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How should Gregg Berhalter be remembered as USMNT coach?



How should Gregg Berhalter be remembered as USMNT coach?

Gregg Berhalter is out as head coach of the United States men’s national team, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Wednesday. Doug McIntyre of FOX Sports was the first to report the news.

The 50-year-old former USMNT player had been a lightning rod of controversy since late 2022 despite leading his country back to the FIFA Men’s World Cup and into the knockout stage of the tournament that year. 

Despite a controversy surrounding midfielder Gio Reyna and his parents, Berhalter’s former USMNT teammate Claudio and longtime Berhalter family friend Danielle, after that World Cup run, Berhalter was re-hired to his job by new U.S. Soccer Federation sporting director Matt Crocker in June 2023. The U.S. had a mixed run of results in the 13 months since, however, capped off by a disastrous group stage exit in the 2024 Copa América on home soil.

Still, “FOX Soccer Now”‘s Melissa Ortiz said Berhalter deserves credit for how he ushered in the current generation of USMNT stars and returning the team back to the World Cup after the U.S. infamously missed qualification in 2018. Despite that, she’s not surprised by the move given what happened in Berhalter’s last few games at the helm and the urgency around the team less than two years away from the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup, which the U.S. will co-host.

“Based off the performance of the U.S. Men’s National Team, it was a failure in this Copa América. They expected to go, clearly at least to the the semifinal, and they didn’t do it,” Ortiz said. “At the end of the day, I think we have to respect U.S. Soccer’s decision. I bet a lot of fans are happy with it just from what we see on the internet.

“But you have to applaud Gregg Berhalter’s time for what he did with these players. He put this young roster together and made it to the World Cup after not being in the World Cup [in 2018]. But I think U.S. Soccer took the right steps forward to … lead into the most important tournament in the world hosted on on home soil.”

Legendary former USMNT striker Clint Dempsey, speaking on FS1’s “Copa América Tonight,” agreed with Ortiz, giving Berhalter credit but saying the negative results ultimately warranted a change.

“After 2018, and us not qualifying for the World Cup, he got them qualified, got them out of the group [stage],” Dempsey said. “There were some good things that he did, but if you’re in a major competition on home soil and you don’t get out of the group, it’s a failure and heads will roll. I think back to [the 2006 World Cup] when we [the USMNT] were in Germany, and we didn’t get out of the group stage. What happened after that? [Head coach] Bruce Arena got fired. That’s just the nature of this business.

Ortiz’s “FOX Soccer NOW” co-host, former USMNT defender Jimmy Conrad, said that according to people from within U.S. Soccer, Berhalter also had detractors from within the federation. Additionally, Conrad pointed out, Berhalter ultimately failed to silence his critics on the field the way England’s oft-criticized manager Gareth Southgate has by returning his side to a second consecutive European Championship final.

[Related: England advances to Euro 2024 finals on thrilling injury-time goal]

“What’s interesting for Gregg is had he left this position right after the World Cup [and not returned], I think his stock would have been pretty high,” Conrad said. “He had a young team, the youngest team at the 2022 World Cup, got them out of the group, had them get into the round of 16, where they lost to a very good [Netherlands] team. And I feel like he could have maybe parlayed that into something bigger back on the club scene, whatever it may be. Now, I feel like there is some negativity swirling around him.

“There were people claiming within U.S. Soccer that that Gregg was ‘radioactive,’ that he’s a lightning rod — you like him or you don’t like him, there’s really no in between. And so they ultimately made a decision and had cause to do that we didn’t get out of our group [at Copa América], but Gareth Southgate on the flip side is getting England to the [Euro 2020 and 2024] finals. So despite all that criticism, his teams are still performing, which the U.S. didn’t have.”

Now, all eyes turn to who Crocker and the U.S. Soccer Federation will hire to replace Berhalter and guide the USMNT into arguably the most important World Cup in its history.

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