The worst kept secret in soccer is now officially out of the bag. The United States Men’s National Team will officially name Gregg Berhalter its new head coach within days after finalizing contract today that runs through the 2022 World Cup. The former Columbus Crew SC boss is replacing interim head coach Dave Sarachan, who steered the team for the last year after Bruce Arena resigned in October of 2017.
Massive Report has learned that initial contract negotiations between Berhalter and U.S. Soccer did not go well and the head coach began to look at other jobs. That forced U.S. Soccer’s hand and negotiations progressed in recent weeks allowing the deal to get done.
The New York Times reports that the contract was approved by the board of the U.S. Soccer Federation on Saturday, the final hurdle to name Berhalter as coach.
Berhalter, an Englewood, New Jersey native, played soccer at the University of North Carolina but left after his junior to begin his professional career in Europe. He played 17 seasons at various clubs including Crystal Palace and 1860 Munich before returning to the United States and spending three years with the LA Galaxy, one as a player and assistant coach, before announcing his retirement.
Throughout his playing career, Berhalter was also a fixture for the USMNT, appearing for the senior team 44 times and was on the roster for both the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Just a year after retiring from playing, Berhalter accepted the head coaching position with Hammarby IF, becoming the first American to ever manage a professional soccer team in Europe. He guided the Swedish side to an 18-11-17 record but was fired less than two years into the job.
Following his departure from Hammarby, Berhalter took time to travel around Europe and visit clubs to learn more about managing and developing his style of play. He was hired as Crew SC’s head coach and sporting director on Nov. 6, 2013 after impressing during his interview with his presentation of his tactical plan for the future of the club.
It did not take long for Berhalter to have success in Columbus. Crew SC won its first three games in 2014 under Berhalter and finished the year 14-10-10, winning six of the team’s last seven games to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time in two seasons before losing to the New England Revolution in the opening round of the postseason.
The following year, the Black & Gold again made the playoffs, finishing second in the Eastern Conference, seven points back of the New York Red Bulls. Crew SC ran through the playoffs, beating the Montreal Impact in a thrilling two game series before eliminating the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals before falling 2-1 to the Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup Final.
Crew SC would miss the playoffs in 2016, the worst year of Berhalter’s tenure, before rebounding with a fifth place finish in a competitive Eastern Conference in 2017. Columbus matched their fifth place finish in 2018.
Over his five seasons in charge in Columbus, Berhalter led Crew SC to a 74-69-50 record, making the playoffs four times.
Berhalter is known for his tactical approach to the game. While his teams have a specific style of play that emphasizes building out of the back and putting the opponent in difficult situations while in possession. Over his tenure with the Black & Gold, that playing style evolved at times to go against certain opponents but he was often restricted by the limitations of MLS and the resources of Crew SC.
With the U.S. Men’s National Team, Berhalter will have a significantly larger pool of players to pull from to help fit how he wants to play. His system will obviously be built around American star Christian Pulisic and a group of young Americans, likely including current Crew SC players Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp, that have received plenty of experience under Sarachan since the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Berhalter’s first game in charge of the USMNT will be Feb. 2, 2019 against Costa Rica in San Jose, California. The U.S. will play in this summer’s Gold Cup before qualification for the 2022 World Cup begins toward the end of 2019.