Matt Crocker is still over two months away from officially beginning his new position as U.S. Soccer Sporting Director, but it hasn’t stopped him from getting a head start on one of his major responsibilities.
Crocker has been in communication with Cindy Parlow Cone and JT Batson over the U.S. men’s national team head coaching search, prior to his official start date on August 2. While several candidates have been linked with the head coaching position, no official list of candidates have been announced with a busy summer approaching.
Former USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter and current interim head coach Anthony Hudson remain options for the long-term role of the program, while former Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch has also been linked with the job. Crocker isn’t setting an official date on when the new head coach will be appointed, but is targeting the end of the summer to make a decision.
“What we have is a list of candidates who based on our initial research we think will fit the profile,” Crocker said in a Q&A with U.S. Soccer. “We already have had a number of conversations with some of the candidates. In some instances a candidate may hold a current position, in which case we must be very respectful to their clubs and always make sure any communication begins with them. Our next steps will be to conduct more thorough interviews and continue what we have outlined as a robust evaluation process.
“As I have said, we think this decision is critical not only for the next three years but also for the legacy that this coach will leave on the future of the program,” Crocker added. “We intend to be thoughtful and thorough in our evaluation and our selection. The plan is to conduct a series of interviews in June and narrow down the list of candidates. From there, we will engage the finalists in another evaluation activity. Our aim is to have our new coach in place by the end of summer, although it’s possible that club circumstances could impact the timeline.”
Hudson and his coaching staff have continued their leadership of the USMNT ahead of the upcoming Concacaf Nations League Final Four. After guiding the Americans to a first place finish in Group A, Hudson will now try and lead his squad past rivals Mexico in the June 15 semifinals before a potential finals showdown with Canada or Panama on June 18.
In addition, the USMNT will also defend its crown in the Concacaf Gold Cup, which will run from June 24 – July 16 across the United States and Canada. Hudson will need to make key decisions involving his pool of players knowing many European players are coming off a busy league season, and the MLS contingent will be heading into a busy window of competitions.
Whether or not Hudson will be the long-term head coach of the USMNT remains to be seen, but Crocker has continued to praise the 42-year-old and his staff for keeping the program moving forward through a tricky period.
“I think Anthony Hudson, B.J. Callaghan and the rest of the staff have done a fantastic job keeping the program moving forward,” Crocker said. “There has been no drop in standard, and as you’ve seen several players who had a choice to represent more than one country have chosen the United States during their tenure and Anthony and his staff deserve tremendous credit for that. That speaks to the work they have done, and we are confident in their ability to lead this group in the tournaments this summer.”
i just watched a highlights package of balogun’s goals this season. most of them are (1. PKs (2. tap-ins/volleys/headers around the 6 (3. finishing breakaways where he is throughballed behind the defense. for those of you encouraging scheme continuity or acting like tactics don’t matter, explain to me how the status quo is going to get balogun the service he needs. once in a blue moon we play weah behind the lines to the wide endline. slow buildup as a scheme generally denies the ability to fly downfield and set someone up on a breakaway. likewise, high press schemes tend to get players on the ball more on win-the-ball counters and less on the 10 plays them in behind.
personally i think a scheme where we sit back and defend then counter with speed would suit weah, mckennie, pulisic, and balogun. it also provides the team defense people want without the childish risk of pressing 100 yards upfield from your own net. and i am not talking bunker, i am talking play like france or holland. defend at the center circle. play into the space. it’s not cutesy dutch keepaway but it suits our personnel. to me we remain more the athletic pole than the end where we can pass teams to death. you can’t change the players by telling them to play possession soccer age 20+. if you want to be baby barca go back to U5 and teach the kids different that early.
that scheme wouldn’t necessarily fit the more technical reyna, but the US needs to learn to have varied types across its bench. everything shouldn’t be just one scheme, one look. the bench should have some crossers, target players, snipers, technicians, speedsters — a mix. plan A doesn’t work every night. the bench should not be a place for hustle players, or at least not very many.
in any case, even if you don’t agree with my concept, you should be running with the ideas voiced by me and others on here that you should get an idea who the productive stars on this team are, and then work backwards from them, their tools, and the service they need, to the tactics and the choice of supporting cast, where the team fits the scheme and the supporting players are actually capable of the service the key players need. to me for years the problem has been attacking players chosen as much for defense as offense, and who don’t fit with the 9 or the supposed scheme. as such this has been more effective as team defense than as a functioning offense. and ironically the defense is undermined by the formation/tactics where we pick players mostly to defend but then wingbacks aren’t picked that way.
both balogun and pukstas both look to me like they could finish crossing with volleys but you need precision service for them to finish. that might actually fit ledezma and reyna but i am not sure if it does anything for pulisic, weah, or mckennie.
any event, sort out who you think the key guys are, and work backwards. i really don’t like the tactical one note guys we have been lusting after — and which i think we get when USSF suits decide team direction before the coach is even hired — because they are often pushing some abstract idea how we should play independent of the pool. 99% of the world’s NT do not let their soccer snobs push the team to adopt aspirational tactics. they play a style that suits their players and maximizes results.
last point, scheme is supposed to seek a competitive, comparative advantage vs. the next guy. the spanish 2010 soccer we are trying to imitate has spread far and wide to the point we show up for a regional game and jamaica or el salvador looks like a mirror of us, just not as good. our tactics at this point play into the hands of the elite who have developed counter-tactics to thwart spanish passing. our tactics at this point are so passe regional minnows are trying them. our tactics should not be like all our neighbors and should be innovative where they get at elite weaknesses as opposed to imitating soccer 10-15 years ago. this should be less can we be spain 10-15 years ago — which ironically bradley created a playbook to beat which has since been spread — and more can we beat france or argentina now (or whoever the good teams are in 4 years).
for all the talk of “catching up to the world” it seems like a dated world they are chasing. it needs to be thought about in terms of france, argentina, japan, holland, canada. what are teams doing now, how do we exploit it.
Agree the top players are better suited to counterattacking, I have been on record saying that for awhile now. I think we finally saw the best version of Berhalter ball against England, where we were able to at times outpossess a more highly ranked team and more importantly, were able to press and win the ball back as soon as it turned over, preventing them from countering. And there were times where we laid off and let them have the ball, then actually did try to hit on the counter, which put them on their heels a bit. Problem was, we never really threatened their goal on our counters, and didn’t score. When your best goalscorers have speed to burn, why not hit the occasional long ball to the flag and get Weah behind. Why not put Reyna centrally and have him play a few thru balls for Pulisic to run on. You have to at least mix this in, or else the ceiling is always going to be 0-0 or 1-0. And we don’t yet have the depth to constantly play possession and press, as we learned at the world cup. Need to have a balance.
IV, pretty sure that is what Gregg tried. He thought his strength was playing adams at a 6, his best position, and McKennie and Musah as 8s, their best positions. Figuring out how to get the best players on the field togethor in a way that maximizes their collective talents is obviously the goal but I don’t think it is as easy as you make it seem and most people including the posters on this site and all the realistic potential coaching options are going to have many different opinions about how that would best be achieved and would also be impacted by the competition. For instance, where would you play McKennie against the top teams in the world? He is clearly one of the top 10 field players in the pool and his best position is an 8. Where would you play Pulisic? To me it is pretty clear that he is by far the best attacking player in the pool but is also quite versatile. Would you play your best player at his best position or work in other players at their best positions and move him around?
Tele: GB didn’t play how i think we should. he wanted to press other side of the field. there is then no room for counters and throughballs. it’s win and go to goal. if you want counters and throughballs you need to fall back to at least the center circle or the half line, allow the other team to move up, where there is green space behind the last line to play into.
i do agree that he quietly was a defensive coach instead of the possession coach he sold himself as. he did run out basically 3 DMs. but when the high press didn’t work they would end up playing possession anyway. i think he would half heartedly play the scheme in the run of play. but with the wrong people to execute it since the team was really picked — save the wingbacks — to defend.
i thought it was one big muddle where the mids and wings couldn’t execute the possession scheme, the striker didn’t seem integrated in the offense, and the wingbacks weren’t good defenders despite emphasizing team defense. very schizo.
Johhnyr and Gary– I think you both have valid points. Playing a system that fits your players strengths is always so important to success on the soccer field in my experience. And different games call for different ways to win. So being flexible tactically is very important for coaching. Good coaches realize sometimes that they have to change tactics to beat teams. Having principles that guide the players helps build a style of play. I also agree that sometimes— players do not mesh cohesively and that can be to the detriment of team success— its weird— because sometimes the “best 11” don’t connect. Good coaches change tactics to beat teams, not to suit the abilities of their players. Let’s see how hosting shapes our ability to become a cohesive, flexible unit for 2026. Will the pressure of not having to qualify give the new coach more time to implement different tactical styles? Competing in Copa America, and other meaningful tourney’s pre WC will give us a platform to see if we have made progress.
i think there was a myth that was pushed the last decade that we should assume qualification, abandon physical play, and pursue a more purely technical approach. i think the last world cup (as well as some of the friendlies around it) should have disabused us of the idea that physical soccer ends when el salvador is no longer on a qualifying schedule, or that defensive organization is the enemy. anyone who watched this world cup, most of the teams that advanced deep, including both finalists, were very organized if not swarming on defense. i personally see spain 2010 or holland 1970s as exceptional in their pure playfulness and spain’s defense was underrated.
i also feel like anyone who watched mbappe and france fly downfield on a sprint, or a moroccan counter, would think the idea that to be successful it has to be a 30 pass slow build, is a nonsense conclusion. and i think anyone who watched messi or dimaria — an offense built around individual DRIBBLING at defenders more so than more passive passing — would find the idea that the focal skill has to be passing — and way early passing like keepaway — equally silly.
i’d swear that when we had this debate 10 years ago when bradley was dumped what i was told was we would develop more brazilian type dribbling players who could take people on. kind of messi like. that got bait and switched into this berhalter pass-two-beats-too-early keepaway nonsense.
and that is still abstracted. i actually think the scheme should reflect the pool. if you have above-average but not world class technicians who are great athletes, play to that. spain doesn’t play like it does “just because,” but because a chunk of their pool is barca academy grads trained to play that way since they found a soccer ball. even in the 10-20 age groups who is teaching this stuff here? we have dozens of clubs and academies each teaching their own concepts.
now, to be fair, i think the ideal coach would bring pool-plus. like anticipate where this team could go and teach them a thing or two. while generally tracking their toolkits. i just think the idea you can reprogram 20-30 year old players anew is silly and fighting development. and you are finally starting to see some players who owe less to GB — such as scally — say that GB had them over-thinking stuff. part of suiting scheme to pool is the soccer comes naturally to the team and they aren’t stuck in their heads.
personally i feel like what we’ve been doing looks clunky and like we have barely played together. to me the signs you are on “it” are either results or it looks like a well oiled machine. right now it’s neither.
USSF has to grow the game. They’d like to win the 2026 WC but the odds of that happening with the greatest manager aren’t better than 1.0%. Our talent and depth are better but no where near France, Spain, Argentina, Brazil and as we saw even the Netherlands. Could we hire Sam Allardyce and pk our way to a semi maybe but that isn’t going to attract long term fans. So when Crocker says things like legacy and grow the game he means the US needs to control games, dictate pace, always be pushing for goals. That’s what gets highlights on social media that’s what attracts the new audience the younger generation. They don’t want to watch 90 mins with Mexico with 1 shot on goal and our keeper booting it 70 yards to hope our guy heads it. They want flash and flair. They want the keeper chopping it on someone hitting the 40 yard diagonal that the wing brings down in stride and the break is on. Your style or IVs style has been successful in the past, it probably could work now, but if we’re talking about developing players, being more technical, pushing players to play at higher levels at earlier ages and then sitting in 4-4-2 empty bucket waiting on Honduras to make a mistake only old farts like you and me are going to watch, and the younger audience is going to watch highlights of France, Argentina, and Brazil on Insta. So when he talks legacy, they’re going forward with playing more technical trying to possess the ball and dictate because that will eventually get us in contention to beat top teams at the WC consistently. We don’t want to depend on the GK making 20 spectacular saves to have a chance. USSF has decided it’s time to stop saying next time we’ll play that way because it didn’t happen. If we have players play in the top leagues in Europe we can play like a team that can do more than defend at all costs and score on set pieces.
Actually disagree with our talent not being anywhere near the Netherlands. I actually thought we were the more talented team by a sliver…we definitely had the edge in athleticism and were very similar in terms of skill. Where they got us was experience, coaching – Van Gaal set them up very well to exploit what we didn’t do well – and in cold-eyed ruthlessness. They were content to soak up pressure and then counter, aware we didn’t have a #9 who could make them pay for giving us the ball so much. (We had right at 60% possession.) We outshot them 17 to 11, with 8 shots on target to their 6, and our pass accuracy was 83% to 76%…statwise, we were superior. If Pulisic had put away that early chance and they had had to abandon their counter-punching setup and chase instead, I think it would have been a very different game. (Woulda, coulda, I know.)
In four years time, with our core guys four years more seasoned and with a #9 of the quality of Balogun (or even a healthy Josh Sargent, never thought we’d miss him but we assuredly did), I think we win that game 7 or 8 times out of 10.
We are a very different team with a dangerous #9. Less remarked-upon but equally important, I also think we’d be a very different team with a viable #10, because between Musah, McKennie, and Adams, we had almost zero scoring threat from the midfield position as well, and none of those guys can make the killer ball that can unlock a defense. I know everybody’s super-high on the “MMA” midfield trio but I’m personally hoping we can upgrade it…I like all those guys but I’m hoping Gio Reyna can establish himself as a starting 10 (and if he can’t, I’m hoping Alex Zendejas or Diego Luna can), and I’m eyeing Tanner Tessman as a guy who could potentially upgrade the 6 spot over Adams…Tessman’s Bradley-esque late runs into the box and that wicked shot from distance he has could make a distinct difference in the USMNT’s scoring potential. There are some things MMA doesn’t do well…though of those three it’s hard to see us getting away from Musah; his ability to break lines is just far too important.
Q: how much of that possession was in the attacking 3rd? A lot of our possession against the Netherlands was passing it around the back. The gap is certainly closing, we saw the US outplay England for large parts of the match. And MMA dominated the midfield, but I agree either those 3 need to improve or we need someone else to surpass them. Part of the issue is with Jedi and Dest pushed so forward, that Wes and Musah had to drop deep and wide to cover abandoning the middle so there was no one to pull it back to.
as a fan of atleti who played on a tough select team defense that could also attack, i find your argument to assert a false premise. it has been very popular to rhetorically oppose defensive organization with technical attack. watch most world cup winners. they are usually both. it’s not either/or.
i feel like your argument is more aesthetic. you don’t like how it looks. soccer is not a judged sport. your way needs to result in more goals than the next guy. and fewer GA. under GB we are no longer the best offense, canada was, and CR was actually the best defense. we were third in region. second in group. out round of 16. i don’t see the practical results and i don’t buy a little more gel will do it. i think the technical level has slightly increased but players have 10 year careers and it won’t happen fast enough. the players are what they are. athletes who can play soccer. run tactics like that’s what we are. work on the kids’ technique. though to be blunt it looks like 80-90% of the world is chasing that same thing. 433 with cutesy passing. you are not teaching anything most of the rest of the world isn’t trying too. that is not an advantage. if you watched the world cup where the elite have gone is actually “quick strike.” most of the slow build teams i saw in qatar like germany went home very ugly and early. and france vs. argentina in the final neither was cutesy fart around soccer. that was wide speed vs. pass it to the stars and have them dribble at teams. and both teams were defensively stout and didn’t see being so as at odds with skill soccer the other way. outside of some snobs who see soccer as 2 teams playing offense, no one good thinks about it that way.
personally i find high press tactics childish. early on as a kid i was taught not to compound my giveaway with pulling out of shape to chase the attacker who could beat me with so much as a pass. unless i have them pinned or tripping over the ball, fall back. you’re acting like this is regressive but it’s how france, morocco, japan, holland, and many other good teams in qatar played. it’s coming into style precisely because it responds to teams trying to play our plodding passing tactics, who think they can just pass pass pass through a midfield all day untouched. refs are not calling fouls or giving cards as easy as 2010 so you can body up more. and teams have figured out drop back and swarm the mids and you can’t just pass the ball across the middle all day. worse, they have figured out if at the end of your pressing or 20 pass build you have all sucked up, there is green space behind you for the counter. all due respect but teams that beat us in friendlies or world cup games, or finished higher than we did. including van gaal’s holland which was a surprise given his history. when van gaal gets it and adjusts — the world has changed.
we can revisit your ideas when the refs get harsh and teams have quit swarming the ball in the middle of their half. then you will have your space to pass. right now all you’re doing is setting up holland’s counter. worse, doing so with semi-technical mids like mckennie not designed to actually possess. this either needs to get 20x more technical somehow, or we need to see where soccer has evolved. to me the clear response is get it wide early and speed downfield. do not play right into the hands of teams trying to win the ball in the middle.
IV: you’re missing my point, results don’t particularly matter to the coming generations. Yes they want to win, but style is as important. Yes, they want it to look good. Grinding out wins isn’t of interest. Like the NBA is about your dunks and how deep your 3 is, winning is almost an afterthought. Diehard fans like those on these message boards aren’t who they are trying to attract. They are trying to win over the 12 yr old who is deciding whether to play club soccer or club basketball, whether travel baseball or club soccer. Do I join tackle football and give up soccer? If you listen to Crocker he talks about improving the technical but still maintaining that ideal of being tough and never say die. They want to still play strong defense but also control the ball when they have it. The hope is be strong on both ends. But to attract more kids to stick with soccer they want there to be some style and some flair. You can’t just start teaching kids to play that way at U5 and then play defend and counter at the NT. Coaches won’t do it, they emulate what they see. That’s the next cycle mentality that I talked about. We are not trying to win the 2026 WC, we’re trying to win three in row, 2038, 2042, and 2046.
Johhnyr– always an interesting take and maybe you are right— but heaven forbid it—- if all the next generation cares about is style and flair— because NOTHING gets people interested like winning. Irregardless of how its done. But maybe that is my “old head” mentality. All that matters is results in games. Winning is interesting for me. I love watching good soccer— but when it comes to my bleeding heart and the USMNT— all I care about are the results to be honest. I’m not happy if we play poorly — whether the style is counter-attacking or knocking the ball all about the pitch. In the end— its the results that will always matter. And if we win ugly, or still get the W while underperforming—— its still a win—-but yes being critical is necessary in those situations. As a side note— your positivity concerning our team’s future prospects is both admirable and makes me jealous at the same time. Some of us my friend, might only have a few cycles left in us if we are lucky! We gotta go for the wins now man! Style, Scheme, Formation be damned.
Courey: I’m talking more about attracting kids to continue playing soccer. Fans of any age like winning, but I do think younger casual fans are more likely to get hooked with more stylistic play. How many teenagers do you know can focus on anything for 90 minutes? Now try to get them to watch for 90 minutes when their team doesn’t have the ball?
Yo Johnny! — I get it. Attractive soccer for a fan is more aesthetically pleasing. In my experience kids really fall in love with soccer via playing the game. That’s what really hooked me. Not that exposure to watching soccer, and seeing a maestro on the ball doesn’t inspire players. Because I know that is a truth as well. If we are focusing on a fan-centric point of view — I’m in agreement that seeing beautiful soccer will help more people become interested in the sport. If our national team has those qualities and people get to see them beat teams with flair, then sure that might bring more casual fans into the soccer community — which would be a good thing. But I’m not so sure that the role of the USMNT is to get more people into soccer—- its performing and representing on a world stage— with success in matches. And if our team doesn’t possess the right set of pieces to win with flair, then we should know that there are different ways to get the job done. If they can’t watch a 90 minute match of their National Team competing—and feel that emotion——even if with 10 behind the ball —–then they must be robots.
the combination of crocker’s august start date and his stated timeframe (late summer, which ends september) seems to be saying no way we have a new coach for the summer tournaments, either working or even watching. having blown the summer we “might” — might — have a coach in place for the post-tournament window in early september. or maybe just the october/november ones. taking this long to hire a coach is absurd. waiting on a relegated suit to finish the season out, and what, take a vacation — also absurd.
some folks were giving me grief over “but lots of guys come available in the summer.” if you take this long people might start taking 23-24 jobs instead. as crocker even puts it, “it’s possible that club circumstances could impact the timeline.” he might be talking MLS but this is nuts. and re MLS candidates, to be blunt, anywhere else in the world the club deal would be terminated and the coach released to take the other job. this is routine in EPL. when did we get so timid. if you want dolo write LAFC a check and be done with it. i do not buy at all “There has been no drop in standard” or that it’s not affecting the very conservative selections.
last point, i think we are engaging in the foolhardy effort of having “suits coach” when i hear stuff like “list of candidates who based on our initial research we think will fit the profile.” that suggests GMs/USSF decide how we will play then hire a coach to approximate their wishes. this is what my houston dynamo have done in recent years. that to me is the tail wagging the dog. i want the brass to have “standards” and then look at coaches who win. you can ask them how they anticipate using our pool players, as a reality check. but to me it’s backwards and having the suits coach to have them pick our style or formation. that’s what heads get a big paycheck for. and i want us to hire someone flexible enough to have plans B, C, and D and not just one idea that maybe fits and maybe works.
One of the greatest coaches in all of sports was John Wooden. And he was successful because he adjusted his team’s approach to fit the players he had, rather than stick to one type of scheme. That is the kind of coach we need . Especially since we now have quite a large pool of players, we should pick the best players and fit the scheme for those players rather than set on a scheme and pick players for that approach.
I love Wooden too but do you think it’s easier to adjust your scheme to 5 players than 11. He also had a significant amount of time to adjust as the season went on, and the ability to recruit players that fit his overall style even if he adjusted for guys like Alcindor or Walton. I mean he famously spent entire practices teaching his guys how to put on socks so they wouldn’t get blisters. Berhalter was constantly changing his tactics to fit his players people just didn’t notice because he didn’t change his coach speak. We went from hybrid RB with 2 10s using a regista style 10, to a destroyer DM with Pulisic wide to play interchanges with Dest, to pushing the FBs high and pressing because we didn’t have one creative 10 let alone two of them. To using one winger to provide verticality and the other to operate in the half space. But because he talked consistently about possession and always wrote a 4-3-3 on his lineup card people said he never changed. The problem was so many of our pieces don’t fit well together. Robinson and Pulisic don’t compliment each other, MMA is redundant, both FBs want to get forward. I think for young players his patterns were too difficult given the time to train. I don’t think guys like Pulisic or McKennie or Adams had any trouble but guys that had only played in one pro system like Scally had trouble.
A John Wooden type would be great.
But they need more than that. They need a more quality options in terms of players for John to work with.
The 2022 guys did very well. But that’s over now.
You either get better or you get worse. No one stays the same.
For example, Balogun matters for four reasons:
1. If he is as advertised then the evidence suggests that he is the quality we need more of.
2. As a piece of the puzzle, if his part of the puzzle is operating well, it can help the other parts operate better.
3. His quality should push the others in the pool to improve so that they can stay on the team. One person has already lost their place to Balogun.
4. He might convince other desirable duals.
When I talk about more quality options, that can come from new guys like Balogun or it can come from within the pool, players who raise their game for this cycle.
For example, if the new manager can get Gio, LDLT and Scally, our three water boys in Qatar, to play up to their potential, as well as Brooks ( MIA) that should improve things considerably. And of course if the manager can get Mrs. Tillman’s kids going, there’s two more good options from our present pool who weren’t Qatar-ed.
Point is the expectations are much higher and greater than they were back when Gregg started.
They will need both better manager and better players to have that depth they will need.
France made the final even though Benzema early and Pogba and Kante just before the WC were lost to injury.
When you can tell me that we can lose Balogun, Musah and Adams to injury early and still make a run to the semis then I’ll think we have depth and a good manager.