The USMNT head into the their first official tournament under Gregg Berhalter with a series of doubts.
When Gregg Berhalter was first appointed manager of the USMNT, it felt like the start of something different. A clean slate if you will. However, after poor results against Jamaica and Venezuela leading up to the Gold Cup, the United States now enters with all eyes on them and plenty of doubts.
Part of those doubts has to do with the players on the team and the player pool in general. Despite having exciting young talent at the youth level, aside from Christian Pulisic, there is no one on the U.S. team who one can look at and say they’re at a similar level as Pulisic. There are questions about their backline.
With John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin, the U.S. have had to resort to the likes of Omar Gonzalez, Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream. Miazga and Long played against Venezuela and were poor, to put it lightly. Tim Ream is coming off a season with Fulham in which they were one of the worst defenses in the light and has been utilized as a fullback because of their lack of options. As for Omar Gonzalez, the image people still have of him is of the team losing to Trinidad & Tobago and failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
In midfield, the situation does not get much better. Michael Bradley remains one of the few good options the U.S. have. Will Trapp is supposed to be the guy that makes the team tick a-la-Busquets at Barcelona but has yet to demonstrate it despite countless opportunities. Other players include Weston McKinnie and Djordje Mihailovic who was a late addition after Duane Holmes was forced off due to injury. The former has played well in the past while the latter has struggled both for the U.S. and the Chicago Fire
Assuming Pulisic is utilized as a midfielder, a lot of the play will go through him. Whether he will get any help from his teammates will depend on how Gregg Berhalter sets up the team.
Up front, Jozy Altidore looks to be the starter simply because there really aren’t better options. Josh Sargent was left off the team and Gyazi Zardes is not much of a goalscorer. Out wide, Paul Arriola, Tyler Boyd, and Jordan Morris have struggled so the wingers are another problem.
Aside from the roster limitations, fans of the USMNT are down on the team because with Gregg Berhalter, there was supposed to be a shift in style of play. When he became manager, the U.S. were supposed to shift to a more attacking style of play and they’ve tried to do that. But when your defense and goalkeeper can’t play out the back because they’re not comfortable, opponents can pounce on that and make like miserable. Just ask Venezuela.
But it’s not all Gregg Berhalter’s fault. The US Soccer Federation deserves a lot of the blame for the current state of the national team. Ever since Bruce Arena was let go, everyone knew that Berhalter was their first, perhaps only, choice to take over. Yet they decided to wait until the MLS season was over to officially name him coach.
Before naming him coach, the U.S. had a series of friendlies in Europe against teams like France and England. Interim manager Dave Sarachan was at the helm for those. Had the U.S. appointed Berhalter from the onset, perhaps things would be differently now. He would have had the chance to manage those games and see what he had to work with. He could have identified players he believed would fit his system and had time to implement it.
Instead, it’s been more of a rush job where now he’s already being called into question and fans are unhappy. That was always the risk by waiting so long and with an official tournament right around the corner. It’s also not made better by the fact that their rivals, Mexico, have had a better time with their transition under Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Especially considering that the former Atlanta United manager could have been the coach for the U.S.
Again, Berhalter was their first choice but it has to be frustrating to know that Martino was not even approached for the position because one of the prerequisites for the job was to speak English fluently which Martino does not.
Under Martino, Mexico hasn’t skipped a beat despite missing several of their key players. To no one’s surprise, they are the favorites to win the whole thing.
The USMNT arrive at the Gold Cup with the failure of missing out of the 2018 World Cup and recent struggles. It’s not enough to simply win but they have to play well and convince. The expectation is to, at the minimum, reach the final. Should they fail to meet expectations, there will be even more pressure not only on Gregg Berhalter, but the federation as well.