USMNT: Soccer's Coming Home

67YAZ

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Balogun called up to the English U21 squad. Not sure if the players will be taking grammar classes between training sessions.
 

Titans Bastard

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The full Pulisic interview came out yesterday and came be found here. The ESPN writeup is here.

It covers some Chelsea stuff, other interests (e.g. chess), but here are the main USMNT/Berhalter-related bits:

The recent independent report released by U.S. Soccer on Monday seems to put Berhalter completely in the clear, and it appears he is still a candidate for his old job. If Gregg were to be put in charge again, immediately, would you feel content with that?

Yeah, no doubt, no doubt about it. I think the strides that we've taken in recent years with him in charge, have been evident. I think it's quite clear.
Under Berhalter, the USMNT won two trophies: the CONCACAF Nations League and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Describe him and what it's like with him in charge.

Berhalter is someone who has grown on me a lot over the years. I've learned a lot from him and have grown so much as a player. It's underappreciated what he's done to create that environment which was so special within that team [in Qatar]. He's helped a lot of players improve in a lot of ways.

He's also very passionate about the sport. I think he's done some incredible things in a short amount of time. There were moments when he benched me and I wanted to kill the guy -- I hated him. I was so angry -- but then the next game comes along, and then I find myself in a better place. He handled a lot of situations, and I have to give him a lot of credit. I think he created a team that was probably the best brotherhood, or unit, that I've been a part of.
Go into detail about Berhalter's man management, please.

The best example I could give you is my first camp with him. I'll never forget this.

We played a game against Chile. I scored in the first half -- a great goal. Then I picked up a little injury and went to the hospital to get a scan. I came back late at night, and he calls me down to his office and -- this was after I had kind of a string of small injuries -- he said "Look, maybe the reason is that you need to train harder. You need to train more like you play."

This after I just scored a goal and I'm thinking "Who's this guy to tell me this?"

That moment stuck with me for a long time. It changed the way I look at training, even today, and I want to train like I play. It wasn't easy, and it took me a little while, but I said "let me take this onboard."

The way he deals with players, you can tell he is passionate, and he cares about his players. He's not going to tell you it's easy or tell what you want to hear. He is going to tell you what he feels is going to improve you.

He tells his players hard truths and tells it straight, but it's always for a specific reason and to improve them?

Yes, absolutely. You don't always want to hear it. And as a player, you want to be right! You know [how it is] "Who are these guys to tell you, a professional player, how to handle yourself!!'

But I've always been with that mentality that I'm here to learn. That's who I want to be, and it's what takes the top players to the top.

Lastly, Matt Doyle put together a real stemwinder of a thread on Berhalter the other day. (It gets more intellectual after the culture war-tinged first tweet.). It's all academic since Gregg isn't coming back, but still.

View: https://twitter.com/MattDoyle76/status/1636730855803559936
 

Cellar-Door

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The full Pulisic interview came out yesterday and came be found here. The ESPN writeup is here.

It covers some Chelsea stuff, other interests (e.g. chess), but here are the main USMNT/Berhalter-related bits:








Lastly, Matt Doyle put together a real stemwinder of a thread on Berhalter the other day. (It gets more intellectual after the culture war-tinged first tweet.). It's all academic since Gregg isn't coming back, but still.

View: https://twitter.com/MattDoyle76/status/1636730855803559936
Berhalter wasn't terrible, but Doyle does a whole lot of projecting without data in there to support Gregg.
Like his "tons of chances" stuff... well, we actually have ways to quantify that... and no we really did not at all in the match he's talking about.
Arguing that Berhalter was intentionally having us play deep get battered and it was just execution that prevented us from burying chances is not a serious person's read on Wales USMNT for example. We played deeper becase half the team was gassed, which is also why for all the acres of space we didn't counter effectively and created essentially no xg in the second half.
I'm also dubious about his overall thesis, given the USMNT did not significantly dominate xG in the Berhalter era despite our weak CONCACAF schedule.

The argument that Gregg was liked by the players... probably true, I can even see the case for "we showed improvement and maybe he can keep improving" but the broad "well we didn't score because he couldn't finish all our amazing chances" is just demonstrably untrue on the whole.
 

Titans Bastard

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Like his "tons of chances" stuff... well, we actually have ways to quantify that... and no we really did not at all in the match he's talking about.
xG doesn't capture the type of opportunities where you have a clear break but don't get a shot off, so how do we quantify it? Genuinely asking.
 

OCST

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Pulisic was in the wall for an Everton free kick on Saturday and got hit in the head, hard. He did a spell on the sidelines and came back, snd was subbed off in the second half. In a league that took concussion safety more seriously I doubt he’d have been allowed back in, he was definitely on Goofy Street for a few minutes. Serious enough yo warrant keeping an eye on.
 

speedracer

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xG doesn't capture the type of opportunities where you have a clear break but don't get a shot off, so how do we quantify it? Genuinely asking.
Opta stats include 'big chances', 'key passes' etc...pretty sure there have to be at least some xG models out there that use these? Probably still very noisy though.
 

Titans Bastard

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Opta stats include 'big chances', 'key passes' etc...pretty sure there have to be at least some xG models out there that use these? Probably still very noisy though.
No, xG only includes shots, which is why xG is really noisy in small samples. If you have good chances that due to random variance don't actually result in a shot, your xG for a single game will be artificially low. Over time, this tends to balance out.

At the end of the day, I think viewpoints on Berhalter really depend on what your baseline expectations were. I think there's a lot more agreement over how the team generally played over the course of the cycle. We were very defensively sound, but often struggled to generate chances. The team's performance was very inconsistent across WCQ, though GGG got a lot right at the WC (still struggling to generate much offense against the top teams).

Is that good? Is that bad? I trend toward the POV that our team was extremely young and inexperienced at the NT level, and I view the inconsistency and struggles through that lens. I see the quality of soccer that the team played at the WC as a sign of progression. The main issues with team performance from a managerial perspective, IMO, were that (a) the MMA midfield didn't provide enough going forward to compensate for a lack of a fourth attacker and (b) we relied heavily on MMA without having any depth behind them. On the other hand, there are no obvious solutions to this in a world where Gio was rotating between injured and semi-injured and also being a huge baby.

So if I thought the USMNT should be playing champagne football throughout WCQ and against the top teams at the WC, I'd be disappointed. I think those baseline expectations were a bit unrealistic, and I think the sophistication and possession with which the USMNT played at the WC was unprecedented for us.

It's definitely possible that we'll get a better manager than Berhalter for the next cycle, but I think people are really underrating the chances that the replacement is the same or worse.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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For me it is hard to even know where and where not to credit the manager. The result was about what I expected, less than I hoped. The style was improved, but the players were more skilled and capable on the ball than we’ve ever had—is GGG responsible for MMA being miles better than the next guy? Surely, no. Is he responsible for the strategy that burned through their best players in the first 60 minutes? Yes. Could they have matched or exceeded their results with a strategy that was more, well, strategic? Hard to say, but maybe that was the best way knowing we lacked true firepower up front.

Managers get stale, 8 years is a long ass time and I fear having the most pivotal year of that sequence being the end. Do we want to enter 2026 with everyone feeling burnt out about the manager before the tournament even starts? That is my fear more than anything tactical.
 

InstaFace

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He's insanely strong. Oklahoma City-area football coaches apparently salivated over him the way the HS coach did Michael Oher in The Blind Side. Dude absolutely could be in the NFL as a LB or TE. The only difference is that Dike's parents wouldn't let him play tackle football.

Some of my favorite USMNT'er video clips are "Dike being a beast" clips. The guy is unfair.

View: https://twitter.com/usmntonly/status/1482490267127193612


View: https://twitter.com/drkimberlydike/status/1608766448515837952


View: https://twitter.com/USMNTvideos/status/1633643104199667713

His season highlights video is going to be some fun watching.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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That last one really does it for me because I knew he was a big fella who can effectively use that physicality, but I was less aware that he has the tekkers to almost pull of a close range version of the Dele Alli vs. Crystal Palace goal.
 

rguilmar

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No, xG only includes shots, which is why xG is really noisy in small samples. If you have good chances that due to random variance don't actually result in a shot, your xG for a single game will be artificially low. Over time, this tends to balance out.

At the end of the day, I think viewpoints on Berhalter really depend on what your baseline expectations were. I think there's a lot more agreement over how the team generally played over the course of the cycle. We were very defensively sound, but often struggled to generate chances. The team's performance was very inconsistent across WCQ, though GGG got a lot right at the WC (still struggling to generate much offense against the top teams).

Is that good? Is that bad? I trend toward the POV that our team was extremely young and inexperienced at the NT level, and I view the inconsistency and struggles through that lens. I see the quality of soccer that the team played at the WC as a sign of progression. The main issues with team performance from a managerial perspective, IMO, were that (a) the MMA midfield didn't provide enough going forward to compensate for a lack of a fourth attacker and (b) we relied heavily on MMA without having any depth behind them. On the other hand, there are no obvious solutions to this in a world where Gio was rotating between injured and semi-injured and also being a huge baby.

So if I thought the USMNT should be playing champagne football throughout WCQ and against the top teams at the WC, I'd be disappointed. I think those baseline expectations were a bit unrealistic, and I think the sophistication and possession with which the USMNT played at the WC was unprecedented for us.

It's definitely possible that we'll get a better manager than Berhalter for the next cycle, but I think people are really underrating the chances that the replacement is the same or worse.
I think I agree with most of this. I had some beef with what I thought was inflexibility with GGG and his system, and it felt like the team rarely played equal to or greater than the sun of its parts. There was a strong team culture while he was in charge and I do appreciate how he approached dual nationals. All said and done, he was fine but it’s time for someone new who can get this team to generate more attacking chances.

Regarding those expectations, remind me again who talked about “disorganizing the opponent with the ball” and “changing the way the world views American soccer.”
 

67YAZ

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There was a strong team culture while he was in charge and I do appreciate how he approached dual nationals. All said and done, he was fine but it’s time for someone new who can get this team to generate more attacking chances.
Big agree. When they write the USMNT history, Gregg will get a big shout out for bringing in & establishing a young core, pulling in key dual nationals, and rebuilding the program’s culture into something competitive and intense.

Again, the senior squad quit on the pitch in Couva. It still makes me sad and depressed to remember that. Gregg flushed all that bullshit out the system.

And Gregg did grow during his tenure. Remember “Adams as tucked in right back”? Gregg streamlined as he went along, not quite enough maybe, but notably.

it’s time to move on. I wish Gregg great success in his next stop (maybe he can stay in Chicago…).
 

rguilmar

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There were rumblings on Scuffed that he would be in Orlando. This would be an interesting development.
 

Titans Bastard

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There were rumblings on Scuffed that he would be in Orlando. This would be an interesting development.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, this does not do the story justice. A guy on Scuffed is a bartender in San Diego and ended up serving J.T. Batson who was in town for a USSF convention, and who dropped some hints that Balogun might be in Orlando, among other tidbits. Batson also hooked him up with a nice swag bag the next day.

Side note: The role of USSF President is overrated and the role of USSF CEO is underrated. Batson seems like a good one so far.

No word on what exactly Balogun's role is here in Orlando, but I'm guessing he's here to hang out with the team and get a feel for the USMNT. I doubt he's filed paperwork at this point.
 

Senator Donut

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Balogun leads Ligue 1 in xG (Jonathan David from the same confederation is second and someone named Mbappe is third). Amazing that England couldn't get him in their 25 for their qualifiers.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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It’s a 7 minute drive from that location to the stadium.

Work that same magic that got Musah and Dest on board.
 

rguilmar

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Whoa, whoa, whoa, this does not do the story justice. A guy on Scuffed is a bartender in San Diego and ended up serving J.T. Batson who was in town for a USSF convention, and who dropped some hints that Balogun might be in Orlando, among other tidbits. Batson also hooked him up with a nice swag bag the next day.

Side note: The role of USSF President is overrated and the role of USSF CEO is underrated. Batson seems like a good one so far.

No word on what exactly Balogun's role is here in Orlando, but I'm guessing he's here to hang out with the team and get a feel for the USMNT. I doubt he's filed paperwork at this point.
This is very true. Just more proof that the Scuffed Patreon is worth the few bucks a month. Don’t tell them, but I’d gladly pay significantly more money for their content.
 

Titans Bastard

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Balogun leads Ligue 1 in xG (Jonathan David from the same confederation is second and someone named Mbappe is third). Amazing that England couldn't get him in their 25 for their qualifiers.
You think even one single Brit is going to watch Ligue 1?! Not a chance.
 

rguilmar

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67YAZ

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LOL. His strong social media game would also be a welcome addition to the USMNT.

Just a few days ago Balogun was waxing poetic about his Nigerian parents and what it would mean to play for the Super Eagles. It's hard to imagine he would so easily jump to the US without paying respect to Nigeria.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Could he really turn us down after all this?

I mean, anything is obviously possible but it would be really weird. The guy isn't Lebron making The Decision and by all Arsenal-based accounts is actually a pretty grounded dude. If he wants to wait for England or represent Nigeria, so be it, but why go out of your way to do things that would later make you this huge villain among the fanbase of a massive country hosting the next WC?
 

67YAZ

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I’m really interested to see this backline group together. Lots of possibility there.
 

OCST

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These are proving troublesome. I don’t think we stepped onto this pitch ready for the competition.
 

speedracer

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this is the slowest pitch I’ve ever seen. did they lay sod on top of astroturf on top of gym mats or something?
 

DJnVa

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Less clinical there from Pepi. Gotta have that.
Wonder if bounce was true on that pitch.

Aaronson makes it 2-0. I’ve always felt bad for the keepers for these bad teams. Dude could be world class and still lose like 7-0.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Couldn’t tell if that one should have been called but Gio has definitely been CONCACAF’d at least once so far.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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CP has been quite good in service so far and HOLY SHIT WHAT A ROCKET BY GRENADA.

Edit: Right in the “where Tyler Adams would’ve been” zone.