At long last, the worst-kept secret in American soccer is revealed: Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter will move on, and become the headman for the US Men’s National Team.
From US Soccer release:
CHICAGO (Dec. 2, 2018) – The U.S. Soccer Federation has appointed two-time FIFA World Cup veteran Gregg Berhalter as the new head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Berhalter, with 25 years of experience as a player and head coach for clubs in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States, becomes the first U.S. World Cup veteran to take the reins of the U.S. Men’s National Team. In addition, he is the first U.S. MNT boss with experience as a player and a coach both domestically and internationally.
Chosen by U.S. Men’s National Team General Manager Earnie Stewart following a thorough search process, Berhalter’s appointment was officially ratified by the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors on Dec. 1 by a unanimous vote.
“We are excited to announce Gregg as the next head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team,” said [USSF President Carlos] Cordeiro. “As an experienced former National Team player and highly regarded professional coach, we are confident he is the best person to guide our program forward. We are looking forward to formally introducing him on Tuesday in New York.”
Known as a fiercely competitive and intelligent player, a natural leader and a detailed, forward-thinking manager, Berhalter spoke of pride in returning to lead a team for which he earned 44 caps and had the honor of representing at two FIFA World Cups, including the USA’s memorable run to the Quarterfinals in 2002 in Korea/Japan.
“This is a tremendous honor,” Berhalter said. “Having played for the National Team I know what it means to represent our country. I believe in our players and our program, and together we will work to build something special and develop a team that will make our supporters proud.”
The 45-year-old has eight years of coaching experience and has earned a U.S. Soccer PRO License and a UEFA “A” License. Most recently he has served in the dual role of Head Coach and Sporting Director with Columbus Crew SC. During his five seasons in Columbus, Berhalter oversaw all soccer operations for the club, leading the side to the MLS Cup Playoffs four times, as well as the 2015 MLS Cup Final and 2017 Eastern Conference Final.
Unlike many of his peers, Berhalter went abroad to begin his career in management, guiding Swedish club Hammarby from 2012-2013. Berhalter began transitioning to the technical side of the game towards the end of his playing career, first working to scout opponents while with German club 1860 Munich from 2007-09. His first official technical role came when he served as an assistant coach during the final season of his playing career with the LA Galaxy in 2011.
“After a very thorough process, I am absolutely convinced Gregg is the right man to lead the National Team program moving forward,” Stewart said. “He ticks all the boxes with his background as a person, a successful coach and an accomplished former international player.”
Berhalter was chosen as MNT head coach after an extensive selection process led by Stewart, who worked alongside U.S. Soccer’s Chief Sport Development Officer Nico Romeijn and Chief Soccer Officer Ryan Mooney in developing the profile for the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team.
And so on, and so on.
There’s not a ton to ruminate on with hot takes, since everyone has either understood that Berhalter would become the coach for quite some time and is happy about it, or the same but is upset about it. Certainly he was one of the top two or three domestic options available, though it can be troubling that by all appearances, there wasn’t much of a broader international search.
(Side note on that regard: having covered coaching searches in college athletics for a while, the way this search was covered had some head-scratching moments. If you actually think the Federation didn’t make contact with Tata Martino and his representatives – rather than that being the standard “we only considered one guy” cover-your-ass stuff that happens in the wake of any coaching hire – I’ve got some news for you. So bizarre to me that something obviously untrue is being taken as gospel (to say nothing of Tata pretending not to speak English the whole time he’s been coaching Atlanta United, probably an indication of the interest he had in the job and told USSF early in the job that he’d have)).
Berhalter is known as a system guy – play out of the back, get a ton of easy looks for the striker with meaningful possession – who has some tactical flexibility though he prefers a 4-2-3-1 setup when possible. Implementing a solid system is probably what this team needs after the relentless tinkering of Jurgen Klinsmann and the “mail it in, folks” lack of identity under Bruce Arena’s second tenure. Is it the highest-upside strategy? No. But it’s not too ceiling-limited, and the floor is certainly as high and as stable as any other coach may have been able to bring.
The great issue, now, returns to the development of talent in our country (as you may recall, one of the initial strong focuses of this blog, before the USL season got underway), and how best to ensure that a failure to qualify doesn’t recur. At the very least – whether happy or sad with the outcome – there’s one less moving piece that’s a huge question mark for the future of the program.