U.S. players support Gregg Berhalter’s return as coach

DOHA, Qatar — Gregg Berhalter’s players backed the United States coach to carry on leading the national team in the wake of its World Cup exit on Saturday.

“I would love for him to stay, but that is out of my control,” USA forward Jesus Ferreira told me. “That’s going to be on him and whoever is in charge of that.”

Berhalter matched the round of 16 performances managed by Bob Bradley’s side in 2010 and Jurgen Klinsmann in 2014 and did so with the second-youngest team in the tournament. But the country is still waiting for its first quarterfinal appearance since 2002, and the Netherlands‘ dominant 3-1 victory led to some public discontent in the soccer community.

Gregg Berhalter encouraged for future

Gregg Berhalter said the loss to the Netherlands was “not for a lack of trying, not for a lack of effort.”

With the World Cup campaign over for the USA, Berhalter’s contract is up, and he was non-committal on his future, even though a U.S. Soccer source told FOX Sports’ Doug McIntyre that preliminary talks over a new deal have already taken place.

“For the last month, month-and-a-half I have just been fully focused on the World Cup,” Berhalter said. “I’ve been focused on achieving things with this group. Over the next couple of weeks, I will clear my head. I will sit down, and I will think about what’s next.”

Berhalter is likely to have some options if a new deal is not struck, as there is demand in European club circles for coaches who have a proven track record of developing young talent. The reputation of American coaches in general has also lifted, with Jesse Marsch currently in charge of Leeds United in the English Premier League.

In international soccer, it is relatively rare for coaches to stay with a team for multiple cycles. Whatever the haters on social media and elsewhere think, it quickly became clear Berhalter has the backing of his players.

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Central defender Tim Ream gave little credence to the criticism, much of which centered on Berhalter’s tactics, and instead insisted the 49-year-old should get more credit for the way he turned an inexperienced group of players into a tight unit.

“I just think as a group top to bottom, management down, it was very unified,” Ream said. “That what people need to see. Forget everything else.” 

The topic of Berhalter’s future was a difficult one for many players to process. The coach was relentless in trying to create a positive environment for his squad and to build as much communal friendship and spirit as possible. 

The verdict on his overall achievement is tricky — getting out of the group was vital and proved to be no easy task — but a big audience back home wished for much more against the Dutch.

“To talk about it so soon afterward is an emotional moment for the group, including Gregg,” reserve goalkeeper Sean Johnson told me. “All those things will be ironed out. Ultimately, I think he has done a fantastic job, and obviously if he chooses to continue and all things align, fantastic for the group.” 

Bradley was criticized after the defeat to Ghana in the 2010 round of 16, even after Landon Donovan’s famous goal against Algeria and winning a group that also included England, but retained his job until a defeat to Mexico in the following year’s Gold Cup.

Klinsmann carried on after the USA lost to Belgium in extra-time in 2014, only to be fired following a dismal start to the 2018 qualifying campaign — which ultimately ended in failure to reach the World Cup after Bruce Arena took temporary charge.

“I think Gregg has done an unbelievable job since he has come in,” winger Jordan Morris said. “You see the progress over the last four years. He is an incredible manager and we are lucky to have him.”

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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