As I watched the game today I began to feel sick. Every goal made my stomach twist more and more as my worst fears become reality. Then it hit me, just like a Zardes face-goal. This is a huge step back for the USMNT. This result is going to have people believing that we are a good team. People are going to think that Gregg Berhalter is our savior, destined to bring us World Cup glory. People are going to think that our future is looking bright. I can already hear the talking heads and have braced myself for the unending articles of praise for our team splashed all over the media, "We are back, we are going to win the Gold Cup" and on and on and on. This is so far from the truth, and today only ensured that, as fans, we are in for more frustration and disappointment moving forward as the competition improves.
A lot of what comes next is from a response I wrote to the Fanpost by Captainstubbing titled, "I Hate Him More and More". I guess that makes me a hypocrite for what I am about to say. GB is a PLAGIARIST, lacking his own identity, hiding behind the word he repeats over and over, "the system". I will give him credit for at least pointing out that "the system" is what is most important for the short and long term success of a team and program. A system does not change as an overall representation of the organizational vision. It may not always produce exceptional results, the best example being the Netherlands, a once dominant team that also failed to qualify for the last World Cup. However, everybody knows their vision is around player development at the youth level and using the Eredivisie as a major way of providing game experience for their young nationals.
The difference is that at the team/club level, "the system" is adaptable and designed around the strengths of the players. Imagine Pat Riley and the old LA Lakers try and run their up-tempo offense with 5 Kareem Abdul Jabbars. The system-by-Greg Berhalter, using Zach Steffan to play possession in the defensive third, using your RB as an additional midfielder moving forward (oh wait, Tyler Adams IS a midfielder) is how Manchester City play. GB hacked it from his coaching man-crush, Pep Guardiola. News flash GB, replicating Pep will not help the USMNT win the EPL title. Pep has the luxury to BUY players that fit his "system". GB, unfortunately, has not realized that the current strengths of the players available to him, do not fit the "system by G-B". That is why today put us a step backwards. People are going to think he has it right. Because of today we may never see Weah, Sargent, Miazga, Holmes and Deandre Yedlin as important players for the USMNT anytime in the near future
This is because GB lacks his own identity. He is trying so hard to be someone else, even down to replicating the solid color casual pants and sweaters Guardiola dons on a weekly basis as he walks the sideline. I am truly expecting him to either borrow or find the same grey sweater hoodie online Pep wore the last two months of the season. I think he could rock that look. Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman and Tim Ream do not afford the USMNT the luxury of playing with no true defensive ball-winning player in midfield (No Michael Bradley doesn’t count) often leaving us with 3 defenders on the counter as does the likes of America Laporte, Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and Nicolas Otamendi. But GB tells us all that "the system" will bring success to our current team, and today will make people believe it.
Unfortunately, I am not a believer. Neither is Stuart Holden who, when asked if he believed we can win the Gold Cup, replied with a very clear "NO" and quickly identified the inability of our team to assimilate and grasp "the system" GB is trying to install. He did however, avoid directing any criticism to GB by stating that due to the lack of training time and access to players, it is hard to expect perfect execution. What Stuart really wanted to say was, "We will not win the Gold Cup because "the system" GB is trying to install does not play to the strengths of our squad, AND the reason it is taking players time to adjust is that they do not agree with what he is asking of them, lacks common sense, and tactically limits our ability to be successful (unless we are playing teams such as Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago). During the last two matches it was clear the players did not buy into "the system". Against Guyana when we were playing to "the system" the game was slow, we had limited opportunities moving forward (and when we did it was ineffective with only one player in an attacking position), and defensively we were suspect at best. A stronger opponent, let’s say Mexico, would have capitalized on at 2/3 of those opportunities.
Today we saw the same thing happen during the first 45 minutes. On the other hand when we pressed hard and played more direct with tempo (even Bradley played a ball or two forward without giving it away), we were in complete control of both games. That happened periodically during the Guyana match, and we saw it in the second 45 minutes today. However, I am fairly certain GB was not astutely making those tactical adjustments at the random and inconsistency in which they occurred. From my vantage point on the couch, it seemed those changes were being made by players on their own during the matches. I am fairly certain they (our players) do not believe in "the system" either.
Finally, what vision does GB have for our future? It is very apparent that giving our highly successful younger players access to valuable experience in a difficult environment, as well as more time on the field, is NOT what he believes in. Can anyone provide a rational explanation why Zardes is wearing our national jersey? Are you kidding me? He spends more time falling over and chasing balls as a result of a first touch lacking the skills of most high school players in my area. Today’s result is a guarantee that we will see plenty of Zardes in the immediate future. Why is Josh Sargent not playing those 90 minutes? I would much rather see the future of our team gaining valuable experience. My stomach aches (again) as I watched Zardes take the field, representing one of BEST eleven players in our country. Maybe it is because Zardes fits in "the system" better than Sargent. If someone asked GB, I know he could not provide a rational explanation. What I do know is that Pep would have an answer, a damn good one. Maybe GB should give him a call.