The formal introduction of Gregg Berhalter as the new United States Men’s National Team coach has concluded what has possibly been the most anti-climatic coaching search in sports history.
While many are upset with the hire they should be far more angry at U.S. Soccer than Berhalter. Personally, I don’t believe Berhalter is the best man for the job, but he’s hardly the worst choice. He’s a solid average, safe-pick who should be able to lead the USMNT to World Cup 2022 Qualification.
Regardless of what you think of Berhalter, at the very least he was always going to be interviewed. Hours can be spent debating whether his results as a coach warrant his hiring and if his tactics are right for the national team.
What’s undebatable is that he’s a former national team player with experience coaching in Europe (although he struggled in Sweden). Berhalter has a deep knowledge of MLS and it doesn’t hurt that his brother, Jay Berhalter, is U.S. Soccer’s chief commercial officer. U.S. Soccer and Earnie Stewart clearly were impressed by his resume.
The biggest problem with the hiring of Berhalter is not that he was the one chosen, but the way in which the coaching search was conducted.
Bruce Arena resigned as USMNT head coach, after the team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, on October 13, 2017. It’s unacceptable that it took over a year to find a replacement, especially considering that Berhalter could have been hired in December 2017 after the conclusion of the MLS Season.
He could have had a year to familiarize himself with the player pool and help develop the team’s tactical identity, but apparently U.S. Soccer thought that would make too much sense. Now he only has 6 months (with no friendlies in December) to prepare the team for the 2019 Gold Cup.
It would have been understandable if U.S. Soccer waited to hire somebody who was fired after the 2017-2018 European club season or after the 2018 World Cup, but this is not what happened. At the very latest, a coach should have been hired shortly before the 2018-2019 European club season began in August.
Reports from a month ago suggested that Peter Vermes, Oscar Pareja, Jesse Marsch, Gerardo “Tata” Martino, and Juan Carlos Osorio were never even interviewed for the job. Conflicting stories later emerged, suggesting that at least Pareja was interviewed, but either way it is clear that the coaching search was far from thorough.
While one can come up with reasons for why each of those five men shouldn’t have been hired, that doesn’t change the fact that many, if not all of them deserved to be interviewed.
With a year to conduct a coaching search, U.S. Soccer should have cast a wide net and interviewed many candidates. This didn’t happen and that is unfortunate for the team, fans, and Gregg Berhalter.
Berhalter will now be subject to claims that he was hired due to nepotism, despite his brother stating that he has no involvement in the hiring process.
While I don’t know if nepotism influenced the hire, the optics certainly don’t look good. Gregg Berhalter should have had to beat at least a half-dozen other candidates for this job, but he didn’t. His hiring would have made more sense if this had been the case.
Berhalter does not deserve to be blamed for U.S Soccer’s farce of a coaching search. He did not ask them to take far too long to interview hardly any candidates. He should be judged solely on the results the USMNT achieves during his time as coach.
If you’re going to be mad that’s fine, but Earnie Stewart and other U.S. Soccer higher-ups like Carlos Cordeiro should bare the brunt of your anger.