Gregg Berhalter said he is "humbled" and "honored" to be taking over as manager of the U.S. men's national team, and that he is ready for the challenge of leading the team back to the World Cup.
Berhalter was introduced at a press conference in New York City, ending a 13-month period in which Dave Sarachan managed the team on a caretaker basis. Sarachan's involvement followed the resignation of Bruce Arena after the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Berhalter, 45, becomes the first U.S. manager in the program's history to have also played in a World Cup. The former Columbus Crew manager also represented the U.S. at youth level and had an extensive career as player, spending the bulk of his playing days in Europe.
"I'm ready for this challenge," said Berhalter. "The youth national team, the full national team, my experiences as a player and my experiences in the coaching ranks have prepared me for this moment. I'm excited for the opportunity to turn this group of men into a team.
"I'll be focusing on the players and team, how we can compete first and foremost. I'm focused on building a style of play, and I'm focused on team [cohesiveness]. I know it's going to be a challenge, but I know there's quality in this group, and I know that the closer we can come together, the closer we can come to [reaching] our goals."
U.S. men's national team general manager Earnie Stewart, as well U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro shed a bit more light on the process that led to Berhalter's hiring. Cordeiro called it "the most inclusive and comprehensive search in our history."
Stewart confirmed earlier reports that he began with an initial list of 33 candidates, which he reduced to 11 after applying the coaching profile he developed with other USSF staff members. That list was then ultimately reduced to three candidates, one of whom later withdrew his candidacy due to timing issues, leaving Stewart with Berhalter and current Club Tijuana manager Oscar Pareja.
Berhalter was ultimately the choice, and he added he was first contacted in late August. The decision gained unanimous approval of USSF technical development committee last Wednesday, and then the full Board of Directors last weekend.
The length of the process has been criticized, but Stewart said he had no regrets on missing out on a potential head coach.
"That's part of life, part of soccer, that's the way things go," he said. "I think we went through this in a thorough way."
Cordeiro added, "We have no regrets at all. We got our best guy...we couldn't have moved any faster."
Berhalter will need to get up to speed quickly in terms of imparting his philosophy to the pool of players. There will be a camp of domestic players that will take place in Chula Vista, California starting on Jan. 7, and will culminate with a pair of friendlies against Panama on Jan. 27 and Costa Rica on Feb. 2.
Berhalter added that his first priority is immediately reaching out to players. He'll be calling a number of domestic-based players, then he'll head to the MLS Cup final between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers on Dec. 8, and from there he'll head over to Europe to meet face to face.
"What I'm focused on is how can we do more outside of camp," he said. "What communication can we give to the players that's going to prepare them for the learning that's going to take place in camp? And then setting the stage in January, setting the stage for team expectations, team culture and style of play. If we can get a head start by working with this group in an intensive period in January, and then incorporate European-based players into the squad in March."
Berhalter's reputation is that of an attack-minded manager with a keen eye for tactical detail. While most new managers make that claim upon their introduction, Berhalter insists he'll stay true to his preferred style, while also being smart in terms of the challenges put in front of him.
"The idea is that we are an attacking-based team, that wants to create goalscoring opportunities by disorganizing opponents," he said. "We'll do that in a number of ways. Consistently over my time in Columbus, we've done it through build up. We start the ball with the goalie in the back, the teams try to press us, and we play through them to try to create goalscoring opportunities.
"Another way to do that is to use pressure, whether we start in a mid-block or move into high pressure to force turnovers to win the ball and immediately create goalscoring opportunities. The idea is that it's a fluid style [where] the players are intent on breaking lines, playing through opponent and creating goalscoring opportunities.
"I think at times we can do a better job to change the tempo of the game instead of playing at such a high rhythm all the time. I think mixing that rhythm is going to be very important, especially at international level, especially considering some of the climates you're playing in. But we want to see ball circulation, breaking lines, and creating goalscoring opportunities. That should be DNA of this team."