USMNT's crisis of confidence

In an odd way, the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown in 2020 created an advantage for Gregg Berhalter and his young USMNT players.

As he doubled down on his youth movement, the Concacaf shutdown gave Berhalter's young stars a chance to break into their clubs without the time away and distractions of national team duty many of their club teammates faced in the first two fall windows in 2020. And when the USMNT returned to play for the first time in 10 months against Wales and Panama in November 2020, they were for games played in Europe. Not once during the 2020-21 club season did the USA's European-based stars have to cross the Atlantic to play for the national team.

Given the best possible circumstances to thrive, all of Berhalter's key young players enjoyed breakout moments in the year beginning with the return to play in the late spring of 2020:

Christian Pulisic went on a tear at Chelsea, capping the 2019-20 season with a goal in the FA Cup final, and playing a big role in his club's 2021 Champions League title run.
Tyler Adams came back from an extended injury layoff and scored the winning goal for RB Leipzig in the 2020 Champions League quarterfinals.
• Gio Reyna, still only 17, solidified his spot on the first team at Borussia Dortmund, playing 32 of 34 Bundesliga games and winning the German Cup.
• Weston McKennie moved to Italian giant Juventus and captured a pair of cup trophies in his first season.
• Sergino Dest joined Barcelona from Ajax and collected the Copa del Rey with Lionel Messi at his side.
Like Adams, Tim Weah put an injury-riddled season behind him at Lille and helped Les Dogues win the 2021 Ligue 1 championship.

Problem is, that success wasn't sustainable. The grind of World Cup qualifying was made worse by the crazy Concacaf schedule — 14 games in six months — and it hit the players hard when it finally came. Only Adams managed to play in all five windows, and only Adams and Weah started a majority of the qualifiers.

Reyna, felled by a series of complicated hamstring and thigh injuries last season, doesn't really count here, but the USA's big six have all failed to improve from their peak form of 2020-21.

Adams is starting at Leeds United after being rescued by his mentor, Jesse Marsch, from a dead-end situation at Leipzig. McKennie is starting on a bad Juventus team, battered by injuries in midfield. Pulisic has started one Premier League game this season for Chelsea, and Dest has yet to start this season, either for Barcelona, where he was shown the door in a very public way, or for AC Milan. Dest was called for a penalty kick foul shortly after coming off the bench in his Serie A debut.

Weah? He has yet to play this season for Lille due to an ankle injury — he wasn't projected to start — and missed the USA's two September friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Cringe-worthy. The USA fell to Japan, 2-0, and tied Saudi Arabia, 0-0. You could write off the Japan loss — the USA fell to a much better team. Tuesday's Saudi match was simply cringe-worthy.

Pulisic looked a shadow of his former self. Dest was the one thing you'd never say about him (sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad) and that is he was invisible, Adams and McKennie weren't much better than they were against Japan, which was atrocious, and Reyna went off in the first half, exiting straight to the tunnel with what was described as a "precautionary move" due to "tightness."

You could see it in facial expressions and body language. The confidence of USMNT players appears to be shot. Less than eight weeks before their World Cup opener, that's a big problem.

There are many reasons for the USMNT's second straight poor performance — beginning with fundamental weaknesses in the team that injured players like Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson, Yunus Musah and Weah often patch over when they play — but Berhalter suggested "stress" and "anxiety" about making the final roster were to blame for the poor play.

“I told the guys, I feel for them, it's a difficult situation to be in. Everyone's fighting for roster spots,” he said. “And instead of coming out and really performing like the team we know we are, we lacked a little confidence, and I think that hurt performance."

As true as that might be, some of the worst performances over the window were by players like McKennie and Adams who should have no reason to worry about not being on the plane to Doha.

Creating culture. Berhalter was in a somber mood after Tuesday's game in Spain. The shock of the Japan game had worn off, and the reality of the situation has hit. The USMNT is facing a crisis of confidence.

Teams go through it all the time, but the USMNT is lacking a core group of players who can say they've gotten through it before. Time and again, Berhalter has pointed out how young his team is. Seven players who played against Saudi Arabia are 21 years old or younger.

With his young team clearly in mind, Berhalter has studied the issue of creating a culture and sustaining it within a group. He has often mentioned the book "How: Why How We Do Anything Means Business (and in Life) by Dov Seidman.

His task of bolstering the confidence of his group is complicated by the issues many of the young leaders in his group face in their own careers. Empowering older players is a huge consideration, which explains why players like Sean Johnson, Cristian Roldan and Paul Arriola have a place on the updated (post-Murcia) who's-going-to-Qatar lists by some veteran USMNT media watchers.

"There's not many players that performed up to their normal levels in this camp," Berhalter said, "and that's just how it is. And it's our job to get them confident so they can perform up to their normal levels."

By Brad Smith/ISI Photos

49 comments about "USMNT's crisis of confidence".
  1. John Sabala, September 28, 2022 at 2:31 a.m.

      This is not about confidence in the players and their abilties. The lack of confidence and crisis is from the lack of real soccer leadership from GB.  All of the players have seen what happens when you question or make waves. John Brooks is now completely off the team to be replaced by guys slower and worse passers than him, Aaron Long and Zimmerman.  Zimmerman is not the rock that people seem to keep praising.  GB states Brooks is not on the squad because he can't play a high line....and Zimmerman and Long can???  Josh Sargent, who most people say, is are most complete striker will not be on the roster for the likes of Ferreira who puts up numbers in B-class MLS and crappy defenses and Pepi who can't score outside of MLD or Concacaf, versus the Europe based players who have to perform better in practice just to get on the pitch.  GB will not be able to instill confidence in our young group of players as they have no faith in his ability as a leader and a coach.....that is just the plain truth of it.  They know not to say anything because they will be off the team.  So please don't bring back Roldan, Llegett or any of the other non europeans based skill players. It will only make it worse. USSF must fire GB now.  Many of these young players are familiar with each other from the youth level with success.  Just let them play and stop trying to control every single movement on the pitch.

  2. Wooden Ships replied, September 28, 2022 at 7:15 a.m.

    Agree with you John. I hope for positive surprises in Qatar. "Be The Change" USSF and Berhalter seem to mirror all the successes we are beniffiting from nationally under current leadership. How so many couldn't foresee is the real concern. 

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, September 28, 2022 at 10:01 a.m.

    Ditto JS

  4. George Miller, September 28, 2022 at 7:54 a.m.

    Fire the Coach. The players will be unleashed, playing with sheer joy and enthusiasm. Whatever the new coaches system is it won't matter. In the short time frame what's important is they get a smile on their face about what they can accomplish.

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, September 28, 2022 at 10 a.m.

    BINGO.!!! We have a Winner,,, George... You are So Correct...
    But, USSF will never JUST DO IT.!!!
    Now, if we had the NWSL "Spanish Inquisition" Commitee Look INTO IT,
    I'll bet they can find somewhere, where Ggg said something Inappropriate while a Female Staff member was Present.
    That's the only way he's not going to the WC.

  6. R2 Dad, September 28, 2022 at 9:15 a.m.

    Peaking at the right time, GB? I thought we had massive depth?

  7. frank schoon, September 28, 2022 at 9:18 a.m.

    Just think, guys, REMEMBER how long the process took, about a year, to pick this coach....I'm more frustrated that Sargent the only player to me that has done the best so far in European soccer and is not picked among the rest of the European players who basically have had a terrible year....

    When I look at the Saudi Arabian B-team, I would have a difficult time seeing how any of our players could make this team, when on judging the technique, the ball movement ,the 1v1 capabilities, and the way they played. 

    We can blame GB for a lot but you know you can do so much with a volkswagen beetle in a Ferrari race. We have got to take a serious look at our player development for just for starters  and what kind of coaches ,their expertise , trains them....When Japan looks better than us and Saudi Arabia's B-team does a job on us than obviously we have got to go back to the drawing board.

    This constant eurphoria every other year of we have a possible upcoming new American talent, a new star. In the past 50 years we have yet to produce among the millions players here, one great talent, a great dribbler ,a great passer, a thinker of the game...NOTHING!!! All we produce basically are WORKHORSES, TURBO MANIACS at best...

    Somebody has got to say something about lack of good player development at our Academies. How many of these players come out of these Academies able play with both feet, just for starters. Ask ,who trains our players, what is their expertise other than having a coaching license and having been around youth soccer for a lot of years and what are their technical capabilities in teaching technique and how to apply ,for instance...

  8. Philip Carragher replied, September 28, 2022 at 10:07 a.m.

    Agreed Frank. Player development is the key to fixing our program. I remember your comment about Wesley Snyder of the Dutch team. He became a fine player for their national team, wasn't super-gifted, and your comment was that he became good enough via the player development system in the Netherlands for the national coaching team honchos to identify as a promising talent that they should invest in. They did and it paid off.

  9. frank schoon replied, September 28, 2022 at 11:03 a.m.

    Philip , here is an interview with Ruud van Nistlerooy by Rio Ferdinand former great of Man.Utd

    Ruud On Ronaldo: "I Know I Was Wrong" | Vibe With FIVE Ft. Ruud Van Nistelrooy - YouTube

    Listen to the first 7min or more. But what is interesting he began as a #10 and the coach told him to try #9. Then listen to the advice he got as a scorer....This is how learned to become a good striker....

  10. Philip Carragher replied, September 28, 2022 at 2:02 p.m.

    Great interview. Sounds simple enough: just watch film and live performances of a great striker like Bergkamp to learn, but first, you have to have a player with a foundation to work from, and then you need a coach to recognize and imagine what can leveraged off of it. I wonder specifically who recognized that and who else have they done something similar. This, to me, is the most fascinating part of the game. I also enjoyed his recounting of playing with three strong midfielders: Beckham, Giggs, and Scoles and how their particular skillsets aided Ruud's performances. He knew their ideosynchracies and took advantage of them. Everyone on Man U benefited from these players connecting with each other.

  11. frank schoon replied, September 28, 2022 at 2:32 p.m.

    Philip, this is why I complain about our soccer here, the lack of inside knowledge that just isn't discussed here and should be if American soccer journalists do their job better. The tips Ruud gave about how Bergkamp positioned himself on the blindside and positioned himself so that his opponent when looking at the ball , Bergkamp would  make a run....So you don't have to run to the sideline that many strikers do to get open to receive a pass down the flank . Instead ,just wait for the defender guarding you to turn his head to look at the ball then you make your break for he's lot sight of you in that second.

    This is why I state we should  penetrate down to the endline as a wing because the defender guarding striker has to make  a choice ,either looking at you or looking at wing with the ball  for he can't do both...This is why it is better to position the weakside of the defender.....Just look how Zlatan always moves or runs away from the ball and post on the opposite side.

  12. humble 1 replied, September 29, 2022 at 10:39 a.m.

    Very good point you make on strikers Frank.  I follow mostly Uruguay and learned a lot watching Cavani and Suarez, they are so technical in their movements.  Cavani esp, who does not have the tehcnical ability of Suarez on the ball, but was the complete athlete, not even a really amazing  finisher, but, he created so many chances just with his movement, and if you watch him play, you could catalogue striker movements, so it was his athletism and movement that made him great.  From these two I came to see strikers in my area were bereft of these movements. Striker movements are really like wide receive movements in NFL we have the know how here - just not making the connection. I do think things are improving.  My son played the best U19 team in town recently.  I re-watched the game, and the striker movement was very sound.  This was not present with them before.  It's coming. Again, great point Frank.  Thank you for making us think and giving alternative views with context and detail. 

  13. R2 Dad replied, October 2, 2022 at 3:20 p.m.

    Frank, I read this thread a couple of days ago, thinking about our youth development process. Yesterday I was officiating a match with 15YO academy-type players (though this was not MLS Next). One team had a centerback that caught my eye. Two footed, calm on the ball, sent an nice grass-cutter to the far midfielder with his weaker foot, enough strength and speed in the duels--eye candy. But he will never be chosen for any nats camp because he's "only" 5'-10 playing in NPL. Nats fans keep saying there are lots of good players out there, and USSF keeps pointing to MLS, which gives us Long and Zimmerman "good in the air"-type players while GG keeps forcing them to play through the back line and expecting different results.

  14. frank schoon replied, October 2, 2022 at 5:45 p.m.

    R2, Good point. We could be so much better offensively if we apply better, quicker smaller CB's. That is not to say we shouldn't have a tall CB in the middle but it would open up the game. That player who can employ both feet is an excellent example....Why do we have tall CBs for head balls when there are very few crosses coming from the flanks and if they do they are lousy crosses that either  come from the upcoming back or a wing who uses his weak leg to cross ,since most cut inwards to try and shoot with their strong leg.

    The problem right now is that our CB's don't have the ball skills and just have defensive roles.  That  5'10" is perfect CB. By having a skillful CB, which we use to have when we played with a libero. I would as a coach use a small centerforward  ,quick centerforward, quick ballhandling that isn't  reached in the air instead of on the ground eliminating their strength dealing with the tall 'twin towers'......

  15. Santiago 1314 replied, October 3, 2022 at 6:49 p.m.

    I still would Prefer to put Adams back there...
    That would free up a Midfield Position for Aaronson and Weah could start on the Wing.

  16. Kent James, September 28, 2022 at 9:22 a.m.

    While I don't agree that CP, Adams and McKinnie were atrocious, this article makes a good point that our key players are struggling at their clubs.  Not sure how this is GB's fault.  All teams have bad spells, the question becomes how you get through it.  While some experience can be helpful, our key young guys have been playing at high levels for years; they're not rookies.  They need to provide leadership for the really young guys just getting their opportunities (7 players under 21 v. Saudi Arabia is an amazing stat; you can't say GB is afraid to give youth their opportunity).  There should not be a wholesale shift to older players for the WC; now is not the time to give up on the youth.  On the other hand, bringing some guys with experience (who can still play) is always wise. It just doesn't need to be too many.   I just hope we can get it together by the time we play in Qatar. 

  17. Santiago 1314 replied, September 28, 2022 at 10:04 a.m.

    Which OLDER Guys you bringing Kent.???
    And Which YOUNGER guys are you Leaving OUT.???

  18. Philip Carragher, September 28, 2022 at 9:41 a.m.

    At some point in the past year or two Coach Berhalter said that he and the team needed to get the fans in the U.S. excited again about USMNT soccer.

  19. Santiago 1314 replied, September 28, 2022 at 10:13 a.m.

    And then, You(USSF) Schedule your Last (2) "Pracitce" games in "Remote" Locations with NO Fans to give you a "Send Off" and you wonder why the Players "UnderWhelm" ...
    It's all a BIG "Letdown", for a bunch of 20 Somethings...
    Oh, and Don't forget about the Uniform "Let Down" also... 
    Argentina Played in the USA,,, Mexico Played in the USA... But, USA can't play in the USA.???

  20. humble 1, September 28, 2022 at 9:49 a.m.

    The players are showing their age and the coach and staff their experience.  All of them believed what they read here and in other outlets when they won trophies in and qualified from CONCACAF.  The canary in the coal mine was Canada winning the WQ qualification parking the bus challenging teams to break them down.  To break the low block you need 1. skill on the ball or 2. aerial skills, delivery and strike - or - 3. Set peice generation and execution.  We have not been able in these areas - now - in the next level of the pyramid we will face teams much better than Canada.  Looking back, failure to integrate more veteran players and Pefok, who has a significant aerial game could be the difference.  As many of you who have coached young player know well, they easily loose confidence playing up and it helps having vet leaders on the pitch.  We will see, the true test is yet to come.   

  21. Santiago 1314 replied, September 28, 2022 at 12:35 p.m.

    I ask Again;
    Which Younger Players, will you Leave OFF, for Which "More Experienced" player.????

  22. humble 1 replied, September 28, 2022 at 2:30 p.m.

    Not picking players.  Only noting that the situation is not balanced.  You can go too far with the next-gen. Maybe we did.  There were options, but they would have need to have been cultivated.  Now is not the time.  Can still be a success.   We will see.  Soon.

  23. Timothy McMichens, September 28, 2022 at 10:53 a.m.

    I don't know why anyone expected anything but a poor performance. We hired a coach ONLY because of nepotism/cronyism that had never been anything more than a mediocre coach at relatively low level clubs. He's a poor coach. This probably the most talented team we've ever had and he is managing to completely screw it up. As I have since the day this coach was hired, I look forward to the day he is fired.

  24. stewart hayes replied, September 28, 2022 at 9:36 p.m.

    I think you have hit the nail on the head.  The coach does not inspire me.  That was my impression from day one.  The team will have to do well in spite of him.  That's a lot to ask of these young players but that is the task before them.  
    They deserve to be going to the world cup.  I hope they find a way to make the most of this opportunity and put their poor performances behind them.  

  25. Kevin Leahy, September 28, 2022 at 11:34 a.m.

    My feeling for this squad is gloomy at best. Can anyone tell me the last time this team played a complete game? The win against Mexico would have been much different if they Mexican team had cashed in 2 great chances they had early in that match. It is tough when you watch and hope for more. Frank, I completely agree about the wing play. I know these players will compete  but, don't feel they have been put in the best position to have success.

  26. Nick Gabris, September 28, 2022 at 11:36 a.m.

    Where is Klinsman when you need him??

  27. Alan Blackledge, September 28, 2022 at 12:37 p.m.

    Kinsman!?!? The man that began this mess! Where's he coaching now???
    This will NOT be our cycle obviously. The next cycle these guys will have a lot more experience and much higher expectations!!!

  28. Santiago 1314 replied, September 28, 2022 at 1:51 p.m.

    Now that we have Reached the Level of ZERO Expectations....
    McBride and Stewart need to sit down with Ggg and have "The Talk"
    You want to Continue as Coach to Qatar.???
    NO ONE OVER 25 on the Roster(Except GKs)
    Get Ready for WC 2026...
    We have ZERO chance of Advancing with CBs like LONG and Zimmermann
    We have ZERO chance of Advancing with Yedlin and Acosta.
    We have ZERO chance of Advancing with Morris and Arriola.
    Name me ONE Time where you have seen any of them, PULL OFF A WORLD CUP LEVEL Play.???
    So, What's the Point in Bringing them... Loyalty.??? ...
    Hand Holding Locker Room Attendents.???

  29. humble 1 replied, September 28, 2022 at 2:46 p.m.

    Not the time for the 'talk'.  This is our staff.  They got us to the WC.  Last two staffs, both legendary names failed.  GB, maybe with an assist from his brother, got us in this dance.  Credit where credit due.  Too many took too much from next-gen getting on big-name teams and forgot players have to play and that they were at important cross roads in career which could go up or down.  Our GK situation is case in point.  How long was our #1 #2 at City?  Too long.  Now we scramble.  This is micro-case of the team and normal when you have a bunch of young player at crossroads in their career.  Not one - is a proven consistent world class player.  We are still paying the price for having missed the last three olympics and the last wc.  Pulisic and many others, at important points of inflection in their careers where they need to 'peform', consistently at the top level and maybe have not or have not crossed the rubicon so to speak.  Some have acutally crossed and are on their way to find a new level, the team bouncing begins, in correction these young players are not always at maximum confidence.  This is the normal lifecyle of young players.  This is why I say above, it was important for this staff, not to alienate, ostracize and combat with the few vets we have, but to cultivate their participation and leadership.  Not convinced they did all they could here and have the sense they bought into the legend of the next-gen before it had played out.  So here we are and we go with what we have and some injury issues that need to play out and decisions need to be made.  I in the camp that says let the staff that got us here do their job.  It is tournament play, one game against each opponent.  Bring it.  Do your best.  Leave it on the pitch.  We see where we go. No time to throw coach under bus.  Make it happen boys!  

  30. Kent James replied, September 28, 2022 at 3:57 p.m.

    I agree with Humble.  Sometimes you need some leadership, and I'm not sure the young ones are quite there (maybe Adams is; not sure if Pulisic has the personality to lead (he seems to play within himself too often to be a true leader, though I think he makes an effort).  I am not close enough to the team to know who the players respect as leaders, but I could see the older guys providing some help there. Santi, I agree that the young guys are the heart of the team and should get almost all of the playing time, and it is hard to not bring some of them, since they'd all benefit from the experience and most of them could contribute.  If you want individuals, I'd consider taking Yedlin, Accosta, Ream and Arriola (at least 2, maybe all 4, depending on their leadership qualities).  None would start (unless Ream started at CB, but that's because others were unavailable).  They might play if people got injured, or we needed to settle nerves.  I would not take Long, Morris, Roldan or Llegett; they are simply not good enough.  Young guys I'd leave home are Pepi and Tillman (off the top of my head), maybe the kid who now lives in Brazil (I haven't seen him enough, but he didn't do much against Japan, though it's unfair to judge him on such a limited time frame).  

  31. John Sabala replied, September 28, 2022 at 5:31 p.m.

      Humble and Kent,
    We did not fly into our qualification and got help from other teams in our qualification.  Remember going into the last two games there were big questions with the point standings. So please don't state how GB and his staff got us to the dance.  The sheer better quality of our players did that and not from any tactical genius plan employed by GB.  GB almost prevented us from getting to the dance.  From day 1 it has been said and demonstrated over and over that GB was the worsty choice. How could you not qualify with the load of talent we have playing in the worst of the confederations? If the US is in any other confederation we probably miss out once again.  Case in point...Italy is not going once again....and how amongst us soccer fans say the US is better than Italy?  You talk about veteran leadership then why not bring the guys with WC experience such as Brooks and Green?  People that have played and scored in the big dance?  Turner showed with his performance that not playing consistently with a top European club does not hold so much weight in the evaluation process...and yet GB did not follow this mantra that he said was central in selection leaving out Pefolk these last two matches and not really using Sargent at all. Hell just bring Pefolk to camp to work with the guys...the same with all potential selections.  He could have done that with all WC qualifying windows. Most other teams brought more than 30 players into camps during the windows. Then at least they have practiced together versus having not experience together.

  32. Kent James replied, September 29, 2022 at 12:33 a.m.

    John, I think you underestimate the difficulty of qualifying.  Sure, we had more talent than we've had in previous years (but I think it's more the depth of the pool than the quality at the top, though that may change as the players at the top reach the peak of their careers), but we had a slew of injuries to key players, and the depth of the pool meant that GB had to continue to bring in and evaluate new players, rather than stick with the same basic team.  And I think that's a pretty hard thing to do (keeping all those players who think they should be playing all the time working towards the same goals).  And given the transatlantic crossings for the European players, the lousy fields and weather conditions, and the improving of the teams in CONCACAF, nothing is a given.  And while playing weaker teams is usually better for your win/loss column, playing weaker teams whose tactic is to disrupt your game can make for some ugly games.  

    As for Brooks and Green, Brooks had some horrible outings the last time he played, and GB looked (I think justifiably) at some other options, since we now seem to have plenty.  If Brooks has re-established himself at club level, he can certainly be considered as a veteran who should go.  As for Green, I thought JK's decision to take him instead of LD was possibly the worst decision ever by a US coach (though that wasn't Green's fault).  And his career didn't seem to take off after his showing at the WC as it seemed poised to. I would have liked to see him called in at some point, assuming his club play justified a call-up (I just haven't seen much of him since the WC), but I think it's too late to consider him at this point (Brooks was a key member of the USMNT for a long time, Green was always peripheral).  

  33. humble 1 replied, September 29, 2022 at 11 a.m.

    John S, I acknowledge that WCQ from CONCACAF is what it is - but - it always was what it is - people do not seem to grasp this - I do as I watch mostly CONMEBOL and I watch CONCACAF - I see the difference very clearly.  When we miss Olympic qualification 3x in a row 2012, 2015, 2020 so that for more than a decade our young players did not play in that tournament, and remember there are two spots - we lost to Mexico, and Honduras all three times.  In 2018 WCQs Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama qualified and Honduras went to playoff.  So I know how it is here.  And I know that we did do it this time, and this USSF staff also helped the boys qualify for the Olympics.  There are 53 days before our game v Wales and they will have 1 week to prepare.  Tell me how firing GB helps us?  He and his staff are young, he is the first ever coach of the US WC team to have had a professional career, he played abroad.  He was brave and raised his hand when the position opened.  Things are not perfect, I realize very well, but also I say, give the man his chance.  I still give the boys a chance as I beleive that sometime in adversity, we it bring out the best in people.  Sometimes you have to go to your lowest low, to find your highest high.  So for GB and the boys, do your homework, then lace up your boots, go out there and give your best!  Make us proud, win-lose-or-draw.  Leave it all on the pitch!

  34. John Sabala replied, September 29, 2022 at 3:59 p.m.

    The issue with Brooks is that GB does not follow through with what he states. Brooks was playing well at Wolfsburg but was not brought back.  The issue of bringing Green over LD is a mute point on this topic.  In this case bringing both would have been best.  Green played forward then but plays the #8 mostly now.  Green could never break into the first sqaud at Bayern (yes that is where he played) with guys like Ribbery, Toliso, Muller, etc.  So he was shipped off to Stuttgart who was in Bundesliga 2 at the time. He helped them climb back into the first level.  He then moved to Gruether Fuerth and helped them move into Bundeliga 1.... before being relegated once again. My point is he is quite versatile having played forward and now attacking mifield.  GB just never gave him a shot despite how well he performed.

    Humble, I know qualification is what is it.  How is it then that Canada finally has a first team that is arguably the best from Concacaf without any history beforehand of success.  During WC qualification in the same places they pretty much showed their superiority in the same environments defeating the weakest opponents quite handily?  Better coaching and tactics with their talent pool is why.  Again, our superior talent was the difference to get us into the dance. I sincerely beleive to fire GB would inspire the players more than his coaching.  You have to at least think the European based players that play under some of the best coaches and staffs in the business dread coming back to be coached by our group because we see the same lack of tactical plan being executed on the field too many times.  This can't be from a lack of is from players knowing the plan will not work, but we have to play it anyway. Just some more food for thought.

  35. James Madison, September 28, 2022 at 4:21 p.m.

    The sloppy play reflects either that the players don't care or that they are over-coached, i.e., they;re trying too hard to play exactly as pleases the coach. Make pass A because the coach said to instead of pass B or dribble or shot that your gut tells you to.  That's fine up to a point, but at a spoint the coach needs to trust the player.  My bet is on the over coaching.  In either event, the players are not enjoyking themselves.  Yes, it's a job, but if you don't enjoy whatever work you are paid to do, you will not do it well.

  36. John Sabala replied, September 28, 2022 at 5:39 p.m.

    You bring that point up and I saw the evidence when I wrote in the player ratings article.  On two separate times Dest is receiving the ball....GB is yelling instructions as him....Dest looks up at him...Dest misplays a routine pass out of bounds.  They are 100% over coached to play a tactical plan with no chance for and trust my system.....shown over and over it does not work....and then we wonder why the players look the way they do during the match. Has been this the whole way since GB  took over. Players don't speak out or protest or you get no more call ups....after seeing what happened to is yes sir, three bags full and carry on!!

  37. frank schoon replied, September 29, 2022 at 1:41 p.m.

    About overcoaching, my theory is that the less a coach has playing experience the more he seeks outer controls and gadgets, for he lacks the intuition. Ruud Gullit in an interview stated when he played for Holland and won the European cup in '88 ,  said that Rinus Michels as coach never talked tactics to the whole full team. He talked to only about 5players , Van Basten, Gullit, Wouters and Ronald Koeman as to how the team should play. In other wordsdf the tactics was basically decided during the game under the leadership of those 5. That's it.

    Gullit stated Rinus Michels respected the abilities of the players and left it up to the players in knowing what to do from moment from moment.  The late Wim Jansen in his book stated that Ernst Happel, who coached Feyenoord at the time,  considered by many as the greatest coach, called by Franz Beckenbauer the 'crown prince' of  coaches, never said much and spend a maximum of 5min in the locker room talking. Happell only needed about 4 or 5 min to scout a player to know what his capabilities are, what he can't or can do... 

    Happel once was invited by the prestigious dutch coaching academy by the head coaching instructor to talk about 'tactics'. Happel's reply was that he would be wasting his time for the discussion would turn in to talking about "tic-tac'' not tactics.  Happel stated tactics is Coentje, Van Hanegem, Wim Jansen, Israel,......He mentioned several great players of feyenoord meaning that unless you understand the specific and individual qualities of the players those tactical discussions are meaningless. Happel summed up the new coaches' their abilities as to playing an organ following the numbers instead playing from feeling and intuition by having played at a high level and able to see things others dont see....

    Before the European cup Feyenoord -AC Milan, he only said one word to Wim Jansen as he past him by in the hall, saying only " Rivera" and continued walking. What that meant to Wim Jansen is that the great Rivera was not to be able to do anything in this game....

    Happel always lets the players know who is boss. When he gets a new team, brings out a couple coke bottles and places them on top of the goal and proceeds to shoot them off...Arie Haan,Cruyff's teammate at Ajax, at the World Cup '78 , stated that he asked Happel who coached the Dutch team, to see if he could perform his stunt. Happel, wearing his Italian dress shoes, with a cigarette in his mouth proceeded to shoot the coke bottle of the cross bar. Haan ,thinking this was luck asked him to do it again, which he did... Often while playing cards, smoking a cigarette,  in a smoked filled room do his tactical  thinking. He would all of a sudden ,out of the blue,ask his assistant, 'who's playing left half for the opponent's ...
    Compare that to what we have as coach...

  38. Bob Ashpole replied, September 29, 2022 at 10:26 p.m.

    I am a big believer in player personalities. You can control how a team plays by who and where you place the players. You take advantage of good group dynamics instead of fighting it. That is why acquiring the right players is so important to professional team performance. You don't have to sell a system to the players because it feels so natural to them.

    Most of the time I quit watching the MNT friendlies because CP is wasted out there. Nobody is making space for him or even letting him keep any space. He has 3-4 defenders surrounding him because the teammates don't move intelligently to draw off the defenders. I see a lot of clueless running up and down the field. All me, me, me, and not a team.

  39. Philip Carragher replied, September 30, 2022 at 12:08 a.m.

    Bob, did you like the way Lampard used Pulisic? (apologies for repeating myself) He'd stage CP about 30-35 yards from goal and off to the left in the offensive third, isolate him against a defender, get him the ball, and have him beat the defender which he'd do consistently. This created an imbalance and was a dangerous offensive weapon for Chelsea. Since this was part of Lampard's strategy in how to use CP, my guess is that CP practiced whatever skills he needed to keep doing this successfully. 

  40. Bob Ashpole replied, September 30, 2022 at 1:57 a.m.

    Phillip that is a pretty conventional strategy. Basically it is using CP as an inside forward attacking the gap between the FB and CB. Our WNT does this a lot with the W attacking shape. Two attacking midfielders threatening the gaps. Leaves space for the 9 to work in the center.

    Professional players, even good amateur players should know how to unbalance defenses with runs. Our USMNT does a poor job of playing off the ball. Not too good on the ball either. This is why the team, including CP are struggling. 

    When opponents have 3-4 players clustered around CP, the rest of the team needs to punish them for being so unbalanced. They don't know how to do that.

  41. frank schoon replied, September 30, 2022 at 9:59 a.m.

    Guys, Lampard being fired was a disaster for soccer lovers and for CP. He was a good player and therefore was able to show, teach, what was needed. Tuchel did not have those qualities for he himself wasn't much a player and therefore took all the basics of soccer, control, defense, no risks, hard ,hard work and go from there....And yes in the short run it works but the players were not happy, for they felt like they were robots....

    One of the problems, or two problems today's players have is they have acquired lesser skills than the older generations due less pickup soccer. I was just in Holland and I always go to where I played street soccer 20-30 hrs a week and I didn't see one kid out there and this is a private street where there is really no thru traffic. This street contained 2 schools and a fire engine station. Unfortunately, I didn't see any kids playing. I went to another open area of a church a few blocks away along the canal, where I went to twice a week to play so I would play against other kids not from my neighborhood in order or meet ,compete and learn from different players. Nobody was there except a few parked cars. There is pickup out there but not like it was when I grew up.
    I mentioned pickup because this is where you learn not only the technique ,but also the tactics and more importantly YOU LEARN HOW AND WHEN TO EMPLOY THE SPECIFIC SKILL AS RELATED TO A TACTICAL SITUATION.  This last part is not taught by coaches, in other words they teach skills lets say but not the application of the skill as related a specific tactical situation at the moment..

    The players today lack the Tactical thinking skills and are less skillful and as time goes on. And we get coaches who are more 'computer programmers' , lap top coaches ,a la Tuchel, who really don't see the finer elements of the game, and therefore don't think the game like the older generations.

    The secret is to be to able read the player's abilities, a la Happel, Cruyff, van Hanegem, Wim Jansen,etc and apply their strengths to the most efficient areas....An anecdote about the Celtic great  who later played for Barcelona with Messi, Henk Larson the Swede, who preceded Zlatan. At Feyenoord , Larson wasn't scoring ,was not effective. Wim Jansen told him , " you run too much in areas where you are not effective, why waste yourself". After he took that advice he became the leading scorer for Feyenoord , and Celtics and went on to Barcelona

    That advice had come a from one of the smartest dutch players who played at the highest level and was a teammate of Cruyff and followed his philosophy. Our players today, are not developing properly due to not receiving the 'real expert', advice....

  42. Philip Carragher replied, September 30, 2022 at 11:40 a.m.

    Frank, about pickup. Years ago I attended a great coaching seminar by the then Notre Dame Men's Soccer Coach, Mike Berticelli. He related an experience he had with two players, goal scorers he recruited that emphasized the value of thinking tactical awareness over pure technical ability. One player was from suburban America, a HS All-American who looked great and had perfect kicking technique; the other player, from the rough and tumble streets of England who appeared a bit tattered and sloppy. Once games started, the All-American was ineffective and couldn't do much if it didn't fit with practice drills the kid was used as opposed to the street smart Brit who found a solution to most every challenge that confronted him. It didn't look pretty but it was effective. He scored in bunches and his counterpart didn't.

  43. frank schoon replied, September 30, 2022 at 12:10 p.m.

    Philip, great story.....The English kid learned through doing which you can't teach. This is why I say don't bother with licensed coaches for they can't you what to know ,and can only experience it first....Licensed coaches teaches basically the playing of the organ by the following the numbers...This is why we fail to create great technicians, passers, thinkers, dribblers of the game in the past 50years. It is like teaching someone to become Tarzan by letting him watch videos about Africa and animals and teaching him how to swing on a vine....We don't create 'NATURAL' players but develop our players due to employing licensed computer robots......

    If I ran a youth soccer association, I would hire coaches or facilitators who don't have a license, but who love for the technical applications...I would find and hire to Reggae boyz from Jamaica who basically play street ,pickup, all the time, who love the game for what it is. These types of facilitator will imbue our players the love for the game, which contributes to kids not getting burned out. Its not only Reggae boyz but those who have that type of description....These kids need an input showing the beauty of the game. I would hire former players who were not defenders but players who can do things with a ball. 

    I can smell a licensed coach a mile away, these types talk  with this classroom JARGON that players doesn't use... I notice that with commentators especially women commentators who obviously have taken the coaching courses and proceed to sound a like an instructor, appearing as if they know the game.....

    I remember the interm instructor that went to Ajax for his license as a test. Cruyff and Keizer and some of the player were laughing at this guy using this terminology players just don't use...
    He would yell, 'tackle him'  instead of, 'slide him' or he yell 'cross the ball' which is a meaningless term for it doesn't describe the cross you want, or to whom for it depends on which post to go, in or outward curve, etc.  It is simple 'spooning or slicing' which tells you the situation describing the cross...
    I love going to youth soccer james and stand in the backround listening how these youth coaches apply this classroom jargon .

  44. Santiago 1314 replied, October 3, 2022 at 7:02 p.m.

    Philip,, CP assist versus Crystal Palace, this weekend is a Perfect Example of How to Use CP...
    Let him Alone out there on the Wing and then when he gets the ball he can Slice and Dice IN, between the Lines from the Angle.
    He tied up 5 players that way, and the other Kid got a Goal Off of it.

  45. Craig Cummings, September 29, 2022 at 8:30 p.m.

    It is WAY to late to fire Berhalter. He will remain till after WC  Sorry guys.

  46. humble 1, September 30, 2022 at 1:42 p.m.

    Great discussion. Thankful here for all the experience, knowledge, that SA brings, and those on this forum.  Frank, for sure, I could see Pulisic evolving with Lampard, and stop and go backwards with Tuchel.  Your explantion makes logical sense.  Santi so often, correctly points out the lack of names to throw when we refer to the dearth of veteran players on the squad.  This is true.  In the peice today about Kellyn Acosta, he refers to a brotherhood amongst all the players because they all 'grew-up' together.  The lost generations are hurting here.  Too many of our young players have overexended themselves and need to find a new level.  There is little GB can do about thier pitiful situations at club.  This is on them, their family and their agents.  Missing the last WC really hurt certain members of this generation that would have had it under their belts. All this said, and with GB as the coach rightly or wrongly, we will go out there, and maybe lay an egg, maybe surpirse ourselves.  Anyway, this time, we are in the dance.  We will be in the Olympics, and we take the lessons learned, and grow.  John S., I have been paying attention to what is happening in Canada, from afar when opportunity avails.  John Herdman is a top talent.   was not surprised to see them finish on top in qualifying. I belive they have reformed their youth setup and it's very focused on talent ID and development and it is showing, somehow Herdman, who was with the women's side before is involved in all that.  He certainly out-foxed GB, both games.  When you look back at the state of USSF in Chicago when GB was hired, for, me, I still say we were luck.  Coach K really cratered our setup.  When Coach K first took over, a latino collegue told me, watch Pete, you will see all the latinos will be gone.  And they were.  We went to Brazil with one, Gonzalez, and Hugo Perez and all his mates are now one.  Only Tab survived and he is is Uruguayan, but really part of the Jersey mafia.  Have a nice day! 

  47. frank schoon replied, September 30, 2022 at 2:19 p.m.

    Humble, good stuff. As I read many of the posts ,day in day out, Hugo Perez and Tab Ramos as the answer to solve our problems...Yes, I'm glad they are coaching and yes ,I would rather see those running the MNT, after all were players that could a handle a ball and were more creative types unlike GB.  But our problems in soccer won't be solved even if both Perez and Ramos coached the MNT. 
     Perez and Tab, both basically were born elsewhere having connections to soccer playing countries. They did not begin learning to play soccer in the States. What I"m saying, is what  happens when both are no longer around, what are we going to say then... The problem of our soccer runs a lot deeper then to think these two can solve the problem. Our whole system of player development needs a major overhaul in thinking..As a matter of fact I've never ever here these two criticize our system and specifically state what should...As a matter I never anyone talk about the lousy player development.... 

    When I talk about player development, lets take the most simple aspect Which soccer academy even prepares their youth to be able to play with both feet. Which Academy teaches and works on players being able to trap a ball with the weak foot, shoot or dribble, just for starters.

  48. Ric Fonseca, September 30, 2022 at 4:37 p.m.

    Mr. FS:  Both Perez and Ramos have been consistently and willfully overlooked by USSoccer, so lay whatever criticism and or blame on the Federation for overlooking these two caballeros.  Eventually those former USMNT players will go and coach elesewhere - proof is in the pudding - 'cause cornyism, nepotism, favoritism, etc., have virtually always played a very significant and overt process.  I know as I've been there, seen that, and experienced it.  Thanks for "listening!"  and saludos amigo!!! 

  49. frank schoon replied, September 30, 2022 at 4:53 p.m.

    Ric, not arguing your point of which I agee with but what I"m saying is we can't keep going back to those two as the answer for our problems in soccer. This USSF needs a complete overhaul. 
    What has happened to Perez and Tab is nothing new. This happens in any organization wherever you go,criticiaing the organizaton brings about consequences....
    Lets hope Perez kicks ass with Salvadorian NT...

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