The Risky Return of Gregg Berhalter for the USMNT

The international break is coming up and the USMNT have already announced their roster for its upcoming friendlies against Oman and Uzbekistan. It will also be Gregg Berhalter’s first match back since being renamed head coach of the side. Questions remain as to how the players will react to Berhalter returning following the chaos that occurred late last year?

Gregg Berhalter USMNT Return: Reason for Optimism?

Bad Blood Between Gregg Berhalter and Ricardo Pepi?

Prior to the start of the World Cup in November, Berhalter announced the 26-man roster that would be heading to Qatar, which was without rising star Ricardo Pepi. His decision to bring on Josh Sargent, despite Berhalter backing Pepi, was for the sole reason that Sargent was playing in the English Championship with Norwich, compared to Pepi who was with second tier Dutch side FC Groningen.

“Ricardo was up against Josh [Sargent] and Jesus [Ferreira] and we thought it was valuable that Josh was playing in that competition (the Championship) where two of our opponents are coming from.”

“The Dutch league, I think it’s a great league, but it doesn’t bring the same physicality that the Premier League or the Championship brings. That was something that went into the decision.”

“Ricardo Pepi has had a great run of form and maybe he should be there, and I can understand that, but we have to choose and we chose to bring three strikers and these were the ones we chose.” Said Berhalter prior to the World Cup per
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The good news is Pepi has been named to the upcoming September friendlies, which could mean the riff between the two may have settled.

The other saga with Giovanni Reyna vs Gregg Berhalter has yet to be resolved. In an interview with Vanity Fair, he revealed that he has yet to reach out to Reyna, meaning there is still more to be done to repair their relationship. However, the Dortmund star has been dealing with a foot injury and has yet to play this season.

Chemistry with Current Players

Despite all the controversy, Berhalter has done a great job turning the program around. Since taking over in December of 2018, he’s won 37 matches, losing just 12 times with 11 draws. He led them to a Nations League and Gold Cup title within just a month of each other in 2021. Despite all his success, there is still chemistry that needs to be rebuilt following all the drama surrounding him.

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USMNT captain Christian Pulisic managed to stay away from the Reyna’s/Berhalter drama, though commented on the incident claiming that it seemed “childish” and “youth soccer” to see “people complaining about playing time” and saying “Gregg has been extremely unfortunate to get into the position he is now” per the Athletic.

Berhalter and the team would like to leave all the drama in the past and start fresh, picking up from where they left off. During B.J Callaghan’s time as the interim coach, he led them to back-to-back Nations League titles with two thrashing victories over rivals Mexico and Canada. This win jumps them up to 11th in the latest FIFA rankings, less than 30 points from 10th place Spain.

USMNT Players’ Success

On top of everything else, this transfer window has also been a huge success for the top USMNT players:

  • Timothy Weah signed a five-year deal with Juventus from Lille
  •  Ricard Pepi completes a transfer to PSV from FC Groningen while on loan with Augsburg
  • Christian Pulisic transferred to AC Milan from Chelsea
  • Tyler Adams moved from Leeds to Bournemouth on a five-year deal after the Chelsea deal collapse
  • Matt Turner left Arsenal to join Nottingham Forest on a four-year deal
  • Yunas Musah joined Pulisic at AC Milan after agreeing to a five-year deal from Valencia
  • Folarin Balogun made the move to AS Monaco from Arsenal
  • Brenden Aaronson has joined Union Berlin on loan from Leeds Union for the season

Berhalter Not a Fan Favorite

USMNT have not been very friendly with Berhalter, especially after the announcement of his return to the team. The biggest concern is why the United States Soccer Federation would choose to keep Berhalter and not chase after a coach with a higher pedigree, since the team is potentially ready to face tougher challengers at the international level.

Luis Enrique, Patrick Vieira, Hugo Perez, Jesse Marsch and Pellegrino Matarazzo were all coaches that the USSF could have considered as the new leader for the team, with all of them having experience of coaching at the highest level at European clubs and national team level. Instead, they chose to keep Berhalter. The fans have also not been happy with the fact that he has failed to reach out to Reyna yet to repair their relationship, with fans fearing that he may not rejoin the national team while he is in charge.

Then there is the obvious sexual assault scandal surrounding him that was leaked by former teammate Claudio Reyna, Gio Reyna’s father. Nonetheless, this causes fans to second guess his leadership while questioning if he is the right choice to continue to lead the program. This means that he will have to try extra hard to win the trust of the fans, with all the pressure on him in the next two months to see how they perform in their upcoming friendly matches.

Confirmed Upcoming USMNT Fixtures for 2023

USMNT vs Uzbekistan Sep 9 in St. Louis, MO

USMNT vs Oman Sept 12 in St. Paul, MN

USMNT vs Germany Oct 14 in East Hertfort, CT

UMSNT vs Ghana Oct 17 in Nashville, TN

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