After Venezuela debacle, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter isn't ready to scrap plans

The U.S. men's national team suffered its second straight loss under new coach Gregg Berhalter, a 3-0 defeat to Venezuela that ranks as one of the worst home performances in recent memory.

USA-Venezuela: U.S. Player Ratings

Three goals within the first 36 minutes gave La Vinotinto its first win over the USA in six meetings. The match was the final tuneup for the USA before the Gold Cup, which starts on June 18 against Guyana. It followed a 1-0 loss to Jamaica after which Berhalter guaranteed there would be more poor performances when he was the coach.

After Sunday's disaster, Berhalter said he wasn't about the make any changes in the team's system.

"I think we need to be calm," Berhalter said. "I think we need to look at the game, look at what we need to improve on, and then set out to do it. It's really tough after a result like this and start making excuses. I don't really want to do that. But what I'd say is we're still getting guys where they need to be, and we're not there yet, and that's pretty clear. So we're going to keep working on it."



After conceding a poor goal and rarely getting in dangerous positions against Jamaica, Berhalter was looking for more out of his attack.

"We talked about wanting to be more aggressive," he said, "wanted to get behind them, wanted to get balls into their penalty box. I think to a certain extent we did that really well."

The problems came at the defensive end, where the USA conceded three goals in 20 minutes.

"We gave up the goals," he said. "I didn't love the response. And the second thing, I don't feel like for 90 minutes we competed on the level that we needed to compete on; the mentality. I'm understanding that it's hot, I'm understanding that guys some have been playing 90 minutes every week for the last month, some have been on vacation and we're getting everyone to where they need to be. But you still want more competitiveness, I think. It starts with putting guys in good positions to be able to make tackles and to do in on duels."

U.S. Gold Cup Schedule:
June 18: Guyana at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minn.
June 22: Trinidad & Tobago at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio
June 26: Panama at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.
June 30: Quarterfinal (if necessary) at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa.
July 3: Semifinal (if necessary) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.
July 7: Final (if necessary) at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.

Berhalter said the problem came when the USA fell behind and it started to chase the game. He didn't like the high press, saying it lacked the coordination and numbers to be effective.

"The guys worked hard," he added. "They gave what they had. They came up short. And it doesn't mean that we're going to scrap all the plans. We're always evaluating, we're always seeing how effective we can be, and where we need to improve. And we're just going to continue that process. I thought defensively at times our defensive pressure was poor today, and again we conceded some not great goals."

Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

22 comments about "After Venezuela debacle, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter isn't ready to scrap plans".
  1. Leo Strine, June 10, 2019 at 8:42 a.m.

    The team is not a team.   It looked like they had never played together.   And the reason is the simple fact that they haven't played together on any consistent basis.   We have been playing anyone who seemed to show up or be asked to play.   To become a team, you must play together regularly.   We don't have a team, we have a group of fine players who come together occasionally but that won't get it done.   And that must be blamed on the management.

  2. Gary Levitt, June 10, 2019 at 9:24 a.m.

    Leo, it is not so much different than other national teams.  Players get called in, some in the middle of their season, some European-based who have been taking some time off.  I did not like what I watched yesterday...but with that said this is the time in the WC cycle to challenge the player pool and evaluate who the top 30 players are so when the time comes, you have the best 23 avaliable and ready to go.  The Gold Cup is relatively important but for the U.S. I believe it is just part of the preparation for WC qualifying.  No excuses, we were bad in the back yesterday with poor finishing.  We did get forward, pressed at the right and wrong times, and got exposed at the back.  Better now than during WC qualifying.  Just my take.   

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, June 10, 2019 at 5:42 p.m.

    Fitness raises its ugly head at the 60 minute mark, not in the first minute of play.

    Pre-season you expect execution to be off, but it is not an excuse for making bad decisions. Players don't suddenly get stupid when they take a break.

    What concerns me is the ineffective and unorganized play. There is nothing in these last two games to build on. On top of that these 2 matches are a nightmare as far as mental preparation for the Gold Cup.

  4. frank schoon, June 10, 2019 at 11:09 a.m.

    Gold Cup...did you guys see the teams they are playing...that's  a joke... Just play Venezuela three times in scrimmages....

  5. Nick Gabris, June 10, 2019 at 11:21 a.m.

    Same old, same old....send in the U20's. at least they are more enjoyable to watch.

  6. Ben Myers replied, June 10, 2019 at 1:48 p.m.

    Berhalter is relying too much on MLS players, some of whom, like Bradley and Altidore, have shown year after year that they are not even close to world class.  But, it is what he knows, having been a part of MLS for so long.  MLS is not and cannot be the prime incubator for USMNT talent.  The standard of play is way too low.  And this is exactly why Berhalter is not a good choice to coach USMNT.

  7. Ginger Peeler, June 10, 2019 at 11:42 a.m.

    GB mentioned duels?  I don’t remember seeing a single one-on-one in the first half, much less two-and-three-on-ones. Rather than making any attempt to move forward, they passed back to to the USA’s side of the field. That, or they’d kick it up the field where it would, inevitably end up in Venezuela’s possession. Berhalter’s remarks indicate that he may just double down, as if he found the USA’s performance perfectly understandable. I don’t see it, although I know a lot of those players on the field are more than capable of playing good (I didn’t say great) soccer. So were they told to hold back and just play kickball in the hopes that the USA would receive it at least half of the time and  then score enough goals to win? Did it really require 1-1/2 years for US Soccer to find a coach with that mindset? Of course there should be some improvement when the last 3 guys rejoin the team. And Pulisic will immediately become a target and will be flattened continuously, just as used to happen to Clint Dempsey. 

  8. Jesse Martinez, June 10, 2019 at 12:11 p.m.

    WHOA naysayers.... chill out! Gary, you got it right. Coach and staff know what they are doing. Patience. The Gold Cup is not so important and is part of getting prepared for the WC qualifying. That's what "friendlies" are for. 

  9. Ginger Peeler replied, June 10, 2019 at 6:36 p.m.

     It was implied to us, as fans, that US Soccer wanted to use Josh in the Gold Cup, rather than choosing him for the U20 World Cup team. A Gold Cup win was more important than the U20 World Cup. And then Berhalter took Jozy, who hasn’t played for a year and a half, while implying that Josh needed more seasoning and time on the field! Then he said Gyasi beat Josh out as the second forward. Where does that leave Morris? I’ve been following this team for over 40 years; we’ve had some good coaches and some who failed miserably. I sincerely hope Berhalter can pull it together, but feel it’s highly unlikely. I rarely take the negative view, but am not seeing anything positive right now. Have we chosen another coach who sees team bonding as the first, most important aspect of a winning team?

  10. beautiful game, June 10, 2019 at 12:13 p.m.

    Ugly; and keep hearing the same excuses. There are no excuses, This NT performance speaks volumes of low Soccer IQ.

  11. Chris Lipscomb, June 10, 2019 at 5 p.m.

    How can you scratch the striker who was playing the best and play a formation with only one striker on top of that and expect more out of your attack?  Really, you stacked the back and still lost 3-0 because you invited them to your half of the field (due to no attacking line up whatsoever).  This what to expect actually (I know I did when I saw the lineup and formation).

    Hold each player/position accountable and play a real formation.  Conditioning and speed are suspect as well, comparatively speaking.

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, June 10, 2019 at 5:46 p.m.

    Soccer tactics is not "formations". Tactics are the movements and decisions made by the players. Changing the "formation" will do nothing to improve the situation. 

  13. Seth Vieux replied, June 11, 2019 at 6:54 p.m.

    Bob I've read enough of your comments over the years to know you're far more intelligent than that. Formation =/= Tactics, but the formation and shape the coach chooses are certainly directly related to the passing patterns, type and emphasis of attacking/pressing/defending, and areas of the pitch the team wants to dominate. So yeah, sure formation doesn't =/= tactics but sure discussing the formation employed and the on field results isn't crazy.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, June 12, 2019 at 8:43 p.m.

    I have organized a 433 system in many, many different ways. I can also adjust it to play like any other "formation". I dislike the term "formation" and use the term "system of play", thinking of it as just a tool that makes it easier for the players to combine together successfully, not a straightjacket.

    I am old enough to have played 235 and 424. In the 235 the team defended man to man and the wingers were responsible for marking the opposing winger. All 10 field players had a marking responsibility. In the 424 backs and forwards would change lines to adjust the team shape during the run of play. There was never only 2 players in the midfield line. Soccer has always been a dynamic game.

    I always hated playing a 442 because invaribly an amateur coach who picked a 442 wanted the team to march up and down the field in the 442 shape. In the 1980s I saw college teams doing that. Myself, I always saw positions as roles rather than spots on the field.

  15. Kevin Leahy, June 10, 2019 at 5:32 p.m.

    We can continue to talk about MLS being inferior but, the truth is, most of CONCACAF is getting stronger because of MLS. Competition should be the rule of the day for any player that, aspires to bigger things. The Gold Cup should provide the competition needed to get rid of most of the pretenders. If Sargent is the future, why isn't he there to work with the other players that are part of that process since he was excluded from the other oppurtunity for his development this summer?

  16. Wooden Ships replied, June 11, 2019 at 1:11 a.m.

    He blew it with Sargent, plain and simple. Inexcusable in my book.

  17. frank schoon replied, June 11, 2019 at 12:41 p.m.

    Ships, considering the teams the US will play ,are a joke, it could give Sargent a chance to look good. Having seen how bad the US looked against Venezuela, maybe it was just as well Sargent wasn't part of this debacle for it saved Sargent from any negative criticism 

  18. Wooden Ships replied, June 11, 2019 at 2:23 p.m.

    I see that side of it too Frank. Berhalter blew in that he didn’t include Sargent for either team, Gold Cup or U-20’s. Additionally, he’s a nimrod for thinking either of the forwards he kept for the Gold Cup are better, reminds me that he was a defender. JS is already more of a finished product. You and I were both strikers, Josh has a similar style and mindset. I just hope his instincts aren’t coached out of him. 

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, June 11, 2019 at 3:56 p.m.

    In addition the 2 strikers Berhalter kept essentially play the same way. Neither have the close control and accuracy for possession style and neither are dangerous with back to goal. At least I don't see it.

  20. frank schoon replied, June 11, 2019 at 4 p.m.

    Yeah, that worries me too. I was never happy with GB for he is a defender and his view of the game is so different as compared to one who  played offense like us or as an attacking midfielder. We have way too many coaches who are defender types and that certainly does not help player creativity for these defender types are more conservative, more into organization and structure. I'm beginning to believe that one of several reasons but not the reason that we  having produced such a lack great attacking players in the past 50 years. 
    We need a national coach(es) to run to the team. Can you imagine Valderama and Cubillas teaming together, for example,  to teach our boys the finer things of the game....I mean , what can GB teach Pulisic or any good player, for GB spend his playing days chasing the heels of attackers...Sorry but that's how I look at it. We need a higher level type of coach(es), a la De Boer
    I just quit watching the USWNT play Thailand after 40min. I've seen enough. Likewise I feel we need the women to play a higher level type of game and can only be done with a top notch coach. Ellis is just skating...not impressed with her coaching

  21. Seth Vieux replied, June 11, 2019 at 7:24 p.m.

    Bob do you really see Altidore and Zardes as the same player? While Altidore leaves a lot to be desired, he has shown during his career that he is at least somewhat able to find the space between lines and play off of/to midfielders and other attackers. In the debacle against Venezuela I thought he was the lone 'almost bright spot' as he at least provided some hold up play that got us into the attacking third (for either awful service or embarrassing finishing). Again I'm not trying to sing his praises, I wish his technical level and touch were better, but surely he's no Zardes with the technical level and first touch that would drive a decent U15 coach mad. He has only the athleticism and work rate, which at least he has that as so many other players in this pool seem not to, but no technical ability, no 1v1 skill, no vision, and on and on. From the available player pool I see Altidore is probably not a stretch as the second best striker behind Sargent. Who else would you have join Sargent for GC? On a somewhat related note, I don't think it's crazy to include Bradley considering the play we've seen from the other CMs. And just a question...do we have a midfielder in the entire player pool who has confidence to shoot when absolutely uncontested from 25-30 yards? At least 4 times in the second half Venezuela gave zero pressure to a CM attacking off the dribble toward the top of the box and each time the ball laid off too deep and wide right for ineffective crosses when there was potential for either a good shot or courage to attack through the middle a man up. Oh to have a Ramos or Reyna or Dempsey or Harkes or even Mathis. 

  22. Bob Ashpole replied, June 12, 2019 at 8:53 p.m.

    Seth I said that they played the same way. I didn't say that Zardes was as good as Altidore.

    I thought that Zardes was getting so much time at the number 9 position during friendlies in Altidore's absence because he was a "stand in" for Altidore. I am very surprised to hear any coach say that he is actually no. 2 in the depth chart at the No. 9 position.

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