Amid Berhalter mess, U.S. Soccer deliberates over the USMNT’s coaching future

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 21: United States head coach Gregg Berhalter before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and the USMNT at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Images/Getty Images)

Gregg Berhalter’s future with the US men’s national team remains uncertain. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Images/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — On the 13th day of the US men’s national team limbo, with Gregg Berhalter out of contract and searching, and with the USMNT as blind as possible in the future of coaching, JT Batson stepped onto the scene.

Rumors swirled around him at the North American Society of America convention. The Berhalter-Reyna scandal followed Batson, US Soccer’s new jeans- and Nikes-wearing CEO, to a session Friday morning next to federation president Cindy Parlow Cone. They were asked about the comment “the news surrounded the national team and the coach”. They gave their standard noncommittal answers about ambition and athletic director Earnie Stewart’s “review” of the USMNT program.

Then, before they could move on to another vanilla question, Batson brought the microphone back to his mouth. He wanted “one thing of great importance.”

“Obviously there’s a lot of focus on who’s the head coach of the men’s national team or the women’s national team,” he said. “But as part of our review, we’re asking for this widely.”

He went on to mention the players’ day-to-day environment and the communications of the US association with their clubs. He spoke about finding competitive sports for the team that has recruited the host of the 2026 World Cup, and therefore will not qualify for it. Speaking later with two reporters on stage about potential participation in the 2024 Copa America, he hinted at discussions with CONCACAF, the North and Central American soccer confederation, and possibly also with CONMEBOL, the South American side and Copa America organizer.

“We obviously know those parts,” Batson said, “and we’re either in Miami or we’re not.” [the home of CONCACAF headquarters] this week.”

But his broader point was that there isn’t a huge strategy for US soccer, but rather a unique strategy. There are countless variables that both influence the importance of the usMNT coach and depend on it. The federation must decide whether it will take care of regional competitions, such as the Gold Cup and the League of Nations, between now and 2026. It must establish priorities, and outline exactly what the USMNT needs to do in order to, in Batson’s words, “maximize our chances in ’26.” Does he need a strong 2023, or do his stars need a break?Is the coaching option pressing, or can it be delayed?

Surely Stewart doesn’t need more time to “review” and evaluate Berhalter’s performance. He and the federation are awaiting the results of an independent investigation into Berhalter, domestic violence, Reynas and possibly others. Then Berhalter and his coaches will be measured against others — who may or may not be interested or available in 2023, who may or may not affect the timing of the coaching search, and may or may not bring the search back to the incumbent.

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US Medicine Berhalter decision

Stewart is a fan of Berhalter. It’s been years, and it’s still like one of the public comments from the 2022 World Cup. He said the USMNT had a “successful four years” under Berhalter. “I am pleased” with the identity and style of the team in Qatar, and overall “very happy with this group”. There were many hints that, on merit alone, Berhalter would have been more than happy to offer a contract extension. (The bigger question seemed to be whether Berhalter wanted one; since he said he would).

Right now, though, the options are unclear and the final decision will be thorny. Even if the investigation reveals no further wrongdoing by Berhalter beyond the 1991 incident already uncovered, US Soccer will consider two main questions: Is it a comfortable practice for the coach who admitted to kicking his wife now, albeit 31 years? And can the coach repair his relationship with the 20-year-old star, Gio Reyna, who should be a key player for the next 3½ years?

That relationship is certainly not beyond repair. Reyna will be mature. Berhalter is a professional. Claudio and Daniel Reyna’s actions against Gio will not prevail. But of course this scandal and the damage that has been done will not just disappear.

MURCIA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 27: Gio Reyna of the United States watches the international friendly match between Saudi Arabia and the United States at Estadio Nueva Condomina on September 27, 2022 in Murcia, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Gio Reyna, 20, should play a central role in the USMNT for years to come. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

The first question, however, is more pressing. US prosecutors could reasonably conclude that Berhalter had long since grown out of his admitted “shame” of actions that night in the early 1990s; a 49-year-old man cannot be punished for what he did when he was 18, especially if the victim had forgiven him and was happily married. But he also knows that the federation that Berhalter is employing now sends a problematic and powerful message. Cone, Batson and Stewart had to answer thorny questions, about everything from anti-abuse obligations to the 2018 process that landed Berhalter in the first place.

There are several layers of risk, a headache that US Soccer simply must avoid by moving on from Berhalter and hiring a new coach — who, in theory, will come with similar soccer skills and obstacles. The open question, however, is whether anyone who fits this description would want the job — and when.

Who are the other USMNT coaching candidates?

Stewart said he gets “a pool of candidates at any time.” Among them are, perhaps, experienced international agents and rising Americans. Among those with significantly more managerial pedigree than Berhalter, it’s unclear if anyone will do the job — which will place him in very few games of consequence in the next three years.

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I don’t typically look for top club coaches. Roberto Martinez, one of several officially considered candidates, has already signed with Portugal. Zinedine Zidane has politely declined a preliminary approach from US Soccer, according to reports. One big name that seems semi-realistic is Joachim Löw, the 2014 World Cup-winning German coach, who took an extended break after leaving his country’s team in 2021. Löw speaks English, and said in October that he felt “moved.” to return to the administration.

The most suitable American candidate would be Jesse Marsch, who he said That “the pressure of the US national team would be incredible” and specifically “the pressure of the World Cup at home would be incredible.” But now he is at Leeds United. To become available in 2023, or to leave. The English Premier League – which in many cases is the pinnacle of his career – has either burned out, in which case his last two matches would have ended in failure. 2021 after only four months, in which memory is lost).

And Marsch, by the way, makes many of the same objections that Berhalter has. How will he instill his philosophies and implement his system in short international windows? Should the players either plant or wear his vehemence?

(There is a tendency to assume that a coach’s club success can translate to national success, but sport and work are different. Successful international players are rarely those whose wages are celebrated. Lionel Scaloni was essentially the last when Argentina removed his interim tag in 2018. Two of the others (the three semifinalists in the 2022 World Cup, Croatia’s Zlatko Dalic and Walid Regragui of Morocco, had no relative bodies in mainstream international soccer when they took their posts).

If Marsch is not available or considered, the search will likely lead to a respected, up-and-coming, mid-40s MLS coach — Jim Curtin? Steve Cherundolo? – That Berhalter himself was four years ago. Which of course begs the question: Why not just Berhalter, who has at least partially proven that he can adapt to the international game?

Another option would be to wait for US Soccer to be a better candidate. An interim coach could ride on — either Anthony Hudson, the current manager, or someone else — until this summer, or possibly until 2024. He could use the 2023 Nations League and Cup for the 2024 Olympics (mostly under the Under-23 competition), and the USMNT stars they give a break until the Copa America. He could sacrifice a few camps and games to increase his chances of getting the right coaching price.

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DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 14: Anthony Hudson of United States during a training session at Al-Gharafa SC Stadium on November 14, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Anthony Hudson of the United States during a training session at Al-Gharafa SC Stadium on November 14, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

However, the extended period has been the subject of the last cycle of criticism, and could lose significant momentum from 2012.

Both ways are viable, but neither is ideal, which brings us back to Batson’s idea of ​​a “broad” review. The USMNT doesn’t just need soccer; He needs advice.

Who will make the US decision?

US Soccer officials indicated that Stewart, who signed a contract extension last year through 2026, was primarily responsible for that plan. But who is engaged elsewhere is uncertain.

Back in 2020, when Stewart hired Brian McBride as general manager of the USMNT, he initially said that hiring and firing coaches was McBride’s responsibility. But McBride himself should also be appreciated as part of a sports review. She is currently still employed by US Soccer, a confederation spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo Sports, but Batson told the U.S. Soccer team last week that no “long-term layoff” has been made. (McBride’s popular relationship with Claudio Reyna could also be the subject of research.)

So the disease decisions are up to Stewart – unless the umpires decide otherwise. If Berhalter, package and all, wants to keep Batson and Cone, he certainly needs to sign off on that pick. US Soccer’s board of directors must also approve any coach’s contract, and will be able to reject this one if they feel no longer with Berhalter leading the team.

And all this, again, is research that could provide clarity, or could exacerbate the harvest.

If not for Berhalter, US Soccer is most likely to name a permanent successor in the first half of 2023. If, after two years, it becomes clear that the program is headed in the wrong direction, Stewart could then pull the plug and pursue a high-profile coach in 2025, a low-pressure year at the moment. prepare for high pressure in 2016.

One of the theoretical candidates of 2023 Curtin said last week that he could not be contacted by the US Society, and was happy with the Philadelphia Union. But of course that will change.

“I’ll say, in 2026, when the plan is done, whoever the coach is, it’s great,” Curtin told reporters. “And I think that every coach would put their egos down and almost want to be an assistant with that team. It is the great god, and the greatest god.

“It’s just a big moment in our country to take time, think, do the right thing and persevere,” Curtin continued. “If Gregg is the guy on the end of that, that’s great. But I think everyone needs to be open-minded, and we all need to go for it [World Cup]. No stone should be left unturned to find the right agent or agent to obtain the right.


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