Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Case for Gregg Berhalter

By: Vidda Grubin

Gregg Berhalter is the right person for the job of United States Senior Men's Soccer Team Head Coach.

Berhalter has the proven ability to take average players and get them to play a style of soccer, possession oriented, which translates over time to consistent positive results. Point all you want to the lack of trophies as Columbus Crew coach; but remember, the Columbus Crew, with average to below average payroll, produced some of the most entertaining soccer in MLS over the last five years. They routinely punched above their perceived level. New strikers every year or two, revolving central defender pairings and a hot and cold midfield was turned into a team which, at times, could step onto the field of play and not only outplay teams with significantly better rosters top to bottom, but look classy and comfortable in the process.

Gregg Berhalter, I trust, has worked out a deal where he must have some control of youth team player choices and development strategy. Two years from now, there will be no average players on the National Team. He will find, with the help of coaches like Tab Ramos and others, the most technically gifted and tactically intelligent players residing in the United States, regardless of league affiliation, family heritage or color of skin. And, Gregg Berhalter will not abandon the long term expected value of requiring his players to embrace and become deadly efficient within his chosen style of play.

All that said, the US Men's National Team may not qualify for the 2022 World Cup. I will shed no tears if that happens. Qatar is an abomination. 2026 is certainly the target. Victory is assuredly the goal.

The pool of players between the ages of 12 and 22 in the states is talented, driven, deep and wide. Given enough control, time and the right support, Gregg Berhalter will put the US Men's National Team in position to win the 2026 World Cup.

Stick to your guns, Mr. Berhalter. Demand that your players and teams seek to dominate every technical, tactical and creative aspect of every training session and every game in which they participate. You have never relented to a player's immaturity, selfishness or fundamental weakness, don't start now. I have watched you, your players and teams, each and every one has bought-in and appreciated the fact that you expect nothing but the best from them. Never stop and best of luck.

PS--I hope Josh Wolff's car was in the spot I said it was at the restaurant on Main Street.  ; ) Valet is on me if you come back.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Crew Season Ends

After a couple hard-fought games, The Columbus Crew were knocked out of the MLS Cup competition last night by Supporters' Shield winners NY Red Bulls.

Columbus was about as Columbus could be this year as they floated around a zero goal difference and went on long stretches of bad play. In the end, finishing 10th on the overall table. There's a little more to it, obviously, so let's take a closer look.


All the hallmarks of a Gregg Berhalter lead team were here this season. The team held possession in most games, led MLS in crosses and were 3rd in short passing per game. This formula has worked, for the most part, for the Crew since Berhalter took over, albeit a little watered down this year.

The top issue for the Crew this year was always going to be scoring. Before the season started it was obvious what the outlook was for the team. I don't write about the team much anymore but I did manage a few words back in February:

"So much depends on Gyasi Zardes goals and how invested Higuain is. This season will be long and meandering with the World Cup, this team will be looking for a breakout performer."

That's pretty much how it worked out. Zardes. After Kei and Ola Kamara, he was ver 3.0 of a Berhalter number nine. In the goals department, he delivered. But that was about all he has in common with ver 1 and 2. He didn't hold up or work it back out wide when there wasn't anything for him and was ineffective in helping anyone else in the attack.

With zero assists on the season, we can point to him for the decreased production from the wings like Pedro Santos and the return of Justin Meram.


- In 2015, Kei Kamara added 6 assists to his 26 goals, + a key pass per game to go along with 64% passing on 748 passes.

- In 2017, Ola Kamara had 19 goals, 4 assists, 74% passing (624 total passes) + 0.8 key passes per game.

- In 2018, Zardes had no assists, 20 goals, 0.9 key passes per game and 72% passing an 474 passes (25, 40% less than the Kamara's, respectively).

Outside of that, Zardes' goal tally on the road was unacceptable. Just 2 of his 20 coming away from Columbus. This lead to an anemic attack. 43 overall goals for the team this year was tied for 2nd worst in MLS. The team's 11 goals from 17 away from home was dead last, only Colorado with 12 comes close. The next nearest team was four goals up the ladder.

The goal here is certainly not to pick on Zardes and his season. Pedro Santos, despite being one of the better players with the ball in the middle third of the pitch, was ineffective in attack and Mike Grella was injured / out of the lineup to make up for the loss of Justin Meram and the speed of Ethan Finlay (going back a bit).

Santos, Grella, Niko Hansen, Meram and... I think that's it on the wings, just couldn't get anything going with Zardes up top to make this team anything better than mid-table.

Anyhow, outside of a stout defense that included Mensah, Williams, and Gaston Sauro - this is about the season for the Crew - Home effort kept the team in the mix and Away games ultimately killed it.