Column: Hate for Berhalter harms USMNT fanbase

Gregg Berhalter’s tenure as the manager of the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) has created far more devastating cultural effects than his coaching ever could. In the supposed golden age of U.S. soccer, fans have adopted painfully defeatist attitudes, which serve as a drain on any excitement surrounding the team.

First, I must say that this isn’t an argument in defense of Berhalter as a manager. Along with many others, I would gladly welcome a coaching change ahead of the USMNT’s participation in the 2024 Copa América tournament this summer. But what has bothered me more than MLS-filled starting XI’s and passive in-game strategies is the unavoidable and all-encompassing cynicism that has grown among fans.

The current attitude surrounding Berhalter pretty much only impacts the fans, and I think people should seriously reevaluate their priorities.

When scrolling through social media as a USMNT fan, one will regularly see a tide of “Berhalter out” comments from people voicing their desire for a new manager. I have no issue with this at all. What bothers me in particular is when fans will use their disdain for Berhalter as a default, all-inclusive response in situations both good and bad.

Sometimes on a social media post after a big win, for example, it isn’t uncommon to find comments such as “we looked great tonight but it means nothing with Berhalter as manager” or “Berhalter is ruining this generation.” I think it’s a serious problem when a large portion of a fanbase can’t even enjoy a win, no matter how justified their criticisms may be.

The same is true after a loss. While the coaching certainly warrants a lot of the blame for the team’s shortcomings, the result of this is that there is no nuance to any discussion from fans. Although certain players may have had bad games and shots that should’ve been goals didn’t find the back of the net, you’ll be hard-pressed to find people commenting on these aspects as nearly all of the attention is on Berhalter. 

Again, I want to be clear that I’m not trying to say that everyone should unite behind Berhalter or even be supportive of him, because I believe that fans should voice their concerns and opinions. As a fan of multiple sub-par sports teams, I’m also aware that this isn’t just a USMNT phenomenon and that any unsuccessful coach is going to get a similar treatment. But there comes a point where we need to ask ourselves if it’s productive or worth the energy for a fanbase to be so cynical about a situation that may not change for a long time.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. The U.S. Soccer Federation isn’t scrolling through Instagram comments looking for advice on how they should conduct the national team. The current attitude surrounding Berhalter pretty much only impacts the fans, and I think people should seriously reevaluate their priorities. I’d say that we’ve reached rock bottom considering how some fans are rooting for the team to lose in next month’s Nations League Semifinal in the hopes that it will finally make the Federation give Berhalter the ax.

Rooting for the USMNT to lose just so Berhalter will get fired is insane to me, as this is antithetical to being a fan of the team. Some fans even supported Gio Reyna’s family’s attempts at blackmailing him in 2022, which crosses a line beyond sports in my opinion. 

What I desperately want to see is meaningful criticism for Berhalter coexist with an equally meaningful love and excitement for the team. I can understand the hate for Berhalter, but is it worth it when it compromises so much of what makes being a fan enjoyable?


Featured photo courtesy of @USMNT, X