Gregg Berhalter: Current USMNT players are at a different level

Watching Americans break through at teams like Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig and now Juventus and soon Barcelona, Gregg Berhalter can't help be impressed by how much times have changed.

In his 15-year European playing career, the U.S. national team coach played at Zwolle, Sparta Rotterdam and Cambuur Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, Crystal Palace in England and Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich in Germany, not exactly the elite of European soccer.

But he was good enough to start the two knockout games for the USA on its run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup. Key players on the 2002 U.S. team played on European teams -- Claudio Reyna (Sunderland), Brad Friedel (Blackburn Rovers), John O'Brien (Ajax) and Tony Sanneh (Nuremberg) -- but nothing like the current crop of young players.

“When we used to play, you line up against [superstars like Francesco] Totti or Ronaldo or Christian Vieri, you want their uniforms after the game,” Berhalter told SiriusXM FC this week. “Now we have guys playing with these guys. They go back to the same club as these guys. It’s a different level. Now our job is to bring these guys together and get the most out of them.”

What stands out for Berhalter is how players like Christian Pulisic at Chelsea and now Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund have stepped up at big clubs.

“You look at Christian, it’s become very clear within the last year how he can make the biggest impact. And I think Gio is in the same boat,” he said. “What I like about him is his ability to score goals, I like his physicality, he’s very fluid on the ball, good turning in the pockets. So there’s a lot of positive things to his performances. Now it’s about a couple things: can he continue that on and can he see this as an opportunity to just keep getting better instead of just maintaining status quo. Can he keep improving?”

Berhalter also pointed to Weston McKennie, who stepped right into the Juventus starting lineup after his transfer from Schalke 04 and had a big impact on the team in its season-opening 3-0 win over Sampdoria.

“Just the dynamic that he’s able to play with, even at that level," he told hosts Brian Dunseth and Tony Meola, "it looks like almost a different level to everyone else there in terms of his speed and his strength that he’s playing with."

13 comments about "Gregg Berhalter: Current USMNT players are at a different level".
  1. Bob Ashpole, September 27, 2020 at 10:10 a.m.

    Does anybody see the coach praising 3 players with no mention of the rest of the pool as wise or helpful?

    I hope that he isn't trying to build a team around only these 3 players, because the first question becomes what is Plan B when they are unavailable? I have dealt with groups of people for decades and this tactless approach interferes with group cohesion. Our current 433 system requires a keeper, 4 flank players and 6 central playes, just to field a starting lineup. Then there are the 12 on the bench and the necessary depth in the pool. 

  2. R2 Dad replied, September 27, 2020 at 12:08 p.m.

    That is the problem with these shorter clips. I don't know the context,  SoccerAmerica editors just looking for a bite-sized article and this is what is selected. I'm not a fan of GB but I think it's hard to engage modern media always couching terms so no one gets their feelings hurt. Are the Sirius interviewers asking about MLS stiffs as much as they are CP/Gio/WM? Is GB supposed to interject "...but don't forget my MLS guys" every other sentence? You're correct about team cohesion, but I don't know how this can always be avoided.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, September 28, 2020 at 12:52 a.m.

    It is avoided by having right of approval on the content of the article.

  4. John Polis, September 27, 2020 at 1:13 p.m.

    I like the trend but let's be reminded that it goes without saying that real progress with the quality of our national team is still to be proven in international play. Not only that but our manager, still a relative newcomer as a national team coach, in my view has still a lot to prove to show that his selection was the right move by US Soccer. 

  5. Seth Vieux replied, September 28, 2020 at 2:29 p.m.

    Spot on. There's no doubt he's going to have a quality in the player pool that no previous USMNT coach has enjoyed, if he can't get results with this crew he certainly hasn't earned a long leash.

  6. Larry Chen, September 27, 2020 at 2:47 p.m.

    How much credit does Klingsmann deserve?

  7. Mark Buckley replied, September 27, 2020 at 4:22 p.m.


  8. Kent James, September 27, 2020 at 7:47 p.m.

    I think he's comparing these young players (as a group, not just the 3 mentioned) to the group of players he played with back in the day, not these 3 players to the rest of the young cohort.  Politically it may not be smart ("if you have all these great players, why aren't you doing better...must be the coach"), but I think GB is just saying he's impressed with the level of talent in the current pool, and I think he's right.

  9. Alan Blackledge, September 27, 2020 at 7:59 p.m.


  10. Ginger Peeler, September 27, 2020 at 8:50 p.m.

    Who is Berhalter addressing?  Why are Tony Meola and Brian Dunseth his "hosts"?  After all, those guys already know all that stuff, as do those of us who follow Soccer America. What about our home grown young men from the U18 and U20 US national teams? What does Tab Ramos have to say about our home grown talent?  After all his years working with our young guys, I doubt that coaching an MLS team occupies all of his time. As a coach for our young men for many years, what/who does he see stepping up? Can't Berhalter actually tell us what players he's considering and what they bring to the table?

  11. humble 1, September 28, 2020 at 12:49 p.m.

    What are you guys complaining about.  The headline is correct. These players are playing a notch or two above GB and his cohort.  GB takes the batton and says - it's up to me to get more from them.  What more do you want.  All of the players he talks about are U23 - so they are the the young players.  The rest of the U23s that are not on the MNT have to focus on their incremental goals for their club career and the YNT or U23 (Olympics) that they are selected for.  It's pretty simple.  Greg was on with Tony and Duny, I gave it a listen, it was a good interview and SA grabs a quote from that show.  It's all good.  I like that GB does not dodge the fact that he's got some world class club players and it's on him to translate that into performance for the MNT.   Have a great day! 

  12. Wooden Ships replied, September 28, 2020 at 3:12 p.m.

    I listened to the interview too. I'm not sure how convinced he is regarding all the players we have now playing abroad. Seemed to me he was guarded in protecting some MLS call ups, due to The System and time spent-familiarity. There was a tacid if not outright endorsement of the accomplishments of Zardes. Besides finishing well so far, Zardes is familiar, again the system. This systems attachment worries me. One can make the argument that these players playing against superior talent and training at a more grueling/competitive level, can be overlooked due to our system. If I have to watch some of the same MLSers going forward, I'll be disappointed. Bring in the talent and let them play, stop trying to think too much. 

    As far as Klinsmann, he does get a little credit as he pushed for players challenging themselves overseas. He also threw a wide net in evaluating possible USMNT eligible players. I believe he also introduced a different look at what the profession is somewhere else. Ultimately, some of his selections cost him. 

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, September 29, 2020 at 10:09 a.m.

    I tried to find any interview with Berhalter without succcess, so I am at a disadvantage.

    Humble1, my concern was not what Berhalter meant, but rather how others on the team would interpret what he said.

    What I didn't say was that I don't think Berhalter or most US coaches know how to "get the best" out of smart technical players.  They simply have never had the experience of coaching a smart technical team. 

    What WS said makes sense to me, from my experience coaching adult rec soccer. About a third of the players knew more about the game than I did. "Bring in the talent and let them play, stop; trying to think too much," is what I did. Instead of trying to rope in the better players, I concentrated on getting the rest of the team supporting them. But the first step is recognizing that some players know more about the game than you do--something control freaks find very difficult.

    I do not favor having the smarter, more technical players dumb down their game.

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