I hope McKennie lights a fire under himself soon.)

      • If I was building a team for next year I’d agree with all of those except Pefok vs Ferreira. But I get why people think Pefok is better. However, all of your others Mendez, Trusty, Tillman were just too late to the party. You can’t be average your entire pro careers and then have 2 good months. To put Mendez and Trusty into their first cap in the WC would be setting them up for a failure it would be hard to recover from. Think how jelly legged Scally looked in his first caps, imagine getting your first cap in Qatar with the match in the balance.

      • JR

        “You can’t be average your entire pro careers and then have 2 good months.”

        That’s not entirely true. The World Cup is a good showcase for one hit wonders:

        I don’t know much about Mendez but Trusty and Tillman are going through a process where their clubs are preparing them for an imminent increase in level of play.
        If Gregg had picked them he might have gotten lucky.
        Certainly their respective clubs ( Arsenal and Bayern Munich) think very highly of these kids and their mentality.

        If they aren’t playing as well as Gregg wants that’s one thing but to exclude them just because they’re raw kids and perhaps mentally fragile? That would be a pretty weak excuse. They should be just as ready to handle whatever might happen in Qatar as well as Ferreira, Long, or Shaq Moore who will never have faced anything like the pressure they are about to face in Qatar either.

        ” To put Mendez and Trusty into their first cap in the WC would be setting them up for a failure it would be hard to recover from……………………..Think how jelly legged Scally looked in his first caps, imagine getting your first cap in Qatar with the match in the balance.”

        You’re painting everyone with too broad a brush. Everyone is different.

        In 2010 Bob took Herc Gomez ,who had not played in a single WC qualifying game and only had 3 caps at that point., to South Africa and the 2010 WC.

        Herc didn’t play a ton but he did play in three games and was just fine.

  3. Pefok was the Swiss League Golden Boot winner last year with 22 goals.

    Swiss League is ranked higher than the Turkish League according to UEFA’s coefficient rankings. Bundesliga #4, Swiss League #14, Turkish League #20.

    Over the past two seasons to now, he has 25 goals vs 23 for Wright.

    Also he’s played against the biggest teams in Europe (Man Utd, Bayern, etc). He knows how to score against high level teams, and playing in a league several levels higher than the Turkish League. Turkish League seems on par to Mexican League quality but with little more athleticism.

    Everybody should tune in to see how Wright plays against Besiktas on Sunday 12pm, one of the top teams from that league. Also Tyler Boyd’s team; not sure if Boyd is registered this season with them.

    • Pefok has struggled since his muscle injury earlier this fall (some have said he’s just been trying to play through it still). He’s also played exclusively in a 2 forward formation the last four years, whereas Haji has been up top in a 4-3-3 the last three years.

    • You’re not listening to what Greg is saying. He’s bringing Haji Wright because he can score in an abundance of ways that Pefok can’t, and his pace is probably what put him.over the top when you consider that against England we’ll be for sure playing the counter attacking game, a game I could see Haji starting tbh

    • Coefficient is based on how teams did in CL, Europa League, and Conference League over the past 5 seasons. It was just updated a week ago Turkey is now one spot above Switzerland as they sit 12th and 13th. Turkey boosted by their two Conference League teams winning their group and Galatasaray winning its Europa group and Fenerbache finishing 3rd in Europa. The coefficient can fluxuate wildly in the 10-20 range because if a team like Rangers makes a finals run Scotland flys up the rankings to 8. If you look at Global Football Rankings which uses a formula created by fivethirtyeight Turkey is 14th in the world and the Swiss League is 20th (MLS 15th). It also might say something that Pefok played for a team that significantly out spent it’s opponents in Switzerland last year and finished 3rd, whereas Wright played on fairly average team and still had success scoring goals with less talent around him.
      As for the but what about his 3 Bundesliga goals. Matthew Hoppe scored 6 Bundesliga goals and he can hardly get on the pitch in the Championship. Sometimes guys are just in the right spot for their skill set.

  4. A little odd for Berhalter to say that about Pefok when we had two friendlies in Sept that had very lackluster offensive performances, while Pefok was scoring (as Berhalter said!) but he DIDNT CALL HIM IN FOR THOSE GAMES. Now it’s Pefok isn’t playing as well. But who knows had he been on the Sept friendlies roster he could have scored a few times or more for the USA. Which would have given him a breather chance to make the roster.

    And given the “Haji is in good form” statement. What about Vazquez? He is in good form and didn’t get a sniff.

    • One thing I would say is, it’s very, very late in the game to be throwing in a total unknown over a guy who has familiarity with the group and is well-liked and favored by his former youth teammates, Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie. Pulisic and Haji were former roommates when they played together, in fact, and all things being equal, if you’re Gregg it was probably just too late this cycle to realistically look at Brandon Vasquez.

      I would like liked a look at Vasquez myself and I wish we had gotten him a look, but I also understand why it didn’t happen, too. Vasquez just appeared on the radar too late and things didn’t work out because of that.

      • how do i put this. i quit fighting too hard on selection decisions roughly september. i don’t see many coaches picking any or at least more than 1 wild card to join a world cup team. THOUGH i do think the risk to them of losing is less the higher they play upfield. “vazquez” or “green” is less risky than a new back or keeper. BUT i think this discussion is still relevant as critique. the HC should be accountable to his selection decisions. the HC gets to select over a 4 year period of time. we have had at least 2 windows and 6 games to get vazquez in and try him. the coach made a decision to focus on sargent, wright, and pepi. pefok disappeared and vazquez never appeared. he knew vazquez existed. he gave that no oxygen. if he wants to frame it as, “he never got capped where i could evaluate and trust him,” well, that was a months-long series of choices.

        bluntly i see it as at the level of coaching quality as my lousy HS coach (who nonetheless made the state quarters with us) who would leave good select players on the bench of his HS team, in the playoffs, “because they hadn’t been playing.” it’s a weak circular excuse when the decision should be can they play or not, and when any failure to have them sharp and ready may be your own. i kind of doubt vazquez would have been the reason we lost games and i am skeptical of depending on players with little history of NT production because they found a better club home, and then, say, scored on grenada. personally i’d be looking at who managed to get involved in goals in our toughest matches this cycle.

    • the way he justifies it is he’s uncapped and unintegrated but then GB’s trying to erase his role in that second layer of decisionmaking.

      personally i think the whole form argument is trash because he’s ignoring the subtleties, he’s not really talking about their technical sharpness, and he doesn’t seem to “discount” in any way to get apples to apples. i get forward is a production position. but pefok has i think 3G 3A in a few months in a hard league (B.1) on the second place team. he had an assist a few weeks ago on dortmund. dortmund! i don’t see that as “off form.” and when you’re comparing him to others and everyone’s not in the same camp, you should be factoring in dude 1 is B.1 and dude 2 is on random team in turkey and dude 3 is in MLS, etc.

      but to me the basic fallacy is the wondo/twellman fallacy. setting aside analytical apples to apples — which to me is play them for the US and compare then, or it’s some sort of stats discounting to compare how hard some leagues are to others — it’s the basic fact we have a long history of figuring out our highest goalscorers in club don’t necessarily translate. donovan did, but wondo, twellman, even lassiter, not so much. dempsey and mcbride were never golden boot type scorers in league ball, but they were the best suited to international play. it’s like international soccer coaching 101. but this coach has no international experience and a head buried in spreadsheets and has to relearn all the lessons we’ve learned for 30+ years in USSF.

    • We’re those poor offensive performances the strikers fault though. I’m not sure we learned anything from those two on the striker front because service to them was so poor.

      • i don’t think we should be in the “service” business. we don’t have a sharp crossing team, and the few good crossers i know of are not on this team. we shouldn’t be flag crossing where people can complain about the accuracy. we should be more direct and combining to net. weah can go to the endline and square it back — which is harder to mess up — and ditto reyna and pulisic making balls to feet. if you do that then the false 9s or runners work. if the game is instead whack crosses to a target man go get ledezma and the ones who can cross and then a couple bangers to play 9. horses for courses. but this coach doesn’t quite know what he’s doing.

  5. Having followed the USMNT since 1990, I can’t think of a time where I have had less definite feelings about the quality/ability of our national team. Wright could be great, or he could just be invisible. You look at the talent we have and you think they could do good things, but it seems like they often under achieve. I mean, can’t even beat Saudi Arabia? I think one problem is that whatever the first string is, they have probably not played together all that much because of either injuries or player selection. We could easily qualify for the knockout round or finish last in the group, or somewhere in between.

    • yes…we could make it out of our group…or we could not. we could be great…or we could be invisible…….

      on more doubt tho…you’re kidding right? at least these guys qualified. there’s been more doubt…as recently as the qualis for 2018…and more belief, like the 2 victories over Mexico, not for the World Cup, but victories still

      and yes again, we could do well or not…I’ll take that bet 😉

      seriously Gary, heck, I have doubts too…every World Cup!! and let’s play we’ll see

      but as recent as the last qualifying failure rated higher doubts at least for me

    • and I have some beliefs too. Tactics in CONCACAF qualifying are different than World Cup in many matchups. it’s true and always a weird balance for our region, and we talk about it. it’s true

      can GB thread the needle here with this group with these realities, and will this group believe to make it happen? we’ll see

      hope we stay healthy so we can see what that looks like

    • “I have had less definite feelings about the quality/ability of our national team.”

      That’s because this team , no matter who has been available, hasn’t really been tested. They’ve never beaten a tough team in a competitive game, away, when it really mattered. I had hoped for a better test but Mexico turned out to be a lame, garbage opponent.

      Going into the 2010 WC, Bob had a great performance in the 2009 Confederations Cup to encourage them.

      JK’s 2014 WC team was a more experienced crew, specifically guys like Clint, Jermaine, DMB, Howard, etc. whose leadership the fans could feel confident about. And , whatever you think of JK , he had previously led a team to a 3rd place finish in the World Cup.

      In contrast, the three group games will be the first time that Gregg’s team will be in an (extremely ) competitive setting :

      1. Away from home
      2. Playing three teams who are basically either better ( England) roughly equal (Wales) and, at least on paper, not as good ( Iran)

      The USMNT’s talent level is allegedly the best ever. That may be but I think we all know that it takes more than talent. And we know that this group, manager and players, are very raw and inexperienced comparatively speaking.

      The USMNT have been lauded for their competitive nature but I’m sure we will get the best shot of all three teams in the Group

      Anyone who tells you they know how the USMNT is going to react is just blowing smoke.

      There will be no preliminary bonding in a “pre WC camp” which is unfortunate. It’s been a while since these guys played together and the last two games did not go well.

      Will the guys bond together, raise their game and get a positive result from that first game?

      We’re about to find out.

      Whatever, I expect three brutal, steel cage death match games.

      Winning all three games or losing all three should surprise no one.

    • Gary, that is every WC since 1994 except 2018 be ause we knew they wouldn’t advance out of group play. If they make it out of group play, it is a good performance.

    • gary: this is what happens when the team struggles, the coach doesn’t fix it, and then at the end of the cycle the coach rather than going back to talent and tactical fundamentals just takes some flyers. to be fair klinsi did the same thing before brazil but he had a specific tactical direction — empty bucket — and he selected to it. i felt like he also at that point in his tenure had a sharp talent eye eg green. so it was kind of like admitting a mistake. i am curious whether some of these changes augur some system changes or if it’s him perseverating on tactics with a couple personnel tweaks. we shall see. and that “we shall see” does speak to your sense of not knowing well what to expect.

      personally i think he’s still stuck on his sloppy mids and risky wingback ideas. i think those ideas are popular with fanboys who want people who play for barca and juve. i am not sold that’s best for the team. an all star team is not the best tactical unit. so i’m skeptical it’s fixed. but when the ball rolls in a week and change i will root just the same.

  6. It seems the issue with Haji Wright for awhile has been one of lowered expectations. Most everyone though with his physical gifts he would improve with effort and coaching, and eventually excel. The reality is he has bounced around the lower tier leagues in Europe, mostly underperforming given the hype. Now this season is one where he has make progress, while Pefok, who was on an upward trajectory, suddenly has gone cold. GB’s explanation in wanting to bring in an in-form, tall, physical presence for a late game striker sub makes sense.

    • With one more goal this will be the third season in a row Haji hits for double digit goals in a Euro league. He has been scoring pretty consistently for a while now.

    • He hasn’t underperformed for 2 and half seasons. He banged in 11 goals in Denmark then 15 goals last season with Antalayaspor and now 9 goals and counting this season with Antalayaspor. In fact he may be the most in form consistent striker the US has had the past few years. He just didn’t a call. And he continues to get better every season and is only 24. He finally is realizing his physical gifts and is becoming a force. A better team/ league will come calling soon.

      • Hadji is a poor man’s Jozy Altidore. At his best, Jozy was a fast, physical direct wing forward, sort of in the mold of a Marcus Rashford. Over time he may develop into a true #9 but’s he’s not there yet. I think he will probably have a long successful career in Europe.

        If Gregg picked him it looks like Gregg is thinking about strengthening our counter. Not a bad idea given the situation.

  7. i’ve read interesting stuff making the hopeful argument that dropping the sweeper keeper steffen, pefok, and pepi might mean we’re going to sit further back and play more of a counter, speed, and vertical game as opposed to a press or slow build. though ream likes to fart around and build, and i think he’d be exaggerating how well he can defend at all, the coach might think if we sat deep and countered then ream has “system cover.” the idea is if GB saw what happened with japan and the saudis, and had a klinsmann epiphany, maybe. but you’d have a week to do it and not a month or more. people forget the players have been named but the europeans still aren’t released yet.

    • amplifying that, story would go that he seems to think pefok is a fairly stationary target force where he thinks wright is more a runner and physical in that way. idea being if we’re playing more vertical, either in the air or throughballs, you go with the more mobile guy who can still win the balls in a contest.

    • if you look at the japan game, i think that was his first choice, and the starter and sub in that game both made the team regardless how it went — ferreira then sargent. pepi then started the saudi game with ferreira sub. i think that was the hierarchy as of the last friendlies. he didn’t trial vazquez or much of anyone new. he gave pepi a chance and we played 0-0 without much fight. but in terms of your comment, we did lose the japan game so does he still think that way. if we sit back and defend and counter, as one commentator has suggested, that doesn’t feel like either of the japan game guys. that feels like — from his list — wright. IMO should really be some speed player like pulisic.

  8. Considering all the injuries and what he had available to him I think Gregg picked a well balanced team with cover at every position. A lot of people don’t want to give him credit for anything, but he has done a good job cultivating and growing the player pool this cycle.

    • if your pool is mostly kids and 8/11 of arena’s starters retire from soccer, quit playing internationally, or get old, you kind of have to trial a pile of people. a great coach would have. sarachan was.

      the job is to pick the right ones and then build a system to fit them. we’re gonna find out if he did that or if IMO he worked backwards, picked his system before he chose players, then has spent 4 years swapping people around to try and fix how bad it looked. to me the mids he likes are too sloppy to play his chosen style, and his wingbacks aren’t as accurate as he thinks, and due to injuries, a mediocre remaining pool, and his compulsion for attacking wingbacks, the defense isn’t airtight either.

      i feel like he eventually arrived at a slate of names fanboys are fairly happy with, and which evolved from 2019, but to me it’s more like a fanboy all star team than a well oiled machine to get a job done. this to me needed to either get faster or more technical in the attack — it’s too sloppy in the midfield — or it needed to get tighter as a team defense. it kind of got stuck in between. which is how you barely make it out of WCQ in 3rd on a tiebreak, is you ship goals and have just an ok offense.

      • Berhalter played 4 more players than Tata, and camped 7 more(91/87 and 110/103). He played 30 more than Herdman but obviously the pool is smaller in Canada. Roberto Martinez only called 72 players for Belgium in twice as many years. Southgate has played only 88 players in 8 years.

      • JR

        “Berhalter played 4 more players than Tata, and camped 7 more(91/87 and 110/103)………………………….”

        He had to.

        Gregg started with an effectively blank slate.

        In the time periods you cited, Belgium and England already had powerful, established teams with a proven core of better players and more of them than Gregg ever did. How many people are you going to call in to try to beat out Harry Kane or Kevin DeBruyne?

        Those teams did not NEED to try out a bunch of new guys. Both teams have the EPL and other top leagues to serve as auditions for new blood.

        Canada, as you pointed out had fewer players to try out,period. Herdman, unlike Gregg, of necessity, had a more traditional approach. They look more like some of Bob’s or Arena’s teams.

        And Mexico’s selection process appears to this outsider to have a lot of political considerations that I have no idea about or interest in.

        “He played over 90 players in 3 years stop with this he didn’t try new players”

        How many of those 90 players had legitimate shots at making their case? How many of them were given a token 10 minutes in garbage time in a blow out of Grenada or some other crap team? Hard to tell much about a player under those circumstances.

        It’s not that Gregg had three plus years and ninety + players.

        It is that he had 40-50 + games with about a couple of days of training for each game. That’s a little over a full season for a club team if you include preseason and cup games.
        Minus a ton of the practices, which is key for a guy like Gregg.

        Point being he’s had time but maybe not as much time as he thought, to find his “Best 11 or should I say Best 16” . And he’s still getting there. That’s a negative.

        There was the pandemic interruption. I tend to not make much of that. However hard the USMNT suffered from it at it had to be just as bad if not worse for our much poorer CONCACAF opposition.

        The point is Gregg’s approach differed from the norm in that his goal was to build a with Club USMNT approach or so he said.

        And it seems like in the first half of his Reign, the players he was going to need either hadn’t developed yet or weren’t available for some reason. Which was okay because the only goal at that point was qualification and that gave Gregg some time for on the job training.

        Then we get eventually to the second half where the players started to become available , and the Octagon was available for Gregg to have tough games for his team to practice in. One reason they finished third was that they needed to use the Octagon as practice.

        The irony of this of course was that instead of using of his new CLUB USMNT approach, Gregg wound up having to do the traditional national team manager approach anyway.

        Meaning , he had a condensed period of time where he had to pick the best available players and make a winning team in Gregg’s image. And then he had to face the pragmatic reality of tournaments, which is that they won their finals using pragmatic, old fashioned gritty tactics because that’s what they had to do, not the teaching moment, power point fancy flowing stuff that Gregg has never been able to consistently get them going with.

        Is that because the players are , overall, unmanageable pupils or because Gregg’s managerial gifts, such as they are, are not suited to the situation? My guess, is a little of both.
        One of the vital required skills of a good international manager is that they have to be very quick and very good at identifying suitable talent for their very specific needs.
        And also they need to be able to adapt to injuries and club unavailability because that is just baked into the job description of an international manager. Gregg doesn’t get an injury pass card.

        Those of you constantly making excuses for Gregg by pointing out how hard his job is forget that it’s hard for all international managers. And that Gregg has had more resources, help and talented players than many of his peers.
        Being able to deal with the adversity and still put out a good team is a job requirement. It’s possible no one could have done a better job with the situation but no one really knows that and I doubt that anyone really believes that.

        I wonder if Gregg’s vision wavers over time which very much complicates the team’s very specific needs.
        They may have to resort to the basics again and we’ll see if that’s good enough

      • my point is anyone coaching this team would have been churning the roster and calling kids. the old team sucked and couldn’t make russia. most of the old team retired or quit international play (howard, dempsey, nagbe, etc). the remainder with few exceptions (pulisic) had been of such limited quality we couldn’t make russia. then we had a couple good U20 classes in a row with superior ceiling players often already playing well. common sense we were going to turn an old losing roster on its head and start over. that both means no incumbency and also substantial churn and turnover. would have been true whether it was some elite coach, GB, or even sarachan.

        if you want pointed GB with his 2019 mis-selections and dumping of key players to U23 (weah, sargent, miles), wouldn’t have known the right ones to pick if they were on a billboard in front of his house.

    • Right after the 2018 WC, the rebuild began with interim coach Sarachan calling in mostly young players for friendlies, pushing out the veterans. Berhalter was fortunate to be handed off a group of young players with some international experience to build on. Credit goes to GB for calling in so many for a shot, and actively recruiting dual nats Dest, Musah, Pepi, and Tillman. Agreed SilverRey, he’s done a good job.

      • “Agreed SilverRey, he’s done a good job.”

        Not yet.
        He’s not finished .
        They qualified.
        Now the team has to prove it whether they can actually play up to their talent level when facing decent teams in an actually competitive tournament.

  9. Surprised and not- as there are always real head-scratchers with our manager. So be it. Pointless to try to make sense of public comments/justifications that likely have little to do with the real reason for GB’s decisions. Baffling that if Haji were remotely in the picture he didn’t get a call in Sept. Nothing more than a very deep bench situational sub I have to think. Among other things he could have done with the slot- I will say there’s probably more use in the 26 man roster for Pepi than a 4th right back. Hard to think having weeks to ingratiate yourself to Gregg just prior to his final decision certainly didn’t hurt a few guys. Onward and upward- if we’re to succeed- it’s mostly about our core guys staying healthy and performing to their ability. Disappointed about Pepi but hopefully these last games go on with continued health and we… maybe… finally…. get to see a team with Pulisic, Reyna, Adams, McKennieWeah, Aaronson, Musah rweady to go.

      • you’re confusing popular names on good teams with a coherent roster to play a style in a formation. he’s landed close to a fanboy all star team. i’m still like is this trying to be technical or fast or defend like heck. historically some dudes with name brands would get cut or sit because the team was winning and they didn’t quite fit the winning system. i don’t think he’s got the guts to decide if our best look is without, say, dest and weston. his idea of introducing technique isn’t shift puli or reyna central, it’s call up LDLT. this is not a master genius.

    • it did have the feel of a close football game won by the team who gets the ball last drive, not so much because they’re better, but because they ran the clock out doing it. to me it was predictable as he’s mr. club form. i find it absurd because i believe in talent which i don’t think varies that much until you start breaking down at the end. i find the analysis fairly superficial. and despite talking about how some players offer different “profiles” — a sense of their more lasting skillsets — the team generally comes out playing the same no matter who he picks. my hope is some of these changes are not just club form rollercoaster stuff but hints we might actually play different. i have heard commentators throw “vertical” out there. i thought we were better in games like costa rica friendly and the second half of honduras when we got much more direct and less cute. we have technique. we have speed. pick them and liberate them. i don’t get why we’re concerned with system and picking the perceived form player of the week. which, turkey isn’t exactly the B.1, is it?

      • Mr. V.

        “i thought we were better in games like costa rica friendly and the second half of honduras when we got much more direct and less cute. ”

        The Wales game ain’t a friendly.
        Wales will be tougher much tougher than Honduras.

        These three games will be the most important games of Gregg’s reign. They will tell you if he did a good job. and if he gets to lead the USMNT to 2026.

        The Wales game is one where it is absolutely critical to get points. That sort of crushing pressure tends to make teams conservative. We’ll see how they all handle it.

        Barring injury, Gregg has his 26. There are no great surprises here. The players and manager are well known enough that most here have a pretty good idea of how they are likely to be used. Iran is a bit of a mystery here but otherwise, what Wales and England can do and who they are are pretty well known

        If the USMNT play to their very best they can beat all three of these teams. And if they play their very best they can still lose all three games.

        That’s what’s great about the World Cup.
        Although its almost always one of the big boys who wins the World Cup , the early games, the three group games, are set up for upsets.

        With the in season timing and the lack of lead up practice time, even more upsets than usual could well characterize these Qatar group stage games.

    • Rico, there were only 120 minutes of game time in September and he was evaluating between Sargent, Ferriera, and Pepi. I am pretty sure he had already decided to bring one fwd in from the Pefok, Wright mold and it was going to be Pefok unless he fell off a cliff and then he did. As far as fullback, I think he wanted 9 and the CB all did pretty bad when given the chance. I suspect he thinks Arob and Moore are better CB options than McKenzie and EPB in a pinch and I tend to agree. Also, Dest has proven to be very injury prone during qualifying. I am not saying I agree with all his choices, but I understand them, including Morris.

      • The thing about a World Cup is that teams from all countries have gotten away with all sorts of crazy stuff because all the players tend to be amped up just to be there.

        They will play out of position and run through walls and even do a good job because they are the best players and they should be capable of doing , only for a game or two, what is necessary for the team if asked.

        That is not too much to ask.
        DMB did a very good job as an emergency left back for JK in 2014. He’s often said that he hated playing left back but he also knew it was the only way that he could make the 2014 team. So he shut up put his head down and told JK he would be happy to play left back when JK asked him to.

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