The conversation cannot be delayed. Procrastination on specific staffing decisions that will expose Gregg Berhalter’s future as the head of the US men’s national team is now harmful to postponing beyond this weekend. Miles Robinson went from the World Cup qualifiers out of the 23-man squad sent to Qatar with a hugely regrettable step. And that’s a big dilemma for Berhalter.
After being a rock in the back for the Americans in the World Cup qualifiers, Miles Robinson will play zero minutes in Qatar because of a non-contact injury sustained while playing for his club, the Major’s Atlanta United. League Soccer last Saturday. Robinson ruptured his achilles tendon and was ruled out for the rest of the year. The shortest prognosis for Robinson was eight months. The US played its first match in the 2022 World Cup in just over six games.
No long-term injury can cause Berhalter to show more ability to adjust the Yanks lead than Robinson. Any football fan with a brain will start with Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. Robinson’s omission until a crowned champion in Qatar creates a fork in the road for Berhalter, with him and Walker Zimmerman all but pencils became the starting midfield duo at the World Cup.
Berhalter’s Confusing Team Picks are fully documented, as well as random roster rotation. Those missteps were just small enough for the United States to take third place in the Octagon, the shallowest plateau for an automatic berth from CONCACAF to Qatar. Due to the World Cup taking place in the late fall instead of the traditional summer event, Berhalter had six months to prepare to replace Robinson. He will take one of two routes.
The wrong direction will only rely on players who only appeared in recent WCQ matches or brand new picks. Berhalter commits to pairing Zimmerman with Aaron Long, who featured in central defender in the final trio of USMNT games, should yield ok results. Since when is mediocrity preferred? The Yanks head coach has alluded to calling Cameron Carter-Vickers, a 24-year-old who has played in non-October games, for a friendly in June. I’m all about broadening my horizons, but going with someone completely new is risky if you don’t plan on sticking with them through 2022. And Berhalter has shown an inability to stop tinkering with quirks. formation.
Who will replace Robinson?
The group of players that Berhalter needs to dig deep to improve their position with Robinson’s vacancy are those who have played in the team’s main games since winning the Nations League but may not have made it to the final round of the tournament. Octagon match. Is that the best selection of presentation at John Brooks? Ability. But where else will you find a real saver who has scored in a World Cup before? Of the players who actually competed to represent the US in Qatar, only he and DeAndre Yedlin featured in the squad the last time the country played at a World Cup eight years ago. Remember his goal against Ghana? Brooks headed into the net then more unlikely.
Why Brooks was not the obvious choice is incomprehensible. I guess he still has to “earn it” whatever The goal post moves away from Berhalter thrown in front of him. When you combine the experience, potential, national team background and chemistry with Zimmerman, the ideal choice is Brooks. And it’s not particularly close to second place.
If Brooks’ isolation from the Yanks continues suspiciously, Chris Richards, Mark McKenzie and Tim Ream should be considered, with Richards having the upper hand in that trio due to no red flag performances in a team shirt. national team for the past 12 years. Ream is the oldest and most experienced of them but seems to be a step behind on the international level in recent years against the competition of CONCACAF, far less than the best from the rest of the world. Go back to the Nations League Final and watch the first 90 seconds and you’ll see what I think of McKenzie. Yes, that was a mistake. But one of those things should stick with him.
Richards is well-trained, progressing through the development ranks of FC Dallas and Bayern Munich. He finds himself at Hoffenheim, a mid-tier Bundesliga club that will give him consistent game time, something so many other USMNT gyms have struggled with. Given the lack of tested options at centre-back, Berhalter may need to adjust who he calls into Qatar, with James Sands now much more valuable in defensive midfield for extra help. That could cause an attack option to leave the plane to Qatar.
The transformation of a non-traditional central defender back into the position has yielded mixed results for the USMNT at previous World Cups. Look at Geoff Cameron in 2014, who played solidly but struggled against Portugal. Either way, Berhalter’s management of this situation and how it plays out in Qatar will either ensure that he is the right man to lead the Americans as co-hosts of the World Cup in 2026, or prove it. Prove he’s not and someone else will get that chance. My money is for later.