USMNT: Gregg Berhalter assessment a tad ambitious

USMNT, Gregg Berhalter (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
USMNT, Gregg Berhalter (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Gregg Berhalter has stated that USMNT is in a ‘good spot’ right now, a year after his appointment. It is an ambitious assessment, to say the least.

Gregg Berhalter has been the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach for a year. In and of itself, that feels rather staggering — time certainly moves fast these days! It has been a turbulent first year in charge, to say the least.

It all started so well. Three wins from four, clean sheets in three of those four, unbeaten across the board. Berhalter was instilling a culture and style that yielded winning, even if the performances left a little to be desired.

But without sufficient time on the training ground, something that the former Columbus Crew manager is used to, it was difficult to establish a well-defined tactical approach. The intricacies of Berhalter’s system were never mastered, and the results tailed off.

Defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela in Gold Cup warm-up matches. A defeat to Mexico in the final of that very Gold Cup. Another hammering against Mexico in September. And the greatest shock of all, a historic 2-0 defeat to Canada in the Nations League group stages. By the end of the round-robin stage, the USMNT would qualify for the Nations League finals, but the damage was done.

Nevertheless, this week, as Berhalter prepares his team for their first match in 2020, a friendly against Costa Rica to close out the January camp, the USMNT head coach is immensely positive about his first year in charge:

"“Looking back, it seems like more than a year. But the team is in a good spot right now <…> One thing for sure is we have a very good understanding of the player pool. Understanding the group, we’ve looked at a lot of players over the last year, seeing a lot of them in camp. It’s been a great process. We feel like the group has made strides and is more mature. When we integrate young players into it, it’s a seamless transition because the culture of the team is strong.”"

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It is a rather ambitious assessment. This does not necessarily mean that Berhalter has done a bad job. There have been some positive collective performances, individual players have developed into their international roles, especially Jordan Morris, Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic, while there are signs that an improving talent pool will help bolster the team in the future.

But arguing that the USMNT is in a ‘good spot’ seems a little naive after losing to Canada, getting handled easily by Mexico, the benchmark by which any head coach should be measured, and showing only limited tactical progress on the pitch.

Berhalter’s hands have been tied, to an extent. Injuries to key players at key times have robbed him of his starting XI — it would be fair to say that he has not yet started his full complement of best players in one match. But you would still like to see more underlying progress in the tactical processes that Berhalter is apparently installing.

Next. USMNT: Best XI for 2020. dark

The USMNT had an average 2019. It had positive moments; it had negative moments. But Berhalter could never admit as much, and perhaps that is a part of the problem.