In their last two games, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) demonstrated why they didn’t make it into the previous World Cup. The team lost a devastating match to rival Mexico on home soil Sept. 6 3–0 and rescued a 1–1 draw in the dying minutes of the game against Uruguay on Sept. 10.
The level of coaching from Major League Soccer (MLS) is not on par with the level of play that is required from the National Team. Head Coach Gregg Berhalter is from MLS club Columbus Crew and displays game in and game out that he does not know how to react to the events of the match.
Line by line, the USMNT shows their inexperience as 16 players from the Uruguay match came from the MLS.
USMNT former player and Fox Sports analyst Alexi Lalas said in the broadcast of the Mexico game that Berhalter is “trying to paint the Sistine Chapel with crayons.” The U.S. lost the Gold Cup Final to Mexico in July under Berhalter.
USMNT member Christian Pulisic played in the first game against Mexico and told media, “We still play with fear against them, and that is what I can’t really live with, that needs to change.”
Pulisic recently became the most expensive player in American history with his $73 million move to English giants Chelsea Football Club. Berhalter can’t lead a team that is playing with fear, especially with the 2022 World Cup qualifiers around the corner.
Berhalter has a winning percentage of only 53% since he took charge in Dec. 2018. In his other two managerial jobs, he had a mere 39% winning record with Hammarby, and a 38% winning record with the Columbus Crew.
Did the USMNT directors set the bar so low that they hired a coach without a positive winning percentage in either of the teams he’s managed?
These two games also showed the difference on how many fans support the USMNT compared to their rivals Mexico. For the U.S. versus Mexico match, a total of 47,960 fans attended the game, about 80% of whom were Mexico fans. Remember, the game took place in New Jersey at the MetLife Stadium. When the U.S. played their next game against Uruguay, the attendance dropped by more than half to only 20,625, without help from Mexico fans.
William Trapp, a steady call up of Berhalter, who made the mistake in the Uruguay game that cost the team a goal, was someone who U.S. fans have been clamoring to not receive any more opportunities. It may also be too soon for Josh Sargent to receive first team call ups, as the 19-year-old fired the penalty kick against Mexico and missed it.
The U.S. currently stands at No. 22 in the FIFA rankings, and there is only room for improvement. The one nation above them from the Concacaf (North/Central America) is Mexico, who sits at No. 12. But one big question is why is the men’s team so bad, but the women’s team so good?
The Women’s National Team just won the last World Cup, making it four overall along with four gold medals in the Olympics. The men’s team has neither. Arguably, competition isn’t as high in the women’s league. The Women’s National Team can afford to have its best player, 2019 World Cup MVP Megan Rapinoe, play for the local national league. The USMNT, on the other hand, needs to export as many players out of the MLS as possible. Pulisic is an example, as he never played in the MLS and is the best player on the USMNT.
The U.S. is one of the biggest nations in the world and home to immigrants from all over the globe. The soccer system is failing from top to bottom, starting with the club, high school and college levels. Most club teams in the U.S. are pay to play, where many talented young players can’t afford to pay to be on a team.
High school soccer teams do not have adequate funding, and many players who want to play at the top college level do not have enough money to go to college, or simply flat out never receive an opportunity for a scholarship to play soccer. Of those who do, only a few make it up the ranks of the USMNT, or ever sign a professional contract.
The U.S. directors need to market toward making the nation a soccer country. Many other sports leagues, such as the NBA, MLB and NFL, receive more media attention and casual fan support. In order to gain support, the USMNT needs to start winning more often, especially with these friendlies, and start winning top-level tournaments.
The USMNT will probably carry on with Berhalter in their next crucial games in the Concacaf Nations League, which serve as the basis on qualifying for the World Cup. They will play against the fringe Cuban National Team on Oct. 11, which is on a five-game losing streak. Hopefully, the USMNT will show some sort of ambition to want to compete at a higher level and develop a fitting style of play that works.