Winners and Losers of Gregg Berhalter Returning to Coach the USMNT
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PARADISE, Nev. — The U.S. men’s national team is in limbo. Or, at least it was right up until kickoff on Thursday evening.
As the USMNT kicked off against Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals, The Athletic released a report stating that Gregg Berhalter will return as the team’s manager. Berhalter led the U.S. through the 2022 World Cup cycle and to a Round of 16 defeat to the Netherlands at the World Cup last winter.
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BREAKING: Gregg Berhalter is set to return as manager of the <a href=” according to multiple sources briefed on the negotiations.<br><br>Deal still being finalized, but return is imminent.<br><br>Reporting with <a href=” <a href=”https://t.co/TnDBwhFB5a”>https://t.co/TnDBwhFB5a</a>
Spending months trying to fill the head coaching role simply to re-hire your previous head coach doesn’t make for good optics for U.S. Soccer. And once you factor in the controversy involving Berhalter and the Reyna family that surfaced after the World Cup, the decision gets even murkier.
Ultimately, it’s not an especially exciting hire. Still, Berhalter helped the USMNT create a positive team culture during the last World Cup cycle — one that helped the U.S. land prized multi-national Folarin Balogun — and it’s reasonable to think that the U.S. will continue to improve under his watch ahead of the 2026 World Cup.
Ahead of the second stage of the Berhalter Era, let’s dive into some winners and losers of his return to the national team.
Winner: Gregg Berhalter
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Once his contract expired in December 2022 and after an investigation into past misconduct from an incident from 1992 involving his now-wife Rosalind Berhalter, it was far from a given that Gregg Berhalter would be the pick to lead the U.S. toward the 2026 World Cup.
Berhalter admitted that he had kicked his then-girlfriend outside of a nightclub, which he regrets “to this day.” US Soccer Federation’s independent investigation conducted by Alston & Bird came to the conclusion that Berhalter remained eligible as a candidate for the head coaching position for the Men’s National Team.
The investigation also revealed that Berhalter was under scrutiny from Claudio and Danielle Reyna, the parents of current USMNT player, Giovanni Reyna. The former national team players were dismayed as to why Gio wasn’t getting enough playing time.
It was an ugly affair that many thought would end up disqualifying Berhalter from being made coach again. And yet, here we are.
US Soccer’s reported decision to hire Berhalter puts the 49-year-old directly into the spotlight ahead of the biggest World Cup in history.
As the US’s current crop of talented young players continues to improve, and with the recent addition of promising No. 9 Folarin Balogun, Berhalter will have a more skillful group to work with than he did in the 2022 cycle. Taking charge of the USMNT ahead of a World Cup that will take place primarily on home soil will involve plenty of pressure. But Berhalter could be in a strong position as the face of a group that’s likely to only rise.
Loser: Gio Reyna
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Things would’ve been…simpler for Gio Reyna if another person had been chosen to fill the open coaching position instead of Berhalter.
According to reports, Reyna wasn’t pleased to have been used in a reduced role by his former (and now future) manager at last year’s World Cup.
Let’s be clear: Reyna and Berhalter are perfectly capable of working things out. It certainly appears that Reyna and the rest of the locker room have already moved past the World Cup drama: the 20-year-old attacker has featured in two camps so far this year, one back in March and now another for the Concacaf Nations League Final Four. He started and played well in a 3-0 win over Mexico on Thursday night.
It’s in everyone’s best interests (Reyna, Berhalter, and the rest of the team) to leave any and all 2022 issues behind them and to continuing rowing in the same direction.
Winner: Most Remaining Players
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“I’ve supported him in the past. If you can see, today is a testament of the work he’s put into this team…if that’s not enough evidence, then that’s alright. People are going to hate no matter what.”
That’s USMNT star Christian Pulisic speaking to the media after Thursday’s clash with Mexico and answering a question about his thoughts on Berhalter’s reported return to the United States. So far this year, Pulisic has repeatedly come out with public support for Berhalter. Winger Timothy Weah has done the same. It’s apparent that many of the United States’ stars appreciate what Berhalter brings as a coach and look forward to him returning to lead the group.
Even some of the less-heralded players have cited the team’s positive culture as a major positive. Earlier this week, multiple players spoke highly to me of the atmosphere that has surrounded the USMNT. There is a belief among many members inside the locker room that at least some credit for that positive environment should go to Berhalter.
While Berhalter isn’t popular with large sections of the USMNT’s very vocal fanbase, don’t be surprised to see players support him.
Loser: Jesse Marsch
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Shortly before the news of Berhalter’s return broke, Jesse Marsch’s agent Ron Waxman announced on Twitter that his client would not be the next USMNT manager.
For Marsch, who was fired from his post as Leeds United’s manager earlier this year, the United States job could’ve been a chance to start fresh and take advantage of the same boost that Berhalter will likely enjoy as the player pool grows stronger.
Still, it’s not a given that Marsch is a loser in this situation. He seems to be rated highly by clubs across Europe, so it’s possible that there’s an even better opportunity out there for the American manager than the U.S. job.
It’s also not clear how his press-heavy, direct, risky defensive approach would have fit with the USMNT’s player pool. Star right back Sergiño Dest, for example, would struggle to deal with 1-v-1 battles and acres of space behind him for 90 minutes. Operating in a club coaching environment with five training sessions every week may help Marsch’s system stick more effectively with his players.
Regardless of his style or his fit, there’s always 2030.
Loser: Public Opinion
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If soccer federations from around the globe started selecting national team coaches with Twitter polls, it’s safe to say that Berhalter would not have made any sort of return to the USMNT. Replies to Tweets about Berhalter’s reported reunion with the team featured angry Michael Scott gifs, complaints about U.S. Soccer’s decision and a whole lot of dismay.
At some point along the way in the 2022 World Cup cycle, Berhalter lost the fanbase. Maybe it was in the 2019 Gold Cup loss to Mexico. Maybe it was in the 3-0 loss to Mexico a few months later in September 2019. Maybe it was in difficult moments during World Cup qualifying. Or, maybe he never had it to begin with.
Fans will always be quick to react to central figures that have an influence on the team they care about, so there’s no doubt that whoever stepped in as manager would deal with their fair share of outside criticism. Things seem to have reached a fever pitch with Berhalter, though.
Is it even possible for him to win back the approval of many U.S. fans? And does it matter if he does? Time will tell.