March 31, 2023
Christian Pulisic says the Reyna-Berhalter saga was "childish" and Berhalter "extremely unfortunate"

Christian Pulisic says the Reyna-Berhalter saga was “childish” and Berhalter “extremely unfortunate”

Gregg Berhalter and Christian Pulisic after USMNT’s World Cup elimination. (Photo by Mohammad Karamali/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Christian Pulisic offered a pretty strong endorsement of Gregg Berhalter in an interview with ESPN published on Friday.

Responding to a question about the uncertain coaching search for the US men’s team, with Berhalter out of contract and US Soccer indicating a new hire could wait until the summer, Pulisic gave a comprehensive and reasoned response, saying that Berhalter “It has been extremely unfortunate to get to the position you are in now.”

Pulisic, of course, was referring to the saga sparked by the parents of his USMNT teammate Gio Reyna, which culminated this week with the launch of an investigation into Berhalter’s past domestic violence and the Reynas’ meddling and threats. during the World Cup.

“In my opinion, everything that happened with Gregg, in the first place, [was] handled in an extremely childish manner,” Pulisic said. “I think we’ve all seen what’s been going on. I think it’s childish, it’s youth soccer, people complaining about playing time. I don’t want to go too deep into that, but that’s what we’ll say.”

Before that, however, Pulisic spoke at length about Berhalter’s leadership, the “brotherhood” he created within the USMNT, and his coaching qualities:

“So I would say Gregg Berhalter is someone I’ve really liked over the years. I’ve learned a lot from him, I think I’ve grown a lot as a player. I think it’s underestimated what he’s done to create.” that environment that I was talking about that was so special within that team [in Qatar]. I think it has helped many players improve in many ways. I think he is very passionate about the sport. I think he has done amazing things in a short time.

“There were times, there were times when he benched me and I wanted to kill the [guy] – I hated him. I was so angry. But then the next game comes around, and then I find myself in a better place. And the way he handled a lot of situations, I have to give him a lot of credit. I think he created a team that was not only probably the best brotherhood, family, unit that I’ve ever been a part of. But also on the football side, when it came down to it, around the time of the World Cup, I think you could say a lot of people were also impressed with what we were able to do on the pitch.”

When asked about the difficulty of doing all that with a national team, as opposed to a club team, with much less time with the players, Pulisic said, in part:

“I think he did a good job showing the team and helping everyone understand, ‘Look, this is how we’re going to play in a short period of time.’ And he’s going to be perfect? Of course not. No selection is. Look at Argentina, they lost their first match. [at the World Cup]. Hard times will come, and we had some of those. But at the end of the day… yes, it was a winner.”

How Berhalter helped Pulisic

Pulisic also gave an example, one he said he will “never forget.” In March 2019, during his first camp with Berhalter, he scored in a friendly against Chile, but then suffered the latest in a long list of injuries. After a trip to a nearby hospital for a scan, he returned to the USMNT camp late at night and was called by Berhalter into the coach’s office.

“And he said, ‘Look, maybe one reason is you need to train harder. You need to train more how you play,'” Pulisic recalled. “And after I’ve just scored a goal, I think: ‘Who is this guy to tell me this?’ [But] That’s a moment that stuck with me for a long time. Because it changed my way of seeing training, even today. I want to train as I play. And listen, it wasn’t easy and it took a little bit of time, but I said, ‘You know what, let me incorporate this. And since then, I’ve been in a much better place.”

It was an example, Pulisic said, of “the way that [Berhalter] He deals with the players: You can tell that he is passionate and cares about his players. He is not going to tell you easily, or what you want to hear. He’ll tell you what he feels that he’s going to make you better.”

Pulisic’s take on the USMNT coaching search

And as for the coaching search, which US Soccer says Berhalter could still be a part of, and which hinges on the search for a new sporting director, who will be primarily responsible for picking the next coach, who might not make it until after two regional tournaments in June and July?

Pulisic said, first of all, that he would “give 100%” for whoever it is, and acknowledged: “I’m not here to name the next manager. It’s not my job.”

But then, after saying Berhalter has been “extremely unfortunate,” he advocated against the lengthy timeline US Soccer has offered.

“Do I feel like we should wait and wait? You know, I don’t think it’s necessary,” Pulisic told ESPN at his home in London. “Because I don’t feel that we are in a phase like the one we were in after not qualifying [for the 2018 World Cup], where we need a complete rebuild. We don’t need a bunch of new guys coming in, and this and this. We have a strong core, in my opinion, and I think a lot of people have seen that. And we have to get on with it.

“And that’s why it’s hard for me. Because I think we just want to continue as soon as we can, and build off of this World Cup, this World Cup which I think had a lot of positive things.” She will tell. And I think we want to get started on that as soon as we can.”

He was then asked if, if Berhalter were to be rehired, he would be “reasonably glad to have a talented coach, a reliable man, a winning coach and someone capable of taking the gains that all of you and him have made.” and move on,” said Pulisic:

“Yeah, there’s no question about that. I think the progress we’ve made in recent years with his appointment has been evident. I think it’s pretty clear. So, yeah, that’s what I’ll say.”

Pulisic, recently back from injury, will join 12 of his World Cup teammates and a supporting cast of other young European-based players at a short USMNT training camp in Florida next week, the first from Qatar. But they will be led by interim coach Anthony Hudson, a former Berhalter assistant who is doing the window-to-window head job.

US Soccer has said the interview process for the sporting director job has begun, but has not offered a firm timeline for that hire. It is also unclear how long the coaching search would take once the new sporting director is in place.

That process could be sped up, of course, if the new sporting director simply chooses to bring back Berhalter, who was widely praised by Stewart, the outgoing sporting director, in an interview with Yahoo Sports as he prepared to leave US Soccer.

But with the departure of Stewart and former USMNT GM Brian McBride, and with the baggage of the Reyna-driven saga, the outside assumption has been that Berhalter now has a long shot of reclaiming the job.

After two games later this month, the USMNT’s next competitions are (probably) the Nations League finals on June 15 and 18, followed by the Gold Cup soon after. If a new manager is not hired before then, their first games will be friendlies in the fall.

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