U.S. Soccer Is Happy To Make You Wait

And here is your U.S. Soccer Gregg Berhalter update for today:

I think this answers all your questions regarding the immediate and longterm future of the U.S. men’s national team, its direction, and vision.

One must respect U.S. Soccer’s plan to rope-a-dope its coaching decision for at least eight days since being eliminated in the group stage of the Copa America, and 11 since the wheels came off in the loss to Panama. The strategy to make everyone forget Gregg Berhalter only needs to survive today’s Argentina-Canada match and the two days of scripted yammering that will follow regarding Canada manager Jesse Marsch, and then the hiring/firing/investigations committee can say it has made a clear-eyed decision without all the background noise offered by anyone with a YouTube account over the past two weeks … well, 18 months, if you want to be pedantic.

It is hard to remember a coach carrying more public baggage for a longer time than Berhalter. Actually, we stand corrected. Mike McCarthy has been the coach of the Dallas Cowboys for four years, long enough for people to stop caring whether or when he will finally be fired. So yes, time can calm all tempers. You just have to be willing to let them punch themselves out.

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And this would seem to be the strategy U.S. Soccer is employing with Berhalter. The pitchforks-and-torches brigades have grown weary of storming the castle and are back to their humdrum lives buying Wrexham jerseys. They’ve even stopped asking why Emma Hayes can’t coach the men’s and women’s teams simultaneously, which was the previous indication that they had no more clues on what the future should hold than the directors themselves.

Which is why the timing of this hiring is so brilliant. You want someone to be the next great marketer? Great. Announce the hiring now, when everyone wants a different press release entirely. Catherine Newman may, as the release reads, “lead the Federation as we continue our focus as a fan-centric organization,” but for the moment she is the person who isn’t Gregg Berhalter being fired. She may deserve better, but she did know the job was dangerous when she took it. Being a recognizable face on the committee that launched a million middle fingers is no way to go through life, as Dean Wormer might have postulated, but she signed on knowing that her superiors are slightly less well regarded than Alexi Lalas.

And for her first act, she gets to be a human shield for the announcement to come, and whether that announcement is Berhalter getting extended or extinguished, she will wake up every morning knowing she began her career as the press release everyone thought would be something else. Even if that bad-publicity-is-better-than-no-publicity saying is actually true, she got handed a week-old sandwich on her first day.

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Then again, maybe that’s the vision U.S. Soccer wants, giving you what you didn’t ask for while withholding the thing you want. I mean, what with being a fan-centric organization and all.


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