U.S. Soccer Hires Crew's Gregg Berhalter As Head Coach
U.S. Soccer has hired Crew coach Gregg Berhalter to coach the USMNT, making him the "first to have played for the United States in the World Cup," according to Adam Jardy of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Berhalter, who has been with the Crew the last five years, "has been in negotiations for weeks to take over the team." It is unclear "exactly how many other candidates were interviewed" for the position. Berhalter's brother, Jay, serves as USSF COO (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 12/3). The AP's Ronald Blum noted Berhalter "represents a generational change for an American team staggered by its failure to reach this year's World Cup after seven straight appearances at soccer's showcase." Berhalter was "long viewed as the front-runner for a job that stayed open for nearly 14 months." The 45-year-old becomes the "second youngest coach for the Americans in four decades," behind Steve Sampson who was 38 when he took the job in '95 (AP, 12/2). In N.Y., Andrew Das noted Berhalter's contract will "carry him through a four-year World Cup cycle." The decision to give Berhalter the job will "do little to appease critics of U.S. Soccer's insider culture" due to Jay Berhalter's job. It also will not move forward the appearance of U.S. Soccer's "outreach efforts to the country's large Hispanic soccer community, which has often felt its contributions -- and its players -- have been marginalized by the federation" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/2).
RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB: In L.A., Kevin Baxter noted Berhalter had been the "top candidate" since USMNT GM Earnie Stewart "began his search for a replacement shortly after assuming his newly created job in August." Stewart "considered 33 candidates and spoke with 11." Stewart's "hope is that Berhalter will bring new ideas to a team in transition." Stewart said early in the process that neither U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro nor CEO & Secretary General Dan Flynn would "interview coaching candidates" (L.A. TIMES, 12/2). In Columbus, Jardy noted the goals Berhalter "has in mind for the program start" with its failure to qualify for the World Cup. Berhalter said, "The first thing is working back from the ultimate goal of participating in the World Cup again. That's first and foremost. Then you bring it back to, I would love when fans turn on the TV they see something that they're proud of. They see a style of play, they see an effort from the group that embodies the American spirit. That would make me most proud." Jardy noted the first thing on the to-do list is "completing plans for the January camp, including the roster." Berhalter said that he will "start reaching out to players and get to know them as soon as possible" while also working to assemble a coaching staff (DISPATCH.com, 12/2).
JUST IN TIME: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rachel Bachman notes U.S. Soccer execs have "defended their timeline as largely inevitable given a sequence of events that overhauled the federation's leadership." Former coach Bruce Arena "resigned three days after the loss to Trinidad and Tobago" in October '17 that eliminated the U.S. from '18 World Cup qualification, and Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer's "embattled president of 12 years," said last December that he would not seek re-election. Cordeiro's "first order of business was winning another vote: the bid to host" the '26 World Cup. On June 6, Stewart was announced as GM and "set out to find a coach." As months ticked by, some of the USMNT's "most devoted fans were stewing." American Outlaws spokesperson Dan Wiersema said that the group, the largest supporters' group of its kind for the USMNT, has "lost about 5,000 members from its peak of 30,000, many of them dropping their $25 memberships in the past year." Wiersma said that some local group leaders "stepped away, and some fans called for a boycott." Many were "exasperated by what they saw as a lack of transparency in the coaching search" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/3).