USA coach Greg Berhalter silenced detractors at the World Cup, but his biggest test is next: Iran

AL KHOR, Qatar – The collective, fierce hatred of Greg Berhalter among American football fans is a phenomenon whose roots are difficult to trace.

Criticism has haunted Berhalter since American Football, which for two decades employed his brother as a senior executive, He contracted with him in late 2018 to become the head coach of the United States men’s national team.

It’s been fueled by MLS haters, but some have backed it Really rotten USMNT shows, and some bizarre decisions and a very idealistic approach. It’s always been hard to gauge the extent of that, but like World Cup 2022 He got closer, threatened to go mainstream.

But she’s not part of the narrative trailing the USMNT after two group games in Qatar. Because Berhalter, after months of obsessive preparation, is almost all right.

He orchestrated two game plans that allowed the USMNT to do so He pounced on Wells And the England. He showed an adaptability and a pragmatic streak that many pundits believed he lacked. He made some bold but logical calls that set his team up In a position that stuns one of the favorites in the World Cup. It’s been done in the first place By his players’ inability to execute at vital unscripted moments.

However, he knows that an even greater challenge lies ahead. He knows he will be judged by the masses based on his ability to chart the course After passing a stopped Iranian bus in the Group B final on Tuesday. He now has three days to implement a 90-minute improvement plan that will generate moderate success or unequivocal failure.

And that, he knows, is what he “signed up for,” as he said here on Thursday. “This is the job for us. The way I look at it is an opportunity.”

USMNT’s most polarizing man, Greg Berhalter, has devised game plans that keep the U.S. winning away from advancing in the 2022 World Cup. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Berhalter proves he’s ready to adapt

The main criticism of Berhalter, from the rational factions of the fan base at least, has been for years that he was an ideologue and stubborn system coach who refused to mold his tactics to suit his staff.

You have Jordan Bivoc has never given a legitimate look at an attacker, for example, even when Bivoc scored regularly in the most important European competitions, because he did not fit the “player profile” required for Berhalter. He froze Team Ream for a year even as Ream started incessantly in England’s two biggest leagues when needed.

But when the time came this month to stop building and start winning, Berhalter deprioritized the “men of order.” He chose a roster and line-up based partly on form, partly on established quality, and partly on Group B opponents; And he modified what many think of as his “system” to make it a World Cup hum.

Within 180 minutes, the USMNT has played at least three distinct styles here in Qatar. He. She He took control of the first half against Wales With possession, he broke through the dense Welsh defense to take a half-time lead. Over the course of the second 45 minutes on Monday, he absorbed the pressure and played in transition, and Really should have scored a second to kill the game.

Berhalter has prepared them to do all of these things. Then, on Thursday, the day before the England game, according to the players, he outlined a very different approach. And captain Tyler Adams said they had previously had no idea Berhalter would go into an adaptive 4-4-2 against England. “This is the coach’s decision. He does the analysis.”

When asked about the form and where it came from, McKinney said: “Oh, that form, you should probably ask Greg. … I mean, obviously, the coaching staff analyze opponents, and we just stick to the plan.”

“But it obviously worked,” McKinney said.

Berhalter Innovations v England

Players have believed and done most of what Berhalter approved Tactics manthrew them. On Friday, it was a 4-4-2 defensive block whose goal, essentially, was to close the central channels from the top of the formation. she was Immediately noticeableIn the first minute of the match. Tim Weah and Haji Wright worked tirelessly to pressure England’s central defence, but also to parachute defensive midfielder Declan Rice – allowing Adams and Younes Moussa to tackle Judd Bellingham and Mason Mount, and preventing England from building through their midfield pivot.

“They did an incredible job tonight,” Adams said of the American forwards. “I mean, the amount of running Pilgrim did—I almost feel bad for him, man. A striker should never have done that. But he ran his ass.”

England found early paths into the penalty area down the left of the United States, but after 15 minutes the United States settled into the unfamiliar form and “defended incredibly well”, said England coach Gareth Southgate. “The front six makes it very difficult to play and defend.”

They even adapted to England alternating between a single and a dual pivot in possession. “And throughout the game, we switched it up a little bit just to keep giving them a different look,” Berhalter said. He occasionally triggered adjustments with shouts and hand gestures from the sideline.

Meanwhile, Berhalter also saw something in England that could be exploited in attack. “It was something we saw during their defense in the last game, and we wanted to play a role in that, crunching three times into the right side of the field,” he explained. Weston McKinney, a central midfielder, drove the right wing up and down to weigh down the England left side. He, Serginho Dest and Tim Weah forced either Raheem Sterling or Mount, two mainly attacking English players, to defend.

McKinney, in this modified role, was the best player on the field in the first half. The USA also went ahead from a 4-2-2-2 (or unbalanced 3-2-2-3) through Moses and Christian Pulisic, creating the best chance of the match at the end of a series of 15 passes. Nine out of 11 players touched the ball.

They also switched between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 without the ball, in part to get Pulisic higher as a counter-attacking outlet. “We wanted to hit them in an offensive transition, and I think we gave them some trouble with that,” Berhalter said.

For the better part of 70 minutes, the plan jammed, until legs tired and English subs broke down, and the match was virtually stopped.

Berhalter’s only mistake on Friday was not going for the win more aggressively. The draw actually lowered the probability of a USMNT advancing out of Pool B, compared to before the match. there was Very little difference between a tie and a loss.

But the United States created enough to win the game. It sure defended well enough. And this was all by design. It was awesome. And that was intentional.

“We wanted to make it compact, we wanted to work from a compressed block at the beginning of the game,” Berhalter said. They did that, and so much more.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B - England - United States - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - November 25, 2022 United States coach Greg Berhalter with Christian Pulisic after the match REUTERS/Paul Childs

United States coach Greg Berhalter and Christian Pulisic after the tie with England. (Reuters/Paul Childs)

The “jamming” of Iran is the ultimate test

Their problem now is an opponent who can and will make Tuesday’s second set tie tighter than the United States played against England on Friday. And Berhalter’s USMNT will have to do what they often find difficult.

Throughout his first year in charge, Berhalter spoke perfectly of “jamming the opponent with the ball,” ironically the one thing his team often failed to do.

they have controlled Matches with and without the ball. They pressed the teams hard and won the second balls. They backed up a once-leaky defense. But they scored just four goals in nine matches in 2022 against opponents of World Cup caliber, and struggled just as hard against mediocre opponents as they did against top-tier opponents.

They struggled against low blocks, and that is exactly what Iran will build on Tuesday. This is what Iran often builds, regardless of the situation. But it will be especially strong with a stretch The USMNT needs to winThe Iranians only need a draw to reach the round of 16.

And so, at the end of four wonderful years, comes the Berhalter’s final exam – perhaps the first in a few years, and perhaps the only one. Will he go to Jesus Ferreira up front? Will he play with Gio Reina from the start, perhaps in place of Younes Moussa, whose midfield advance might be superfluous? What wrinkle will he cook this time?

For everyone Confusion and fan dismay about RinaBerhalter’s first two compositions were later uncontroversial. The plans succeeded. Big appeals – most notably, bringing in Ream from the cold weather to shore up the defence – have paid off. The lack of goals and victories is not his fault.

But Tuesday requires an entirely different set of decisions, structures, choreographed moves, and possibly players. If they do not yield three points, Berhalter may lose his job, and all his good deeds will be forgotten, whether justly or unfairly.

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