Ber­hal­ter has big plans to over­haul ail­ing Amer­i­cans

China Daily - - SPORTS -

NEW YORK — Gregg Ber­hal­ter prom­ises to trans­form the US na­tional team into a press­ing, at­tack-minded group the Amer­i­cans rarely have been.

“We want to see ball cir­cu­la­tion, break­ing lines, cre­at­ing goal-scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said at his in­tro­duc­tion on Tues­day. “That should be the DNA of this team.”

The 45-year-old is the first Amer­i­can to coach the na­tional team af­ter play­ing for it at a World Cup. He spent the last five years coach­ing Ma­jor League Soc­cer’s Colum­bus Crew, which reached the play­offs four times de­spite a small pay­roll but failed to win any ti­tles.

“Greg isn’t just the right choice, Greg is the best choice,” US Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion (USSF) pres­i­dent Car­los Cordeiro said. “He will push our men’s team for­ward and with an iden­tity and ap­proach that will be uniquely and fiercely Amer­i­can.”

The job had been held by Dave Sarachan on an in­terim ba­sis for 14 months since Bruce Arena quit af­ter the shock­ing fail­ure to qual­ify for this year’s World Cup.

Su­nil Gu­lati made the de­ci­sions to hire Bob Bradley in 2006, Jur­gen Klins­mann in 2011 and Arena in 2016 af­ter con­sult­ing within the USSF, but the fed­er­a­tion es­tab­lished new pro­ce­dures af­ter Cordeiro re­placed Gu­lati last Fe­bru­ary.

For­mer mid­fielder Earnie Ste­wart, who played along­side Ber­hal­ter on the na­tional team, was hired in June for the new po­si­tion of men’s na­tional team gen­eral man­ager. Ste­wart started his job in Au­gust and picked Ber­hal­ter, a de­ci­sion rat­i­fied last Satur­day by the USSF board.

“To­day for us is an­other ex­am­ple of the change that we’re bring­ing to US Soc­cer. That in­cludes mak­ing sure that soc­cer oper­a­tions are run by soc­cer ex­perts,” Cordeiro said.

The US has of­ten re­sorted to coun­ter­at­tack­ing to go along with a never-give-up at­ti­tude and su­pe­rior con­di­tion­ing. Per­sis­tence and per­se­ver­ance dis­si­pated among an ag­ing core in the last four-year cy­cle.

Sarachan gave de­buts to 23 play­ers in 12 matches, and Ber­hal­ter will de­cide what vet­er­ans to in­te­grate among the team’s emerg­ing core of Chris­tian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and We­ston McKen­nie, all 20 and younger, and even rawer play­ers such Tim Weah and Josh Sar­gent, both 18.

Ste­wart said he wants to “make sure that the way we play, that it’s iden­ti­fied to our fans so that what they see on the field is what they want to see”.

“The idea is that we’re an at­tack­ing-based team that want to cre­ate scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties by dis­or­ga­niz­ing the op­po­nent,” Ber­hal­ter said. “Con­sis­tently over my time in Colum­bus, we’ve done it through build-up, right, where we start the ball with the goalie in the back. Teams try to press us, we play through them.”

Colum­bus cap­tain Wil Trapp, who cap­tained the US eight times this year, said Ber­hal­ter was re­mark­able for his non­stop eye con­tact with play­ers.

“At first he can be a very in­tim­i­dat­ing per­son for a young player like my­self when I started at 19, 20 years old with him,” said Trapp, now 26. “But get­ting to know him and how much he cares for his play­ers was some­thing that I was re­ally, re­ally shocked about.”

Only two can­di­dates were in­ter­viewed: Ber­hal­ter and Os­car Pareja, who left FC Dal­las last month for Mex­ico’s Ti­juana. Ste­wart said a third fi­nal­ist was un­avail­able.

Some Amer­i­can fans have crit­i­cized the lack of a larger pool of in­ter­vie­wees.

“A lot of it is ac­tu­ally be­cause they don’t feel that Greg is nec­es­sar­ily the right per­son or the best per­son,” said for­mer Amer­i­can de­fender Alexi Lalas, now a Fox an­a­lyst. “It puts cer­tainly bag­gage and chal­lenges on Greg that he un­der­stands.”

Jay Ber­hal­ter, the coach’s 47-yearold brother, was part of that search for GM in his role as the USSF’s chief com­mer­cial and strat­egy of­fi­cer. He did not par­tic­i­pate in the coach­ing search but could suc­ceed Dan Flynn as the fed­er­a­tion’s CEO, per­haps in the next year.

“We will have a se­lec­tion com­mit­tee,” Cordeiro said. “We’ll have in­ter­nal can­di­dates. Jay could be one of them. We’ll have ex­ter­nal can­di­dates.”

Ber­hal­ter’s first two games will be with mostly MLS-based play­ers against Panama on Jan 27 in Glen­dale, Ari­zona, and ver­sus Costa Rica on Feb 2 in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia. There likely will be a pair of March home friendlies with the full group and an ex­hi­bi­tion ahead of the Amer­i­cans’ CONCACAF Gold Cup opener on June 18 in St. Paul, Min­nesota.


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