U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter has silenced critics at World Cup, but his biggest test is next: Iran

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AL KHOR, Qatar – The intense collective hatred of Gregg Berhalter among American football fans is a phenomenon whose roots are not difficult to trace.
Criticism has dogged Berhalter since U.S. Soccer, which employed his brother as a top executive for two decades, hired him as head coach of the US men's national team in late 2018.
It's been fueled by MLS haters but sustained by some really lazy USMNT performances, some odd decisions and an overly idealistic approach. The scale has always been difficult to gauge, but as the 2022 World Cup drew nearer, it threatened to go mainstream.
But it's not part of the narrative that follows this USMNT after two group games in Qatar. After months of obsessive preparation, Berhalter got almost everything right.
He hatched two game plans that allowed the USMNT to pounce on Wales and England. He displayed an adaptability and pragmatic streak that so many critics felt was missing. He made some bold but logical decisions that put his team in a position to stun a World Cup favorite. He was mostly dealt with by his players' inability to act at crucial, unscripted moments.
However, he knows that the most momentous challenge lies ahead. He knows he will be judged by the crowds on his ability to find a way past a parked Iranian bus in Tuesday's Group B final. He now has three days to implement a 90-minute optimization plan that will again produce moderate success or definite failure.
And for that, he knows, he "registered", as he said here on Thursday. "For us, that's the job. The way I see it, it's an opportunity.”
Gregg Berhalter, the USMNT's most divisive man, has hatched game plans that have removed a win for the US from progressing to the 2022 World Cup. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Berhalter shows willingness to adapt
For years, the main criticism of Berhalter, at least from the rational factions of the fan base, was that he was an ideologue, a stubborn system trainer who refused to adapt his tactics to his personality.
He never gave Jordan Pefok a legitimate look at the forward, for example, despite Pefok regularly scoring in top European competitions because he didn't fit Berhalter's desired 'player profile'. He froze Tim Ream for a year despite Ream's continuous start in England's top two leagues in a position of need.
But when it came time to stop building and start winning this month, Berhalter prioritized "system types"; He selected a squad and lineups based partly on form, partly on established quality and partly on Group B opponents. and he tweaked what so many thought was his "system" to make it hum at the World Cup.
In 180 minutes, the USMNT played at least three different styles here in Qatar. They took control in the first half against Wales with possession, breaking through a tight Welsh defense to take a first-half lead. In the second 45 minutes on Monday, they picked up pressure and played in transitions and really should have scored a second goal to end the game.
Berhalter had prepared her to do all these things. Then, on Thursday, the day before the England game, he outlined a completely different approach, according to players. Previously, they had "no idea" that Berhalter would be going for an adaptive 4-4-2 formation against England, captain Tyler Adams said. "It's the coach's decision. He does the analysis.”
The story goes on

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