DOHA, Qatar — Gregg Berhalter, manager of the U.S. men’s national team, was called on Monday to serve as an economist, customs agent, military policy expert and U.N. ambassador, among other positions.
On Tuesday, he finally became the man he most wanted: a coach to take his team to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
After the US beat Iran 1-0 at Al Thumama Stadium, Berhalter hugged his coaching staff in the technical area, their arms wrapped tightly around each other’s shoulders, bouncing up and down. He then jogged onto the pitch to celebrate with his players and the raucous American fans behind the goal.
Four years after taking over a messy program, Berhalter led the United States through the distance with the biggest win of his career.
“It’s the first time in 92 years that we’ve been knocked out twice at a World Cup,” Berhalter said later, flushing. “So, the boys are doing something right.”
It was a remarkable 24 hours for Berhalter, an incredible juxtaposition of the kind that can only exist in international football – and only in a matchup like the US vs. Iran, a country no matter in its own history. Still in the realm of history with the United States, deep and complicated.
This history drives this accumulation. The U.S. Soccer Federation played no small role in the pre-match upset when it – without the knowledge of Berhalter or his players – posted images to social media showing the Iranian flag but not the Islamic Republic. , trying to show support for the most basic human rights for Iranian women.
Well-intentioned though it may be, it unleashed a storm, and Berhalter was left to ride it. During his news conference on Monday, Iranian journalists pressed him with pointed questions, asking him to explain why inflation might make his team unpopular at home or to justify various visa requirements in the United States for Iranians Yes, these Iranians might want to travel there. There is a question about the presence of US warships in the area.
It’s bizarre by any standards, but to Berhalter’s credit, he handles it deftly. He apologized for any offense the social media post may have caused, while expressing his support for those who are fighting for a better life. He also did his best to refocus his attention on football. In many ways, this game is a judgment day for Berhalter and his players at the end of a four-year resurrection, and Berhalter needs to do everything in his power to make sure his players are ready.
In short, they are. In those circles who follow the US team closely, criticizing Berhalter is a bit of a cottage industry – such is the life of an international manager, really – but one thing is for sure: Berhalter has won the Gold Cup and the Nations League. He beat Mexico three times (including in World Cup qualifiers). He oversaw an overhaul of the young and talented international roster, made difficult – and sometimes stunning – choices about who to bring to Qatar, and now leads the team into World Cup round of 16.
is he perfect He is not. There are still legitimate criticisms of his tactics or substitution patterns, but striker Joshua Sargent was recalled and performed well against Iran, and defender Cameron Carter-Vickers (Walker Zimmerman) Substitutes) as well. Tim Ream was a surprising late addition to the roster ahead of the World Cup, and he’s also solid defensively. Regardless of the pressure, America can see its lead.
More importantly, Berhalter motivates his players and pushes them for the moment. Recalling earlier in the week how he watched the U.S. lose to Iran in the infamous 1998 World Cup, Berhalter emphasized that what struck him was the mismatch of emotional levels on the pitch. The Iranians wanted the game badly, Berhalter said, and it was clear that the Americans felt far from it.
On Tuesday, that’s not a problem. Not far. There must be fire. But also confident that this moment will not be too big.
“The team is calm,” Rehm said. “There was no gasping for breath, no panic in anyone’s eyes.”
Having a strategy in place also helps. Christian Pulisic’s goal was the result of a series of maneuvers that Rehm said Berhalter and the coaches had highlighted in their scouts, pulling the game aside to allow Pulisic to attack goal post. As Rehm puts it, the goal was “perfect, perfect, perfect,” except Pulisic collided with the Iranian goalkeeper midway through the game, which sent Pulisic to hospital for an abdominal scan.
Steve Nicol and Craig Burley preview Team USA’s World Cup round of 16 match against the Netherlands.
If Pulisic is unavailable (or restricted) against the Netherlands on Saturday, then Berhalter will face another challenge. He has options — Giovanni Reyna still hasn’t seen much and Brendon Aaronson is an active backup — but, either way, team dynamics will again be crucial.
That’s what Berhalter wanted. He never shied away from the stakes of his mission. He said over and over that the goal of this team is to change the way the world thinks about American football. The game against England helped with that. The same goes for Tuesday.
Now comes another chance. Another chance. Berhalter will endure the arrow; all coaches do. He will bear the criticism. All he cared about was letting his players see what he saw and know what he knew: This team can do anything. On Tuesday, after Pulisic could be joined by hugs, yells and a video call with the hospital, Berhalter took part in another, more traditional press conference and reflected on what made him feel the most of the night. happy thing.
“We believe in ourselves,” he said. “We believe in what we’re doing.”