The United States Men’s National Team’s stunning 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10, 2017, put the organization in a state of disarray.
It left the team out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and prompted the resignation of then-coach Bruce Arena.
Millions of dollars in potential sponsorships, merchandise sales and TV licenses were lost by failing to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament. The morale of a country trying to garner interest in the sport took a hit as well.
The appointment of Gregg Berhalter as coach in late 2018 was supposed to be a turning point for the USMNT. But after its 1-0 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup on Sunday — and the United States Women’s National Team lifting the Women’s World Cup trophy on the same day — there are even more questions surrounding Berhalter and his team.
Berhalter started his reign with three straight victories over Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador and a 1-1 draw against Chile. Berhalter’s honeymoon stage, however, came to a screeching halt after defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela in the two warm-up games leading up to the Gold Cup.
He also decided not to call up 19-year-old forwards Josh Sargent and Tim Weah, two promising youngsters for the next generation of US soccer.
Sargent’s name was not on the Under-20 World Cup roster either, meaning he played no competitive soccer since his club team’s season ended in May. Weah, at least, participated in the Under-20 World Cup this summer, recording two goals and two assists in five games.
But what they both needed was first-team experience; a chance to showcase their skills in an international tournament and provide fans with a glimpse into the future alongside Christian Pulisic. Even if they didn’t play a single minute in the tournament, Sargent and Weah would have benefited from practicing and traveling with the USMNT.
Instead, Berhalter brought 29-year-old Jozy Altidore, whose career has been marred by injuries, and 27-year-old Gyasi Zardes, who scored only once in his last 16 international appearances before the Gold Cup.
Despite the two-game sputter in last month’s friendlies and the questionable roster decisions, the USMNT was considered one of the favorites to win the Gold Cup. And just like in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, it failed to meet expectations.
Berhalter’s hiring marked the beginning of a rebuilding phase for the men’s team, yet players like 31-year-old Michael Bradley and Altidore are still being called up to represent the country. Berhalter must get rid of all the deadwood to rejuvenate his roster and the spirits of soccer fans across America.
Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bryan_2712 and contact him at [email protected].