The United States men's national team advanced out of group play and into the Round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup on Tuesday in nail-biting fashion. A nervy 1-0 win over Iran gave the Americans five points and a ticket to the knockout round. Gregg Berhalter, the U.S.'s much-maligned manager, finally deserves credit for steering an absurdly young team to this point.
Berhalter has accomplished several goals in his four years as manager of the U.S. national team. The first was to turn the next generation of young players into not just regular contributors, but the stars of the team. The second was qualifying for the World Cup. And last, to survive the group stage.
Additionally, under Berhalter the US has won CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup titles, beating Mexico to win each. Remember, he took over a demoralized program that had missed the 2018 World Cup and felt at its lowest point in nearly three decades. It has been a remarkable turnaround.
In three matches in Qatar, the Americans dominated Wales before taking a hard-luck draw, been better than England for the balance of a 0-0 draw, and did what they needed to do against a plucky Iran squad. In the process they conceded a single goal, and that had to come via penalty kick against Wales.
Don't get me wrong, this has been anything but a smooth ride. There were numerous head-scratching performances in qualifying and, despite a wealth of talent, the U.S. struggles mightily to score goals and can't seem to develop a reliable striker. Additionally, set pieces are a mess and Berhalter's substitution patterns are questionable. All that said, the man has guided a team with an average age of 25 out of the group stage. He's nowhere near a perfect manager, but he still deserves to take a bow and get the recognition he has earned.
This World Cup has always felt like a build to 2026 when the U.S. will host. Ensuring these young guys have a ton of playing time together over the last four years and getting them World Cup experience will be invaluable moving forward.
No one knows if Berhalter will remain manager moving forward. His contract is up at the end of the year and most managers don't get a second World Cup cycle. If he is, indeed, done at the helm, his term has been an unqualified success.