Gregg Berhalter, a former World Cup defender who has routinely led the Columbus crew to the MLS playoffs under unfavorable circumstances, has been hired to train men's rebuilt American national football team.
The US Soccer Federation has announced the move on Sunday and will officially launch it on Tuesday in New York.
Berhalter has been the frontrunner for months, replacing Dave Sarachan, who served more than a year after Bruce Arena resigned after a US team outage for the 2018 World Cup over a year.
It is unclear how many others were eligible for the job. Earnie Stewart, former US team-mate of Berhalter and newly appointed General Manager, said in September that he would speak with many potential candidates, but only interview a few.
The USSF waited more than a year to make a decision for two reasons: The organization underwent a presidential change last winter and stopped Stewart only in the summer. (He started on August 1st.)
Without a World Cup appearance, the United States did not have any consecutive games this year, just a series of friendlies against high-end opponents. The next major competition will take place next summer at the Concacaf Gold Cup.
Berhalter, 45, will conduct his first training camp in Southern California in January with a squad dominated by MLS. (Most European players are not available.)
Berhalter's brother Jay is a senior businessman at the USSF in Chicago. He would not play a role in coaching search, Stewart said in September.
Gregg Berhalter inherits a team at its lowest for decades, after missing the sport's biggest sport for the first time in 32 years.
He has less than two years to complete his plan and advance the qualification process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In his view, Sarachan laid a good foundation for Berhalter by introducing a new generation of players and rebuilding team chemistry. The average age of the last friendly matches against England and Italy was 22 years.
Berhalter is highly regarded for his tactical sharpness and adaptability, his understanding of the US player pool and his experience as a player and coach abroad. He made 44 appearances for the national team and served in 2002 and 2006 in the World Cup team.
The Tenafly, NJ, was a native of the University of North Carolina for three years and had a 15-year career with clubs in the Netherlands, England and Germany before spending three years in the Los Angeles Galaxy, most recently as a player and co-star -Trainer.
He made those experiences – and the Galaxy's bond with the Swedish club Hammarby – a two-year head coaching job for this Scandinavian organization.
Columbus hired him before the 2014 season, the start of four playoff appearances in five years. In addition to coaching, he was the sports director of the crew and commissioned him with the decision of the players.
Despite low pay levels in a small market, the crew made it to the final in 2015 before losing to Portland 2-1 at home.
Since last fall, when chief investor Anthony Precourt announced his intention to relocate the organization to Austin – and then cut back on financial support – the crew has been playing under a cloud. However, the distractions outside the field did not hamper the team that had qualified for the playoffs and in the first round against D.C. United beat before falling to the semi-finals of the New York Red Bulls conference.
Berhalter is not far from being the most successful MLS coach. Atlanta United's MLS Coach of the Year, Gerardo Martino, plays the most attractive football with an expensive squad and Sporting Kansas City's Peter Vermes has won four trophies (one MLS Cup, three US Open Cups), making him the longest in the sport The League employed coaches.
Martino is scheduled to take over the Mexican national team after Atlanta's MLS Cup meeting with Portland Timbers next Saturday. His inability to speak fluent English – a requirement of Stewart – seemed to affect his US chances.
Vermes seems to be happy in his role as MLS both as a coach and technical director for Kansas City. It is not clear if he was approached by the USSF.
Oscar Pareja of FC Dallas allegedly spoke with Stewart about the US job, before he took over the head position at the Mexican club Tijuana.
The federation has turned almost exclusively to American coaches since the mid-1990s. The exception was the German Jurgen Klinsmann, who two years later, after he had led the 2014 World Cup, was released after a poor start to qualifying in 2018.
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