USMNT’s Gregg Berhalter must recover from himself earlier than the World Cup


Gregg Berhalter
Photograph: Getty Photographs

All proper, I’m gonna be Sammy Sunshine in regards to the USMNT. It’s not straightforward, however there’s numerous darkish clouds after the staff went 0-for-180 minutes in scoring targets, or wanting like they may get a purpose, and even wanting like they had been occupied with scoring a purpose, of their final two friendlies earlier than the World Cup. That’s nonetheless how they decide who wins, in any case.

However…however…for a younger staff that has at all times performed to the extent they deemed the sport was value, two friendlies in empty stadiums with no power simply isn’t a good tableau to attract too many conclusions. Is it an issue that this staff can’t convey it each recreation? Completely it’s, and you’ll’t be completely positive that A WORLD FUCKING CUP will snap them to consideration now. You’d prefer to suppose so, but it surely’s no assure. However let’s simply assume that the most important video games of any of their lives will persuade them to convey full effort. Shouldn’t be that arduous.

Secondly, whereas this received’t make anybody really feel higher, the questions that come out of those previous few days aren’t new. We knew that middle ahead was an issue, and we knew the depth of the central protection was wafer skinny. Nonetheless true! So it’s not like there are new holes that Gregg Berhalter has to stay his finger in. He can get comfy with the place his fingers already had been, if you happen to’ll excuse that unsettling description.

The query is, does he know the way to completely plug these gaps?

Berhalter isn’t any completely different than most each supervisor on Earth in that he’s acquired his guys. There are some gamers who’ve simply tickled his coronary heart in a means that may’t be undone, and likewise gamers who merely can’t entry his coronary heart in any respect, a lot much less tickle it (these metaphors aren’t getting any extra comfy, are they?). And with completely no time to attempt shit now — mainly seven coaching periods earlier than the primary World Cup recreation — it might be pure for Berhalter to show much more inward than outward.

But still…you gotta score, dude. Berhalter is married to Jesus Ferreira as starter in the #9. Loves the idea of a false nine, the way Ferreira drops into midfield and links play. And that’s cool…if Tim Weah is healthy. Because that kind of forward needs midfielders and wingers who run beyond him, stretches the defense, and keeps it from crunching up the field and shrinking space. Weah does that. Weston McKennie does that, against the right team. With no Weah, it doesn’t quite work. Hopefully Weah will be fit in seven weeks, but if he’s not, Berhalter might have to find a way to stretch the defense through the striker position, because no other wide forward does what Weah does. .

But even if Weah is healthy, and he’s on the field, and it’s the 65th minute and you’re locked into a 0-0 draw with Wales and looking out of ideas…what’s Berhalter’s Plan B? He wanted Ricardo Pepi to prove to be that, a bigger version of Ferreira who also threatens to make runs behind the defense himself. But he didn’t. It’ll suck to tell a 20-year-old kid, who played very well for you in qualifying, that he’s not going to the tournament. That he’ll have to wait four years to play a meaningful game again for his country (unless USSF, with some help from Mexico, can rig one other Copa America in 2024). However that’s the job.

Josh Sargent… probably not a plan B. He does numerous issues Berhalter likes — urgent, linking, high-effort — however he’s too much like Ferreira. Berhalter goes to have to show to Jordan Pefok, whether or not he likes it or not. Pefok has been urgent properly, to date, within the Bundesliga. Yeah yeah, I learn about that miss within the Azteca. Sucked for everybody. However he’s scoring. He’s scoring in a Prime 5 league. If he doesn’t hyperlink to the midfield properly, or run about in a means that Gregg finds reliable…properly, there’s going to come back a time the place you must chuck all that. You want a purpose. There’s one Yank getting targets in a Prime 5 league proper now. One. There’ll come a time the place you simply chuck balls into the field and see in case your striker can’t get on the tip of 1. Pefok is the one one attuned to that.

Berhalter will get numerous shit about his system. However the barbs aren’t actually correct. Berhalter has shifted this staff to be a extra direct, fast, straight-line attacking staff. It’s not what he initially wished, but it surely’s what this squad was finest suited to. They confirmed that, for a time, in opposition to Saudi Arabia. But it surely’s the small print that generally he will get improper. Which is an issue, as a result of he’s not going to get a complete lot of time to work out the small print in Qatar. We noticed this in Hamilton, Ont. in opposition to Canada. The US received the ball again in advantageous positions, however then had been too intent on recycling possession to get again into positions and routines that Berhalter wished. When what they wanted to do was to simply fly the fuck up the sphere at occasions.

Similar factor yesterday. The US would get into good positions via direct play, however then not hit an early ball into the field. We don’t need the US to show into David Moyes’s Manchester United right here, simply flinging crosses for the sake of it. However you do must hit that early ball into the field to indicate groups that you’ll. Get the protection going through its personal purpose. Reward Pepi or McKennie for making these runs. As an alternative, repeatedly, the fullbacks or wingers would chop the ball again, search for one other cross to the highest of the field, or attempt to work intricate 1-2s with somebody within the field with the protection recovered. It seemed rehearsed. It didn’t look threatening. A few of that was Deandre Yedlin’s lack of attacking flare, a few of it was Sergiño Dest being on the left and wanting the ball again on his proper foot. It’ll in all probability look completely different with Dest on the proper and Antonee Robinson on the left, if each are wholesome. However once more, the US seemed prefer it was fascinated with the place it was advised to be as an alternative of what got here naturally. Throw that shit out.

Talking of programs, it’s too late to have a number of formations you possibly can name upon. The staff might be too younger to be that versatile anyway, at the least proper now. They play a 4-3-3. That three within the center has a destroyer in Adams, and the attacker in McKennie. It wants a linker, a participant who can take the ball from Adams or the protection, and discover a method to the attackers both via opening up with a cross or dribbling via an opponent or two. Which is Yunus Musah. Berhalter doesn’t appear to suppose they’ve an alternative choice. It most definitely isn’t Kellyn Acosta. It needs to be Luca de la Torre. One recreation after not enjoying for his membership shouldn’t rule him out of that backup position.

If Berhalter desires somebody in that position who’s enjoying, it’s Portland’s Eryk Williamson. He wasn’t even known as up. Perhaps Berhalter will wait to see if de la Torre can get into the Celta Vigo staff, tremendous. However what if he doesn’t? Is he going to rely on the 19-year-old Musah to make it via three video games in eight days, or 4 video games in 12, unscathed? Acosta ain’t it.

He additionally higher hope Chris Richards finds well being with Crystal Palace and only a recreation or two, as a result of throwing Aaron Lengthy out right into a World Cup is asking to take it within the face. Not going to work.

Berhalter can bemoan the dearth of starters he had for this window. However that’s worldwide soccer. Nobody ever will get their full squad. Somebody won’t be prepared for Wales, if not the entire event. That’s life. Fucking determine it out. Berhalter can’t try this if he has blinders on.

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