What the 2019 Gold Cup means for Berhalter and the USMNT
By Alfredo Banegas (@alfredobanegas_)
Here we are on the afternoon before the start of Gregg Berhalter’s biggest test as USMNT head coach thus far; the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Coming off the back of two abysmal performances against Jamaica and Venezuela, who were also preparing for big tournaments themselves, it is starting to raise concerns about Berhalter as a coach and the squad he’s picked for this year’s Gold Cup.
Gregg Berhalter came into his new position in January of this year focused on bringing a new style of play based around possession and attacking, something the national team desperately needed, and following the two January camp games there was a lot of optimism. The USMNT tore Panama’s defense down while posing a real attacking threat in a 3-0 win and followed that up with a 2-0 win against Costa Rica where they were on top in possession and had double the amount of shots the Ticos did. That’s the thing; however, it was just January camp. The USMNT put together two decent games against Ecuador and Chile in March, winning 1-0 and drawing 1-1 respectively, but the real excitement was coming in the summer when we would see Berhalter with a full-strength U.S. team (or so we thought). Surely the times of Michael Bradley spearheading our midfield and Omar Gonzalez starting in our backline were behind us right? I guess having them on the roster as the veterans to steer the young guys wouldn’t kill us. However, Omar Gonzalez not breaking down a simple entry pass into Guyana’s attacking third and allowing them to slot one past Zack Steffen will probably kill us. Leaving Josh Sargent off the squad was another move that was definitely not popular with the USMNT faithful; as well as sticking with his Crew players Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes. The squad overall just looks very underwhelming with a quite a few players from the January camp still in the fold; which is rare to see that many players still be around for the Gold Cup. This isn’t all on Berhalter as there were many key injuries that were out of his control; namely Deandre Yedlin, John Brooks, and Tyler Adams. Regardless, the pressure is still on for Berhalter on his guys. It doesn’t matter who this team calls up; they should be brush aside CONCACAF giants* like Trinidad and Tobago (haha) and Panama.
Berhalter’s grace period with USMNT fans ended the moment that half-time whistle blew last Sunday and they were down 3-0 to Venezuela, and you can image what will go his way if this team fails to at least make the final. This Gold Cup should not be the deciding factor on whether he keeps the job or not, nor am I calling for him to get the boot after less than a year and no real game time with a full-strength side, but there hasn’t been any real reason for optimism yet and Berhalter needs this team to go into the Gold Cup with a chip on their shoulder. He has something to prove especially to the many that questioned this hire from the start. The United States open their 2019 Gold Cup campaign against Guyana at 10 PM ET in Saint Paul, Minnesota.