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The One Case to Keep Gregg Berhalter and Three Thoughts on the USMNT World Cup Exit

Gregg Berhalter was the right man for the job four years ago, is he still the right man going forward?

Netherlands v USA: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

There is an argument I keep seeing online that no international coach should keep his job beyond one World Cup cycle. Logically, there’s a lot for that argument and at the forefront in my opinion is player turnover. Following the United States’ 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in yesterday’s Round of 16 match, all of the speculation now begins on who will coach the USA into 2026 when they co-host the World Cup.

Most international teams aren’t in the situation the United States will be in four years (erm, three and a half years) from now when they literally return the bulk of its core of players who were all under 25 years old from the 2022 World Cup.

Arguably, if US Soccer believes that Gregg Berhalter can further mold this team into a cohesive unit and improve this team’s attacking prowess, and Berhalter himself wants another go as host country in four years, the US is already well ahead of other teams who will replace their coaches and to an extent rebuild their national sides over the coming years through continental tournaments and World Cup qualifying.

I am no fan of Gregg Berhalter’s style of play with this national team, I’ve said as much numerous times, but he was absolutely the right coach for the USA for this cycle. A young team that needed a clear tactical system and the understanding and growth to execute said system. Was it perfect? No, the US got pulled all out of sorts against the Netherlands by their own doing and the Dutch ruthlessly punished them at every opportunity for it.

But by and large, coming out of the tactical wasteland that was the Klinsmann era, the 4-3-3 possession system that Berhalter used created at the very least a sense of consistency at the national team level and the first choice team in this group stage went unbeaten in that system.

I do not think Berhalter should be back as national team coach. But it is not because he does not deserve another four years on the basis of a silly argument that international coaches shouldn’t get two cycles. Gregg Berhalter should not be retained for the 2026 cycle because his team does not know how to attack and he refuses to let it.

We saw this occur in some capacity in all four games at the World Cup in my opinion.

Against Wales after not turning their first half advantage into a two-goal lead, the US failed to react to Keifer Moore’s substitution up top and instead sat back and gave away the lead from the penalty spot. Against England with a chance to win the game and in theory the group, neither team attempted any significant changes to go and win the game and both teams settled for a draw. Against Iran the US switched into a 5 at the back system that was highlighted by poor performances by substitute rightback Shaq Moore and strike Haji Wright and again nearly gave away a lead. Against the Netherlands, the US got down two goals, forced a switch up top that ended up with Gio Reyna playing back to goal.

The above graphic has been the all too familiar performance of the Berhalter era - a completely void area in the central attacking third despite pumping in crosses to no target forward and few if any late runners. After weeks of pleading for a Gio Reyna - Christian Pulisic - Tim Weah front three attacking line, Berhalter deploys it in the worst way possible to start the second half against the Dutch and rendered one of his best talents ineffective.

Despite that, the US didn’t do badly against the Netherlands attacking wise, though the game state had a lot to do with that. Haji Wright’s goal was a fluke but the US did generate some decent looks including Pulisic’s third minute chance that could have changed the game had it been converted.

The reason I would not retain Berhalter is the same as it has been since last summer - his possession system stifles the creative ability of this team to its detriment and Berhalter himself was too conservative with his in-game adjustments at the World Cup.

Gregg Berhalter deserves a lot of credit recruiting a bunch of talented young dual-nationals and bringing the second youngest team to the World Cup and going unbeaten in the group stage. He deserves credit for instilling a cohesive system that his players bought into even when it wasn’t working. The groundwork for a tremendous 2026 run as hosts has been laid and the tactical and technical foundation of pressing and organization will suit this team well over the next cycle.

Do I think he changed the way the American soccer is viewed around the world or in the US? Not entirely, but people sure did notice that the US has something good on their hands going forward and that is a credit to what Berhalter accomplished this cycle.

Maybe the USSF thinks Berhalter is the coach who can continue to grow and adapt this team going forward. I think Berhalter has done all he can with this group on the field, and he has brought the US back to where they should be on the world stage, which is at minimum and knockout level team.

But I don’t think Berhalter is the coach to get them over that hump and back into the quarterfinals or further as on home soil I don’t think a semifinals run should be unexepcted. But in order to do that, the task for next cycle is going to be building the US up to a competent attacking threat, something that they aren’t now. Whether that is developing the strikers in the talent pool or deploying the star power they already have more effectively, the baseline work is already done. It’s time to evolve beyond a team that can press and possess well.

I think Berhalter’s system is too rigid and isn’t adaptable beyond the core first team players and he as a coach hasn’t shown the ability to adjust the teams style to the available personnel. I still think there is not enough emphasis on how this team attacks beyond getting and retaining the ball and it doesn’t counter attack at all and that’s a problem going foward into next cycle if that continues. What Berhalter does deserve credit for is consistently building up his currently players in this system, even if we disagree with said system, because clearly it was not an ineffective tactic if the US can go unbeaten at a World Cup group stage.

Berhalter was brought in to do a job and by all measure he has done that and arguably done it exceedingly well when you add in the Nations League and Gold Cup titles (though that Gold Cup was won largely in spite of Gregg’s system I’ll keep saying that too). But this team too often relied on set pieces for scoring opportunities and they were absolutely horrible in that department during the World Cup, which meant they had to rely on their less than stellar and far too slow build up play to generate attacking chances. It worked, but only by the slimmest of margins and three goals in four games is not something to write home about for a team that has as much attacking talent as is it does. I think it’s time for a new coach to bring a fresh take on what this young group of Americans can do going forward in the attack.

In the immediate future, the US has their remaining CONCACAF Nations League games and the ensuing finals stage most likely this summer along with the Gold Cup. That’s a lot of competitive games to quickly turnaround for a new coach and get this squad on the front foot again with an improved attacking scheme and fresh eyes in particular on the strikers in the talent pool in particular.

I would not be against keeping Berhalter around for those two tournaments if he is willing to defend the titles he earned back in 2021. It would be a very quick turnaround for a new coach to come in and get settled and would also allow Berhalter to potentially lineup a job elsewhere for the beginning of the 2022/23 season in Europe and I do think he’s going to have offers to coach and rightfully so. He impressed a lot of people around the world at this tournament with how well the US played and at times dominated in the group stage. A more clinical finishing team would taken some of those late game pressure situations away like the Dutch did in their win yesterday.

Gregg Berhalter’s tenure should always be remembered as a positive one, even if he drove a lot of us insane the past year or so. He was the right man for the job this cycle and proved it during this group stage even when confidence in his team was not all that high going into the World Cup. Whatever choice he and the federation come to individually or collectively, I hope it is done with the dignity Gregg deserves for all the hard work and success he’s had the last four years.

I am happy that Gregg did get that fourth game at the World Cup. I am less happy with how it went, but such is soccer. If yesterday was his last game, thank you Coach Berhalter for bringing the USMNT back to where we know it should be. I think it is time for someone else though to get it beyond that.


Call it a rope a dope if you want, but Louis Van Gaal knew the USA weren’t good enough to beat them in possession so...he let the US have possession and then his squad mercilessly punished every tiny mistake enroute to a 3-1 victory. The US didn’t adjust their play against the Netherlands when they probably should have and the US walked right into the trap.

The US started this game on the front foot and nearly got a goal, but the overall strategy for the Dutch was to not be bothered by the US in possession, not be worried by Jesus Ferreria dropping deep (and JF was bad in his first action in weeks to the surprise of no one), and keep the US in front of them and exploit all the space the Americans leave behind them.

Each of the three goals the Netherlands scored yesterday were scored by players who were unmarked - either running into Zone 14 (the middle of the dang box) or on the back post. Denzel Dumfries had a Man of the Match performance with two assists and the final goal and constantly found his teammates in space or occupied it himself.

Berhalter has always had serious limitations with his tactical variations, but while he did get the England lineup right, he got yesterday’s lineup wrong with Ferreria up top, as he never was going to threaten the Dutch backline dropping deep and then his major tactical sub ended up being just as bad.

Both Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah scored goals at this World Cup making center forward runs at goal and neither were deployed significantly up top save for the brief Wright-Weah strike partnership against England that didn’t have a lot of success (though it freed up Weston McKennie in that weird inside cutting right mid role).

Berhalter had to more or less run his first team into the ground to even get to the Netherlands, there was no backup for Antonee Robinson and it showed, and not enough like for like subs in central midfield or even extra holding mids to pivot to a 4-2-3-1 with Kellyn Acosta and another CDM type player. It was 4-3-3 or bust and in the end it went bust against a team that knew it was coming.

That is on Berhalter for sure.



I know...everyone calm down...hang on...

*** Ducks several tomatoes ***

Alright listen, I know this won’t be popular because Tyler Adams was exquisite on the field just as he was off of it during that Iran presser and his showing as captain of this team on and off the field was nearly flawless until he didn’t track or pass off Memphis Depay in the 10th minute. I only have three players that put in great World Cups on this roster and they are Adams, Ream, and Matt Turner. That’s it, that’s the list.

Pulisic and Weah were okay to good but not as impactful as they needed to be up top even if they were often stranded without a striker. Josh Sargent did what he could in a mostly pressing forward role in two starts. Musah and McKennie were solid but lacked the elite moments we thought the could have and the same with the fullbacks Robinson and Dest although Sergino in particular has several good defensive shifts.

But of the top three I listed above, knew Adams and Turner were already pretty great, it was actually Tim Ream that made the group stage a resounding success. Yes, Grandpa Ream at the tender age of 35 got thrown into the not just the World Cup squad but the starting lineup and was largely outstanding in this tournament. Ream’s ability on the ball and sound decision making kept the backline in tact for the first three games and his quality really shined through as he grasped this opportunity with both hands.

When the US needed someone to step up, it wasn’t one of the young guns, it was the wily veteran and Fulham captain who for reasons unknown, hadn’t been with the national team in over a year. Not even brought in to mentor the likes of Chris Richards, Miles Robinson, Cameron Carter Vickers, Aaron Long, Mark McKenzie, etc., who between injuries and form we only saw one start of CCV in this tournament. But his presence was greatly appreciated on the backline and he excelled in this tournament when this team greatly needed it.

If this tournament was Ream’s international swansong as far as I’m concerned he goes out at the best individual performer for the USA at the World Cup. I hope he sticks around this summer to impart some wisdom onto his grandchildren Miles, CCV, and Chris among others but I don’t think we’ll see him at 39 on a World Cup roster on home soil. Though we did nearly say that about him this year too...

So yes, apologies to Tyler Adams stans, he probably is going to run across the Atlantic right now and beat me up despite running 18 marathons already in Qatar, but Tim Ream is my USMNT MVP for the 2022 World Cup.


In a not so drastic call back to the USA-Japan friendly from last September, I think an argument can be made that Matt Turner was the only player that wasn’t bad yesterday.

Even current Revolution coach Bruce Arena agrees with his MLS Soccer player ratings, with Turner being the highest at 7. In a match with a lot of not great individual performances, Turner stood out again as the lone bright spot in a loss just like he did in the 2-0 loss to Japan.

That’s not to say the USA was absolutely atrocious yesterday, they weren’t, but there’s not one singular performance I would call out as good or even above average except for Turner and that’s despite giving up three goals. Because without Turner, the US I think gives up a lot more and when you correctly point out a danger man and your team doesn’t react... yeah:

We know the former New England Revolution netminder was the right call for the #1 shirt this tournament and in just four games already posted the team’s first double shutout World Cup tournament since 1930. We fully expect Turner to be the #1 going forward under Berhalter or whoever is brought in to replace him for the upcoming Nations League and Gold Cup where we expect our beloved Matt Turner to lead us to more glory.

You will respect the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference until you can prove that you can get it done on a cold day in Fairfield or Lawrenceville or Poughkeepsie or Jersey City or...