USMNT announces Berhalter as new head coach

The Columbus Crew coach and former U.S. national team defender will take charge as U.S. coach after the 13-month search for a new man in charge

U.S. Soccer has officially announced the hiring of Gregg Berhalter as the new head coach of the U.S. national team, confirming the long-anticipated appointment on Sunday.

Berhalter’s appointment was formally ratified by the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors on Saturday  by a unanimous vote. He will be officially introduced during a press conference with Earnie Stewart, U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro and U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn on Tuesday in New York.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Berhalter said in a statement provided by U.S. Soccer. “Having played for the National Team I know what it means to represent our country. I believe in our players and our program, and together we will work to build something special and develop a team that will make our supporters proud.”

The 45-year-old will formally begin work as U.S. coach in January when the national team convenes for its annual winter training camp. Berhalter’s debut will come in late January against an opponent that has yet to be determined. That will be followed by a friendly against Costa Rica on February 2, in San Jose, California.

Berhalter’s hiring ends a 13-month saga that saw the USMNT go without a full-time head coach since Bruce Arena stepped down following the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Nine of those months went by before Stewart formally began the search after being hired as USMNT general manager. During those nine months, and then the additional four months the search took place, Dave Sarachan served as caretaker coach, leading the team through a dozen matches and compiling a 3-5-4 record.

Stewart’s search included putting together an initial list of 33 candidates, which he eventually whittled down to 11 leading contenders. Stewart spoke to all 11 of those contenders before settling on a final two, after which he decided Berhalter was the best man for the job.

“After a very thorough process, I am absolutely convinced Gregg is the right man to lead the National Team program moving forward,” Stewart said. “He ticks all the boxes with his background as a person, a successful coach and an accomplished former international player.

“His willingness, work ethic and ideas about developing this player pool and influencing these players in and outside of camp and the thought process he has about that — constantly seeking new things — set him apart.”

Berhalter’s managerial career began in 2012, with Swedish club Hammarby. He spent two seasons in Sweden before being fired.

He joined the Columbus Crew in 2014, spending five seasons as head coach and sporting director, helping lead the team to the playoffs in four of those five seasons, including a run to the 2015 MLS Cup final.

During his time in Columbus, Berhalter’s Crew teams developed a reputation for playing attractive, possession-based soccer, and the club enjoyed success despite having one of the lowest payrolls in MLS. 

As a player, Berhalter spent much of his career in Europe, with stints in England and the Netherlands before a seven-year run in Germany. He eventually returned to the United States, spending three seasons with the LA Galaxy.

The last of those seasons, in 2011, saw Berhalter serve as a player-assistant coach on a Galaxy team that won the MLS Cup final. 

Berhalter made 44 appearances for the USMNT and was part of the 2002 and 2006 World Cup teams. He played in two World Cup matches, starting in the team’s historic 2-0 round of 16 win against Mexico and was a starter in the 2002 quarter-final loss to Germany.

That match is remembered for Berhalter sending a shot toward goal that was blocked by what appeared to be a handball by German midfielder Torsten Frings. The penalty wasn’t awarded, and the Americans were eliminated 1-0.

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