Reflecting on past and present USMNT coaching decisions

Bradley Piros, Sports Editor

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It’s no secret that the U.S. Men’s National Team has struggled since failing to make the 2018 World Cup. Many people blame the talent on the field, and that’s part of it, but in the end it has come down to the horrific coaching. Ever since the absence of Bob Bradley who coached from 2006-2011, the USMNT has failed to show any signs of consistency.

Bradley, who now coaches the LAFC (Los Angeles Football Club), posted a 43-12-25 (W-D-L) record after 80 games behind the U.S. bench. He coached the team during the 2010 FIFA World Cup where the U.S. won their group that included England, Algeria and Slovenia, by no means a difficult group. They then fell out in the Round of 16 to Ghana 2-1. Bradley did however coach the team to a Gold Cup in 2007 when the U.S. beat Mexico 2-1 with a penalty scored by Landon Donovan.

Following him was Jürgen Klinsmann who took over from 2011-2016. He coached the team to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The U.S. was placed in Group G with Portugal, Germany and the team that knocked them out in the 2010 World Cup, Ghana. Many people were calling this the “Group of Death” and it really was. No one expected the U.S. team to make it past the group stage.

In the end, the team did barely enough to get in after beating Ghana 2-1, tying Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal 2-2 and losing to Germany 1-0. They finished tied for second in the group with Portugal each with four points, but the U.S. went through on goal differential after Germany destroyed Portugal 4-0. Everything went right, and somehow the U.S. found themselves in the Round of 16 again.

This time around their opponent would be Belgium. Led by Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku on the attack, this was never going to be a walk in the park. The game was tied 0-0 after 90 minutes, with every American sitting on the edge of their seats. I sat watching as the team headed into extra time. De Bruyne scored in the 93rd minute to take the 1-0 lead, and then Lukaku doubled it in the 105th minute. Julian Green gave the U.S. hope after cutting the deficit in half only two minutes later but it proved to be too little, too late as Belgium took the win 2-1 and moved on to the quarterfinals.

It was a valiant effort and Klinsmann did everything he could, but he was sacked and Bruce Area was brought back. He took the team to the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups. In 2002 the team finished second in Group D behind South Korea and in front of Portugal and Poland. The U.S. beat Mexico 2-0 but then lost to Germany 1-0 in the quarterfinals. In 2006 the team finished last in Group E behind Italy, Ghana and Czech Republic and failed to make it to the Round of 16. He won Gold Cups in 2002 and 2005.

People, including myself, were intrigued to see him back because he’s gotten us far before. But this time around his efforts can go down in the worst coaching performances in USMNT history. He was re-appointed as head coach on November 22, 2016 after Klinsmann had a rocky start in the first round of FIFA World Cup Qualifying matches. He lost to Mexico 2-1 and to Costa Rica 4-0. With those results, Klinsmann was out and Arena was back in.

Arena showed promise after turning the team around to beat Honduras 6-0 in the next round of World Cup Qualifying after tying his debut 0-0 to Serbia. He really seemed to be taking charge and even led the team to another Gold Cup in the summer of 2017 after beating Jamaica 2-1 in the final.

After what seemed to be a promising road to the World Cup, everything came crashing down in the final round of qualifiers. The U.S. lost to Costa Rica 2-0 and then tied Honduras 1-1. They turned themselves around to beat Panama 4-0 and all of a sudden it was down to the qualifying match. All they had to do was tie Trinidad and Tobago, but instead they lost 2-1 and missed out on the World Cup for the first time since the 1990.

Arena realized his failure, and resigned only three days after the loss. On came Dave Sarachan to clean up the mess that Klinsmann and Arena made. Sarachan went 3-4-5 in his short time with the team while the U.S. looked for a long-term solution.

That solution was found on Dec. 3, 2018 in Gregg Berhalter. Former coach of Columbus Crew SC and former player for the LA Galaxy, this guy has been around the game.

His first test behind the bench was a friendly against Panama. His side won 4-0. They beat Costa Rica 2-0 and Ecuador 1-0. Last time out the U.S. tied Chile 1-1 to keep Berhalter undefeated since joining the team. Is it too early to call? Absolutely. But he sure looks promising at the moment.

Not much is known about the 2022 FIFA World Cup yet, other than that Qatar has an automatic bid. There are still rumors that the tournament will be moved to the fall to compensate for the brutally hot summers in the Middle East. Qualifying dates haven’t yet been confirmed.

Berhalter’s first real test will be the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The tournament will be it’s 15th edition and will be held in 16 host cities across the U.S. The tournament is set to run from June 15-July 7.

The USMNT is a young team, a very young team, with an average age of only 26-years-old. It’s currently holstered with some experience in midfielder Michael Bradley. He played in every minute in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and has been the backbone in midfield for the team. With the leaving of fan favorite goalkeeper Tim Howard, the USMNT had to move onto Sean Johnson from New York City FC and Jesse Gonzalez from FC Dallas.

Up front they depend on 21-year-old Christian Pulisic and 24-year-old Jordan Morris. These guys are the future of the team’s attack, and you can’t win if you don’t score goals.

There’s a long way between now and the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and anything can happen. Let’s just hope Berhalter can guide this young team back to the tournament and perhaps make a deep run.

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