One of Gregg Berhalter's biggest stated objectives when he took over as head coach of the US men's national team was establishing a clear system, identity and playing style that all players in the pool understood and bought into.
But due to the the lengthy layoff caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Berhalter now has much less time to get his philosophy fully implemented before World Cup qualifying, something host Alexi Lalas brought up in an interview with the coach on FOX Soccer. Asked if the layoff has caused Berhalter to rethink his approach to be more pragmatic given the circumstances, Berhalter said altering his philosophy at the appropriate time in order to get results isn't just something he's mulling over. It's something he's going to do.
"To me, what's pivoted in my mind, is that it's more about qualifying for the World Cup and doing well at the World Cup," Berhalter said. "That's what's most important. So, will there be alterations to this philosophy to get results in games? 100 percent, absolutely, because that's what we need to do, and we understand that. But along the way, we keep chipping away, we keep teaching our principles and we will be able to play our game in most of the games we're in."
In terms of where his group is in terms of establishing its own identity, Berhalter said that's a work in progress, simply by virtue of the fact the current US pool is such a young group. It's something he believes will come with time, and Berhalter is confident his players will find those moments once they're able to restart logging games together.
"The first thing is, it's a young group of guys establishing themselves on the international stage," he said. "The second thing is we haven't had an event to form our identity. So when you think about the team's [Alexi Lalas has] been on, you're defined by your year of the World Cup, the '94 group, the 2002 group, the 2010 group — that's how the public forms opinions on the team. We haven't had this opportunity because we're a young group. And we'll get that opportunity and the guys will work really hard in qualifying and then eventually in the World Cup to form what we feel can be a really strong group moving forward."