SAN JOSE, Calif. — National team defenders DeAndre Yedlin and Walker Zimmerman praised US coach Gregg Berhalter for bringing the Americans together at the World Cup in Qatar, despite the fact that he is currently under investigation by US Soccer for kicking his future wife in the legs in 1991.
Yedlin and Zimmerman acknowledged that the team’s leadership structure may be uncertain for some time.
“I think Gregg’s a great head coach, and I think he did a great job of banding us all together and really making sure we’re all fighting for the same goal,” Yedlin said at MLS media day on Tuesday. “Obviously, we all know certain things are happening and again some of those decisions they’re not up to me. He’s an excellent coach, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with him.”
The USSF said last week that it learned of the allegation against Berhalter on December 11 and hired the law firm Alston & Bird to conduct an investigation. Berhalter and his wife Rosalind had “spoken openly” about the matter, according to the federation, and Berhalter admitted kicking her during an argument after a night of drinking in 1991, before they married.
Last week, he issued a statement in which he called his actions “a shameful moment and one that I regret to this day,” adding that he was “looking forward to continuing my conversations with US Soccer about the future.”
While Berhalter is under investigation, Anthony Hudson is serving as the interim coach.
Midfielder Kellyn Acosta would not directly address the situation surrounding Berhalter, but he has been impressed with how the US players have handled off-field issues in the past.
“There were some issues that we had to deal with internally,” he explained. “For a group, we moved past it and we set our sights for doing well in Qatar, and that’s what we did. That’s all I really have to say about it.”
The Americans were eliminated in the round of 16 in Qatar after falling 3-1 to the Netherlands, the same result as in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
“Gregg has performed admirably for the national team. “I believe the record speaks for itself,” Zimmerman stated. “Of course, we wish we could have gone further in Qatar. I’m sure he wishes the same thing. I believe he did an excellent job of fostering a positive team culture and chemistry. He’s handled a lot of things exceptionally well. “So, we’ll see what happens.”
Claudio Reyna’s family said they informed the federation of the decades-old incident involving Berhalter in response to the coach’s disparagement of Claudio’s son, young star Gio Reyna.
Berhalter has stated that he would like to coach the national team until the 2026 World Cup, which the United States will co-host.
Acosta is grateful to Berhalter for taking a chance on him.
“I have a lot of respect for Gregg. “He’s the guy who gave me the chance to make my World Cup debut, and I think he did a great job in the World Cup,” Acosta said. “Obviously, we wanted to accomplish a lot more, but we only had one goal in mind for us. The first goal was to play each game as it came, starting with Wales, then England, and finally Iran. Each game presented its own set of challenges, and we were able to break away from the group. Obviously, we have a bad taste in our mouths for not being able to accomplish more (in) that Netherlands game.”
Yedlin is optimistic about the Americans’ chances as they prepare for the next World Cup on home soil.
“You go to any World Cup and ask the host country if it’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to win, and of course it is,” he said. “I believe, especially in this era of US Soccer. With the players in the pool and the players coming up, I believe we have a very good chance. It’s a fantastic group of players.”
After missing last year’s World Cup due to a ruptured left Achilles tendon, defender Miles Robinson is excited to be back on the team. Being a bystander was difficult for him, he admitted.
“It’s a different type of kind of bitterness, anger that you get watching those games but it can only motivate you if you look at it through the right lens,” he said, “and I think that’s what I’m trying to do because at this point it’s long gone. So I’m just looking forward at the moment.”