It is looking increasingly likely that Gregg Berhalter, former national team player and current Columbus Crew coach, will be named the next coach of the USMNT. It has looked increasingly likely for the better part of a year, but it appears to be actually happening now, so everyone try to look surprised.
CBS Sports reported Wednesday night that Berhalter “is set” to be named boss of the men’s national side. This comes four days after the Columbus Dispatch reported that “the deal is done.” That came four days after Dave Sarachan, interim USMNT manager for more than a year, said he had coached his last game in the role and that there’d be a new permanent boss very soon. Finally.
The hiring process has been what you could generously call drawn-out. It has been 412 days since Bruce Arena resigned soon after the USMNT’s nightmare loss to Trinidad & Tobago and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. (Apropos of nothing, go here to vote for the Ass Team of the Year.) Since then, most of U.S. Soccer’s efforts have been spent overhauling the system, which makes sense; the program’s issues run far deeper than the identity of the man on the sideline. In June, Earnie Stewart was named general manager of U.S. Soccer, and among his still-nebulous job duties would be finding a coach.
That was five months ago, and Berhalter was mentioned as the favorite at the time, and nothing’s really changed. Apparently, only two candidates were even interviewed—Berhalter and former FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja. (Pareja joined Club Tijuana in Liga MX earlier this week, which appeared to be a sure sign that U.S. Soccer had made its decision.) The inactivity on the USMNT hire these last few months appears to simply have been waiting for Berhalter’s season with the Crew to finish, which it did with a playoff exit on Nov. 12. Add a couple of weeks for contract discussions, and here we are.
Berhalter, 45, is a New Jersey native and has a long track record with U.S. Soccer, earning 44 caps as a defender with the national team and appearing in a pair of World Cups. His professional career saw him spending 15 years in Europe, in the Netherlands, England, and Germany, before joining the L.A. Galaxy to wrap things up. He immediately transitioned to coaching, and became the first-ever American to manage a European side when in 2012 he took over Sweden’s Hammarby, then in the second division. He was dismissed midway through his second season, despite a pretty decent showing on the table. Berhalter then joined the Columbus Crew, who he led to four playoff appearances in his five seasons at the helm.
Berhalter appears to be pretty universally respected by those who have worked for him and with him, though if you wanted to pre-criticize the hire, you could cite the fact that he’s yet another guy who comes from within the MLS system. (Or you could take issue with a process that doesn’t appear to have seriously considered any other candidates. Or you could note that Berhalter’s brother Jay is U.S. Soccer’s COO. Dealer’s choice!) But the only thing that will matter are the results. The draw for Qatar World Cup qualifying is just eight months away.