This past Thursday, U.S. Soccer announced the US men’s national team will stage their Oct. 7 World Cup qualifier vs. Jamaica at Austin FC’s brand-new Q2 Stadium, the program’s first-ever qualifier in the state of Texas.
On Saturday night, head coach Gregg Berhalter duly discussed recent developments at ATX, as well as their north Texas neighbors FC Dallas, who have helped host the USMNT this week as they prepare for Sunday’s Gold Cup quarterfinal (9:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision, TUDN) vs. the Reggae Boyz at AT&T Stadium.
Taking just two wins and 11 points from their first 14 matches of the 2021 season, FCD entered Week 15 at the foot of the Western Conference standings. That’s raised speculation about the temperature of third-year boss Luchi Gonzalez’s seat, but Berhalter offered a nuanced defense of his Dallas counterpart’s work.
“With Luchi, for me, I don't think it's talked about enough, him constantly, continually losing players or transferring players,” said Berhalter, who has called up several Dallas players in recent months. “I think FC Dallas is doing a phenomenal job with youth development. As a result of that, they're losing some of their top talents and they're having to put their teams together sometimes on shorter notice than other teams. And then they have a very young group.”
FCD sold fullback Bryan Reynolds to AS Roma over the winter for a club-record fee reported at $8.5 million upfront and up to $11 million in add-ons. Earlier this month, they transferred midfielder Tanner Tessmann to just-promoted Serie A club Venezia for a fee reportedly in the $3-4 million range. Several of their other homegrown talents have also been heavily linked to comparable moves abroad.
“So for Luchi, I have a ton of respect for what he's doing. I love what FC Dallas is doing in general, producing player after player, both for the national team and for MLS, and then to move on to Europe,” said Berhalter. “It's a great model for other teams to look at. But it's a difficult time [for FCD’s first team] and there's no question about it that you want to be getting results – results build confidence. And it's just about being patient, believing in your game model, believing in your process, and things will come.”
Berhalter holds even closer ties to Austin. His former assistant coach Josh Wolff is leading the expansion side with a methodical juego de posicion system comparable to his own philosophies. His son Sebastian, a 20-year-old midfielder, is with the Verde on a season-long loan from Columbus.
Wolff’s side has produced some attractive soccer and bonded with their legions of new fans. But goals have been in short supply, tallying just 10 times in 14 matches, the second-worst output in MLS behind only Inter Miami.
“It's phenomenal what Austin FC have going there,” said Berhalter. “It's a great stadium, great training ground, great organization. And with new teams, it's not always easy. I think the game model is clearly there, you can see how they want to pull opponents apart and then sometimes it's about the quality to score goals, and that has a lot to do with the end product; it’s the hardest thing to do in soccer, score goals.”
Berhalter also alluded to Austin’s acquisition of Senegalese striker Moussa Djitte from French club Grenoble on June 30.
“I think they're going to be alright,” he said. “I know they’ve made an addition already and I think that's going to help the squad.”