LOS ANGELES — Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya made some waves this week when he said the US men's national team has been "too naive" at times in its attempt to implement a new style under manager Gregg Berhalter.
His assessment has a supporter, though, in Nashville SC veteran Dax McCarty. The 32-year-old said as much during an MLS media and marketing roundtable at Banc of California Stadium, where he elaborated on the progress of the new-look USMNT.
A day before, Bedoya told ESPN's Jeff Carlisle he believed some American players would be "lacking in confidence" after failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and hesitated to say whether he believed progress had been made in trying to implement Berhalter's possession-based system.
“I think his way of seeing the game,” McCarty said of Bedoya's assessment, “it's in line with my way of seeing the game.”
But McCarty also cautioned that assessing "progress" under Berhalter is a complex task, given the state in which the former Columbus Crew SC manager inherited the program.
“I think that it's not an easy answer to just say there has been progress or there hasn't been progress, that it's a much more complicated answer than that,” he said. “I think that Gregg Berhalter has come into a very difficult situation with where the national team program is now, and it's in a period of transition, and I think that needs to be said, and I think that needs to be acknowledged."
Like Bedoya, McCarty has been a presence in the US program in the last decade, though not as consistently. McCarty won 13 caps with the U.S. from 2009 to 2017, most of them after Bruce Arena's return as head coach at the end of 2016 in an attempt to rescue the Americans' struggling qualifying campaign. Bedoya, who played at the 2014 World Cup, won 66 caps from 2010 through 2017.
It's enough for both men to have a good sense of the talent that exists for Berhalter to choose from, and the strengths and weaknesses they bring.
“Now what Alé said about maybe trying to force square pegs into round holes, I think that holds a little bit of weight, and I think we have to be cognizant of what has made us a success as a national team in the past," McCarty said. "But also, you know, we have to start to think outside the box and implement ideas and ideologies that will make us better in the long run, and I think that's what Gregg is trying to do.
“And anyone who said there wouldn't be growing pains is just kidding themselves. Or they're lying. These are the growing pains you have to go through, and let's not forget, these are all very young players that he's breaking in, right?"
Where McCarty and Bedoya's perspective may differ is an appreciation for Berhalter's achievements at the MLS level. By the time Bedoya arrived in MLS in the middle of 2016, Berhalter's Crew were already a well-oiled machine. By contrast, McCarty saw the complete process of Berhalter building the Crew in his image from 2013 onward while playing for Eastern Conference rivals New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire FC.
“I 100 percent agree with what Alé is saying, but I also want to be more patient, because I think we've seen, at least with what Gregg Berhalter built in Columbus, which is a team that constantly contended for trophies and played a really attractive brand of soccer," McCarty said. "I think that if he wants to try to implement that with the national team, he should be given time to try to do that. Even if it hurts in the short term.”