After interviewing 10 candidates and an exhaustive six month search, the US Soccer Federation has taken a bold step forward by stepping sideways and re-hiring Gregg Berhalter. This is obviously disappointing as there are better coaches with more success and different soccer approaches available, but it is hardly unexpected.
US Soccer took a completely known quantity, one that basically met expectations, but has never had the team punch above its own weight and decided that it was the best option for the job. A manager whose best result is a 0-0 draw against England, has trouble beating Canada, and who got things so right against Holland that the team lost 3-1. It’s been nothing short of adequate under Berhalter and the US Soccer Federation has decided after six months that adequacy is excellent.
Meanwhile, Berhalter has spent his time learning leadership from other leaders who lead. Leading is important and an important coach should lead. Does going to leadership conferences and having a leadership mentor help win soccer games? Perhaps, but befriending important leaders who give TED Talks doesn’t win World Cup games.
Nobody knows what would happen if another manager was given the job. What is known is that since he took over, Berhalter has claimed that losses were actually dominant performances, that a 3-0 loss was because of not having personality, and that the meaningless platitude of wanting to “change the way the world looks at American soccer” does not need to include beating teams in the FIFA top 10 or Canada for that matter.
Matt Crocker has taken over the soccer side of things for USSF and decided that the status quo is good enough. The federation seems to have made the decision that it will excel at adequacy after getting expert input to hire Berhalter again. Put another way:
Hiring a search firm to hire a sporting director for the purpose of hiring a new coach only to hire the coach that didn’t get their contract renewed months earlier is fantastically illogical.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) June 16, 2023
Trying the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result is less illogical as the tweet describes, or the definition of insanity as the parable goes, as it is just the typical operating procedure for USSF. In fact, the federation gave a breakdown of the ‘vigorous hiring process,’ a breakdown that discussed the technocratic aspect of using data to hire a manager rather than give insight into the process or how other candidates stacked up, that looked like it was pulled from standard HR stock language about hiring a mid-level sales team lead.
It also undermines whatever confidence the federation deserves for addressing its other systemic problems. What will be the response to issues with the federation like the toxic work environment or culture that enabled the leaderships’ friend Claudio Reyna to bully their employees? How will USSF stop embarrassing itself? Is the federation capable of changing anything? So far that answer is no and and it doesn’t seem like it is even interested in trying.