The USMNT obtained a 2-1 victory over heavy legged Costa Rica to end their first six games of Concacaf World Cup qualifying in second place and with 11 points. The performance was a vast improvement after a disastrous defeat to Panama 1-0 away from home, and most likely the best 90 minutes the team has played in the whole qualification process.
Much of the finger pointing for the ups and downs of the USMNT have been pointed at Gregg Berhalter, who often times shoots himself in the foot with some dubious tactics and personnel changes in his lineups.
Last night a change in goal almost immediately turned out to be yet another bad move by the coach when in less than 1 minute the USMNT was down 0-1 after Zack Steffen went out of his penalty area to clear a ball and was gassed when he had to track back and let in a weak opening goal for Costa Rica. Here are three takeaways from the whole run up until this point for the USMNT and Gregg Berhalter in qualification.
Time to stick to basics
That is wishful thinking when it comes to Gregg Berhalter and his tactics. As mentioned before, rotation is needed at times but seven changes to his lineup, below average replacements for players who are critical to the team should be things Berhalter needs to stay away from. Unnecessary changes like last night in goal are things that drives fans and pundits mad, the reality is the change in goalkeeper seemed more to fulfill a marketing ploy, having Zack Steffen start in his former MLS team stadium than a tactical decision. Matt Turner is the USMNT number 1, no need to get cute, which Berhalter has and it cost him points in Panama. Let US Soccer digital find the stories that need to go into American sports pregame shows and Berhalter should just coach the team.
Time to end the deep player pool theory
The USMNT is not a national team that has a 60 deep player pool, it’s the coach’s job to make sense of the talent the coach has at his disposal. At the most, given some rule changes and the pandemic, maybe if FIFA allows it, the World Cup squad will be 26 deep, if not it’s the regular 23. Berhalter needs to define his go to guys from 1-16 and mix in the bubble players as he sees fit, that work into his system. Bottom line, teams are built by going through the growing pains, grinding out results together, how do you do that if one day one guy scores a hat-trick and the next game he may not even be on the roster?
Teams are built by consistency and repetition together, if one game we have one defense line and then in another a different one, and then in another a mix and match the team becomes convoluted, and leads to the up and down games the team usually plays. Narrow it down Gregg!
Not all is finger pointing at Gregg Berhalter, some players have truly stepped up when the A-listers went down, and they are Brenden Aaronson, Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Ricardo Pepi, and Walker Zimmerman. While Tyler Adams should really be made team captain and Weston McKennie, when not in trouble, is a clutch player. The USMNT has great talent but needs to cultivate that talent more by playing together, with only two games in November, hopefully we get to see more of these players without so much rotation and nitpicking which the USMNT coach is not good at.
* Bonus take USMNT, stay humble! Don’t get cute and don’t look past our Concacaf opponents, these games are hard and require our best players out there always!