USMNT Summer 2024: Beauty is in the Eye of the Berhalter

Cellar-Door

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I was at the match. Agreed about Pulisic and Robinson but Pulisic was also a bystander. I wonder if he’s just worn down having played a full season. Reyna looked off which makes sense since he has hardly played since the last break. Weah scored a goal but otherwise looked blah, which makes sense since he hasn’t played that far advanced.

It’s easy to blame Berhalter but the players are the bigger issue. Key guys either aren’t playing or playing a different position.
Players had poor performances, but we're deep into Berhalter's tenure and the same things happen over and over, and they are completely hapless against good non-CONCACAF teams despite significant improvement in club level/play in the player pool.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Rewatching some clips, I’m reminded how little chemistry Jedi & Pulisic have managed to develop. Haven’t found an instance yet of Jedi springing Pulisic free yesterday or vice versa. Jedi’s best attacking moves were early crosses and CP had one driving dribble. If those two could find a rhythm, we’d have at least one bankable avenue to consistently generate danger.
Jedi regularly gets a free pass because he consistently plays well for club, is always fit, tends to be very consistent, doesn’t make huge mistakes in defense, and we have absolutely nobody behind him, but he is a glaringly bad fit for our attack and would maybe only be serviceable if we were running Haaland, Crouch, and Koller into the box.

His touch is bad and he has never had synergy with Pulisic but it’s not a matter of chemistry—it would be the same with every other attacking player but Pulisic just happens to be the one who plays on Jedi’s side. It really sucks that we can’t provide a better running mate out there and everything has to basically run through the middle. He must feel great watching Wes/Weah/Dest cook together on the right all the time.

I’m of the opinion that players always deserve blame for poor performances, but when the entire team is awful the coach carries a larger share of the blame. They were not prepared to play, they were poorly set up, they quit after that 3rd goal, they were predictable, they were beat at every phase of the game in every way. This is on the players, sure, but it’s on the coach even more.

We can’t change the player pool, but we can change the coach.
The players also deserve extra blame for almost to a man supporting the coach in the hiring process. They must have those personalities that are really susceptible to corporate sales tactics.
 

Titans Bastard

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I've heard from my well-connected friend that the USSF has started having preliminary discussion with managers about their potential availability.

My friend's understanding is that Crocker's initial thinking when he was first hired was to make a change, but he was persuaded by strong player advocacy to bring back Berhalter. But what that means is that Berhalter isn't fully Crocker's "guy" and that Crocker is likely to have a quicker trigger finger than the USSF historical (ponderous) norm.
 

Jeff Van GULLY

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I've heard from my well-connected friend that the USSF has started having preliminary discussion with managers about their potential availability.

My friend's understanding is that Crocker's initial thinking when he was first hired was to make a change, but he was persuaded by strong player advocacy to bring back Berhalter. But what that means is that Berhalter isn't fully Crocker's "guy" and that Crocker is likely to have a quicker trigger finger than the USSF historical (ponderous) norm.
I won’t get my hopes up but getting trounced in the Copa and manifesting a real coach in time for the World Cup would be a very acceptable trade off.
 

rguilmar

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I won’t get my hopes up but getting trounced in the Copa and manifesting a real coach in time for the World Cup would be a very acceptable trade off.
I get what you’re saying, and I just can’t get myself there. Sure, I don’t think Gregg is the right guy, but once the team is on the field, I want nothing more than wins. This is not a criticism of you because a lot of people I know and respect are right there with you.

I've heard from my well-connected friend that the USSF has started having preliminary discussion with managers about their potential availability.

My friend's understanding is that Crocker's initial thinking when he was first hired was to make a change, but he was persuaded by strong player advocacy to bring back Berhalter. But what that means is that Berhalter isn't fully Crocker's "guy" and that Crocker is likely to have a quicker trigger finger than the USSF historical (ponderous) norm.
I’d love to know how much of a role player feedback played in the hiring process. I can’t seem to find that chart US Soccer put up in their presentation about the coaching criteria, but was player feedback on it?


The players also deserve extra blame for almost to a man supporting the coach in the hiring process. They must have those personalities that are really susceptible to corporate sales tactics.
I was listening to the Jimmy Conrad podcast- blanking on the name because they change it every time they change cohost- and they went in depth about this. All three of them (Conrad, Charlie Davies, and Tony Meola) seemed to agree that you should not take player feedback into account and you should not give a coach a second cycle.

The players get too comfortable/complacent
The players feel like they have a spot locked in with a new coach
Players’ concern is for themselves and the current coach (especially one like GGG who has shown a loyalty to players) will keep running them out there
New ideas make the team less predictable
A new coach might evaluate players differently

A new coach means CP might not be taking free kicks and corners. A new coach might mean a new system, say a 3 CB formation which would put Tim Weah in direct competition with Dest for minutes at RWB.

Status quo is good for the players already in the squad. We saw how long it took GGG to move off of Lletget, Arriola, Long, Eyes and Vibes, and so on.
 

67YAZ

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Crocker pulled a stunner when he landed Emma Hayes for the WNT. Not that he pried her away - appears that several factors in her life came together in way that drew Hayes to a national team position. But Crocker moved decisively and quietly to sign Hayes and didn’t blink at passing over the established American & NWSL managers who has been jockeying for the job. That gives me faith that Crocker can pull off an effective mid-cycle manager change.

But still, what’s the criteria for a change? Losing to Brazil can’t be it, but failing to get out of the Copa group?

And I wonder who from Crockers’ exhaustively vetted short list is available now. At the risk of typing it into existence…David Moyes?
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Crocker pulled a stunner when he landed Emma Hayes for the WNT. Not that he pried her away - appears that several factors in her life came together in way that drew Hayes to a national team position. But Crocker moved decisively and quietly to sign Hayes and didn’t blink at passing over the established American & NWSL managers who has been jockeying for the job. That gives me faith that Crocker can pull off an effective mid-cycle manager change.

But still, what’s the criteria for a change? Losing to Brazil can’t be it, but failing to get out of the Copa group?

And I wonder who from Crockers’ exhaustively vetted short list is available now. At the risk of typing it into existence…David Moyes?
I think there are a couple paths here. If they get trounced again tomorrow night, then look tepid in the group stage (like, advance but not convincingly), I think you have a case. And I would argue that failing to survive a group with Bolivia and Panama would demand a sacking, no ifs ands or buts.

If they come out with a virtuoso performance against Brazil and pull off a result then he probably skates by Copa as long as they get out of the group.
 

Titans Bastard

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I’d love to know how much of a role player feedback played in the hiring process. I can’t seem to find that chart US Soccer put up in their presentation about the coaching criteria, but was player feedback on it?
I don't know whether or not that was part of the official process but I'm pretty confident that there was player feedback whether or not there was supposed to be.

And I wonder who from Crockers’ exhaustively vetted short list is available now. At the risk of typing it into existence…David Moyes?
Predicting which candidates will be available and interested in a mid-tier international gig like the USMNT is an impossible game!

I think hosting the World Cup is a perk. I also think being a mid-cycle job where it's a two-year job instead of a four-year job could also make it a bit more interesting to some people. But we'll see if the job even opens.

But still, what’s the criteria for a change? Losing to Brazil can’t be it, but failing to get out of the Copa group?
Failing to get out of this group with Panama and Bolivia as a tournament host would be pretty bad, but I think it's more than fair to have a higher bar than that. For example, if the USMNT scrapes through the group in ugly fashion and then puts up little fight as they get dumped out in the QF, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. The stakes are very high for a home WC and if the team looks like less than the sum of its parts, the USSF can't risk the increasing possibility that things won't start to click.
 

teddykgb

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I just keep telling myself it was just a friendly. The US had more talent in the field yesterday than Colombia. Diaz is who he is, and James, while passed his prime, still shows up for his country. Most of the other guys have either passed through La Liga or have been linked to La Liga clubs, so I see them pretty regularly, and they’re not spectacular individual players. They play so much better together though, way better than the sum of their parts. The US is exactly the opposite, and has been for quite some time. The players were poor yesterday and deserve some degree of the blame, and it was a friendly.

Scally didn’t get roasted by Diaz, which is something to take out of the game. The CBs were terrible across the board. Jedi had a bad game coming off a great season. Johnny was up and down, and was partially at fault for at least two of the goals. Idk why Gio was playing so deep. On the Spanish broadcast they were calling it a “Kroos” position. GGG did this last window before pushing him up the field in the second half. I’d rather him play a true 10 with Wes, who can really ping a diagonal ball, as a box to box. Gio will have fewer touches in more dangerous positions. I defended GGG in this very thread about his use Gio, and I suppose I learned a lesson. CP didn’t do much, Weah was ok, and Balo will never be used properly by Gregg. I’m concerned about GGG’s halftime comments about wanting more patience for crosses while Balogun is playing the 9. I’m genuinely curious how he expects this to work. @teddykgb I’d really like more of your thoughts about what we’re seeing with the US versus Pep’s positional play at City. It certainly feels like Gregg wants to incorporate many of Pep’s tactics, but for various reasons is unable to do so.

But it was just a friendly…
To be clear, i don’t think the USA can play positional football and I’m not sure they’re even much trying to these days. It’s just really stark to watch a team play that way regularly then watch the USMNT struggle with things positional play solves so easily. Entirely a me problem, not a Berhalter problem.

I don’t think I there’s a world where Pep would actually play a straight 4-2-3-1. Just one man’s opinion but if you’re familiar with the positional play diagram of the pitch it’s just really difficult to occupy the zones he wants to be consistently occupied in a strict 2 man midfield. Which is why we have seen him experimenting so much in England by pulling a LB into midfield and later a CB into midfield because he can’t get the central control of the pitch with one 2 as you become immediately vulnerable to man marking and outnumbering. It’s a super simple over simplification but it’s exceptionally hard to form triangles with 2 and Pep has really been shifting toward keeping his fullbacks back for support against the counter and pushing his former “free 8s” into becoming more like free 10s and then having his wingers occupy the width to stretch the pitch. This is largely because of the talent at his disposal in Foden and KDB but all of it is a response to the very consistent 5-4-1 shape that City sees almost every week in the Prem and CL. The 5-4-1 leaves his older 4-3-3 in basically a 9 defender vs 5 attacker scenario and that largely resulted in his wingers, whom he worked to free and isolate 1 v 1 almost always being able to be double marked without opening many of the key zones of the pitch. So he’s pushing the midfielders into almost a flat 5 across the front line to occupy the back 5 defenders and then pushing a CB and the fullbacks into almost a traditional midfield role which gives them a 3 vs 4 which is more manageable to keep possession ticking over with good interchange and positional discipline moving the ball back and forth.

So while maybe the US needs some of this in concacaf where a low block is more likely I don’t think in general the USMNT faces the same problems and so these solutions just won’t be applicable. If anything, when we play higher quality opposition we are likely to cede possession and play more like the 5-4-1 teams than a Pep team.

I’m not much of a fan of Berhalter but for me the blame versus Colombia largely rests on the players. I don’t think it was a great shape but I don’t think they really played to their talent level within the shape and that’s on the players for both effort and application. Where I do fault Berhalter is that even if they did play better and support each other properly the overall output of how he has them play largely is a bunch of hopeless possession which ultimately results in a Jedi overlap and cross into the box where we never have enough attackers and certainly not many who are aerial threats. So there’s an incoherence to the team selection and playing style that feels fundamentally flawed to me. Like if we are going to bomb fullbacks and cross then probably you needed to really develop the Pefoks of the world and play a midfield 3 to cover the space behind and basically your two most talented players in Pulisic and probably Reyna have very little role in that type of system and I’m not sure that makes sense. Berhalter hasn’t really experimented much with back 3/5 hybrids which have become more popular recently and then I think with the people he has at his disposal he could or should be looking at 2 striker formations like midfield diamonds or Pellegrinis 4-2-2-2 but he just doesn’t seem interested. 4-2-3-1 is also at least a decent way to get Reyna central on the pitch and we saw that work fairly well under generic caretaker manager but ultimately it feels like it doesn’t fit the roster all that well to me. And more than anything he needs to find a consistent way to make sure his team can put the ball in the back of the net and that has been a consistent problem of his teams for the entire duration. He hasn’t done enough to find the goals they need to actually win matches against competition that isn’t crap. But hasn’t implemented a bus park that sides might use to play on the counter and take international matches to their inevitable PK shootout.
 

rguilmar

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To be clear, i don’t think the USA can play positional football and I’m not sure they’re even much trying to these days. It’s just really stark to watch a team play that way regularly then watch the USMNT struggle with things positional play solves so easily. Entirely a me problem, not a Berhalter problem.

I don’t think I there’s a world where Pep would actually play a straight 4-2-3-1. Just one man’s opinion but if you’re familiar with the positional play diagram of the pitch it’s just really difficult to occupy the zones he wants to be consistently occupied in a strict 2 man midfield. Which is why we have seen him experimenting so much in England by pulling a LB into midfield and later a CB into midfield because he can’t get the central control of the pitch with one 2 as you become immediately vulnerable to man marking and outnumbering. It’s a super simple over simplification but it’s exceptionally hard to form triangles with 2 and Pep has really been shifting toward keeping his fullbacks back for support against the counter and pushing his former “free 8s” into becoming more like free 10s and then having his wingers occupy the width to stretch the pitch. This is largely because of the talent at his disposal in Foden and KDB but all of it is a response to the very consistent 5-4-1 shape that City sees almost every week in the Prem and CL. The 5-4-1 leaves his older 4-3-3 in basically a 9 defender vs 5 attacker scenario and that largely resulted in his wingers, whom he worked to free and isolate 1 v 1 almost always being able to be double marked without opening many of the key zones of the pitch. So he’s pushing the midfielders into almost a flat 5 across the front line to occupy the back 5 defenders and then pushing a CB and the fullbacks into almost a traditional midfield role which gives them a 3 vs 4 which is more manageable to keep possession ticking over with good interchange and positional discipline moving the ball back and forth.

So while maybe the US needs some of this in concacaf where a low block is more likely I don’t think in general the USMNT faces the same problems and so these solutions just won’t be applicable. If anything, when we play higher quality opposition we are likely to cede possession and play more like the 5-4-1 teams than a Pep team.

I’m not much of a fan of Berhalter but for me the blame versus Colombia largely rests on the players. I don’t think it was a great shape but I don’t think they really played to their talent level within the shape and that’s on the players for both effort and application. Where I do fault Berhalter is that even if they did play better and support each other properly the overall output of how he has them play largely is a bunch of hopeless possession which ultimately results in a Jedi overlap and cross into the box where we never have enough attackers and certainly not many who are aerial threats. So there’s an incoherence to the team selection and playing style that feels fundamentally flawed to me. Like if we are going to bomb fullbacks and cross then probably you needed to really develop the Pefoks of the world and play a midfield 3 to cover the space behind and basically your two most talented players in Pulisic and probably Reyna have very little role in that type of system and I’m not sure that makes sense. Berhalter hasn’t really experimented much with back 3/5 hybrids which have become more popular recently and then I think with the people he has at his disposal he could or should be looking at 2 striker formations like midfield diamonds or Pellegrinis 4-2-2-2 but he just doesn’t seem interested. 4-2-3-1 is also at least a decent way to get Reyna central on the pitch and we saw that work fairly well under generic caretaker manager but ultimately it feels like it doesn’t fit the roster all that well to me. And more than anything he needs to find a consistent way to make sure his team can put the ball in the back of the net and that has been a consistent problem of his teams for the entire duration. He hasn’t done enough to find the goals they need to actually win matches against competition that isn’t crap. But hasn’t implemented a bus park that sides might use to play on the counter and take international matches to their inevitable PK shootout.
Awesome stuff!! I was just curious because it feels like at times there are tactics Pep uses that GGG tried out, from the macro build out of the back to the micro of using Adams at RB/CDM which was slightly like the John Stones wrinkle. Almost like Gregg sees Pep do something and wants to try it out.

Completely agree with your assessment in how the Us plays and the mismatch in personnel/system.

Hands off of Pelligrini though! Though I do think he has hit the plateau at Betis and it is probably time for a new challenge (both for club and manager), but I shudder at what life could be like for béticos should the Chilean leave. Actually, now that I think about it he could be a really good option for the US. Betis often have the bulk of the possession against the Alaves and Almerias of the world, then need a different approach against an Athletic Club or Atletico, and another one against a ball dominant club like Barca or Uber talented Real Madrid. He has experience with mercurial talents like Fekir and Isco, loves nifty wide players. Shit, I might be talking myself into this.
 

67YAZ

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Looks like the defense (red) is set up in a 1-1-1-1 and the attack (black) in a 3-7-5-5. Unconventional, but that attack formation might be what we need against Brazil.
 

rguilmar

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Best I can tell based on a quick search on X/Twitter and Google, the Amoeba is the gambling zone defense used by those great UNLV basketball teams in the late 80s-early 90s. Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian leading a ridiculous title winning team featuring Greg Anthony, Stacey “Plastic Man” Augmon, and Larry “Grandmama” Johnson. If we see Gregg on the sidelines eating a towel, we will know what’s going on.

Also, nicknames were better back then.
 

speedracer

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the early days of ultimate frisbee used to have a defense called the Candygram (or alternatively the Landshark) that would play out as a soft zone defense that allowed the offense to make numerous short throws. At an opportune moment it would morph into an aggressive double- or triple-team trap around the frisbee in order to force a turnover. I feel like there's a lot of soccer potential here.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_NS2H55dxI
 

Joe D Reid

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The U-23/Olympic team is playing Japan right now (streaming on YouTube) and haven’t touched the ball for about 15 minutes.
 

Cellar-Door

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Will probably only watch a half or so tonight with the Celtics playing, but might be a sneaky big match for Gregg. He's generally gotten a pass on Colombia because:
1. Just a friendly
2. People have plenty to fill sports show times right now.

But if they get stomped again..... especially if the Celtics win and go up 3-0..... soccer might be back on the national media menu and Gregg's seat will get hotter
 

67YAZ

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Pepi on up top, Musah in for Johnny…and the back line remains unchanged. The DM who put in a shift last time gets rotated out while the 3 defenders who caused so many problems are back in. Grrrrr.

84089
 

rguilmar

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I’m annoyed for Johnny that he doesn’t get the start. Gotta imagine he would have really relished playing against Brazil given his heritage and soccer background.
 

Cellar-Door

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USSF probably pretty happy, mostly full stadium on a Wednesday night (80%+ is Brazil supporters, but money is money)
 

67YAZ

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Oooooohhhhh Musah. Sooooo close.

The red socks are too much (I get the irony of posting that here.)
 

HowBoutDemSox

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Some good strikes so far! I also like how Musah’s dribbling allows them to build up a bit more from the middle, rather than just on the wings.
 

67YAZ

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Jedi spring CP for that dribble a couple minutes back. Good to see.

The US needs to keep hold of the middle in their own half. Brazil is getting left side overloads and Vini just has so much gravity anyway. But we need to stay solid.
 

Cellar-Door

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A little shocked Pulisic didn't get a yellow there, tugged the shirt then hacked him after the whistle, dirty shitheel play
 

Cellar-Door

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Brazil has had like 5 selfish shots inside the box directly at the keeper, should have at least 2 goals

Edit- and now they score
 

67YAZ

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But not that one. Ooffff.

Cmon boys, show some fight now. This is a test of mentality right now.
 

Cellar-Door

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Brazil's communication at the back is shaky, 2nd time US got a chance out of a miscommunication between Allison and a defender
 

67YAZ

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That was a foul starting with the shirt pull, but CP is on the line when the tackle starts. Thats a PK.
 

Cellar-Door

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I’m a big fan of Gio but seeing him hunched over at the 30th minute huffing wind doesn’t bode well for his overall fitness
In fairness it is in the 80s with 88% humidity in ORL, lot of guys soaked out there looking gassed
 

teddykgb

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In fairness it is in the 80s with 88% humidity in ORL, lot of guys soaked out there looking gassed
Sure and he’s working a lot harder than he did the other night which is good. But for their upcoming competition he’s liable to pay for not having played a lot and with him you always have to worry about injury
 

rguilmar

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I’m a big fan of Gio but seeing him hunched over at the 30th minute huffing wind doesn’t bode well for his overall fitness
He looks fine to me. He had a couple of long sprints which probably gassed him briefly. He’s leading the press at times, dropping to a pivot at others. They’re asking him to run a lot.