Gregg Berhalter has to make the biggest decision of his coaching career. The US men’s national team has had a rough (embarrassing) last two games, a 1-0 loss to Jamaica and Sunday's 3-0 loss to Venezuela.
In some situations, you could call it part of the “process” – short-term struggle toward long-term growth. Berhalter is still molding the team. He’s getting to know the players, and the players are getting to know him and what he expects of them.
They clearly have ideas – the attacking mids moving between the lines, the right back stepping into the midfield, the defensive midfielder looking for moments to switch the point of attack. They just aren’t making the plays.
And it’s the concept of the process that Berhalter is staking his tenure, and perhaps reputation, upon. Is it possible to successfully conduct a process with a national team?
Let’s start here: I think Gregg Berhalter is a very good soccer coach. If you hear him talk about the game, or you talk to him about the game, or you talk to his players, he knows what he’s doing. But he does what he does in a specific way. He goes heavy on the details. I will die many deaths upon the hill that details from a coach are almost always better.
Details, however, take time. They take time to learn, and they take time to master. You need reps to hone the muscle memory so that you can execute them at full speed.
Jordan Morris vs. Venezuela | USA Today Sports Images
In a club setting, you have that time. You get a six-week preseason and five days a week to train. There’s a “process” to be had.
On the international scene, when you only get together a few times a year, only train a couple days before the games start, and have players coming in and out of the team… is the process still possible? When do you have time to go over the details?
You rarely see a complicated tactical style from a national team. The three from recent memory would be Spain, Germany and Chile. Spain and Germany had the majority of their squads from single clubs, and Chile had one of the best coaches (Marcelo Bielsa) in the world, who had already worked with a national team (Argentina). I believe in Berhalter, but it’s a lot to ask him to be Bielsa.
To sum it up: Is Berhalter methodically building toward something special, or is he heading straight at the iceberg?
Can he continue to pursue a process, or does he have to re-think, re-set and simplify?
I hope, for the potential of what the successful process could achieve, that it’s the former. But I wonder how long Berhalter can hold his nerve on it.
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