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Alexi Lalas: Gregg Berhalter is ‘eminently qualified’ to be USMNT coach

Fox Sports analyst and longtime U.S. player Alexi Lalas shares his thoughts on the hiring of Gregg Berhalter in an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News.

Fox Sports soccer analyst Alexi Lalsa.
Fox Sports soccer analyst Alexi Lalsa.Read moreCourtesy of Fox Sports (custom credit) / Scott Kirkland/Fox/PictureGroup

After the press conference introducing Gregg Berhalter as the new head coach of the U.S. men’s soccer team, Fox Sports analyst and longtime U.S. player Alexi Lalas shared his thoughts on the event in an interview with the Inquirer.

Are you satisfied with what you saw and heard during the press conference?

Eh, you know. These press conferences, no one’s really going to say anything specific or in detail, and it’s all going to be good. So, I mean, they all said the right things. Ultimately, and I’m sure Gregg would tell you, the only thing that matters is really when this team gets out on the field, and whether they win or lose.

One of the questions that a lot of people have had is: what took so long? I wonder if you have the same question, and what your sense of the answer is.

I was, along with a lot of people, frustrated with the length [of time] that it took. I was advocating doing it immediately [hiring a new full-time coach] when the failure happened in 2017. Having said that, I think they did a good job of laying out the reasons why and the process.

But I think ultimately, while there’s going to be a lot of talk about the process, I would be very interested if people would care about the process had Julen Lopetegui or Tata Martino been the person sitting up on that podium. I think it’s much more about the fact that people are not necessarily excited or positive about the hire of Gregg Berhalter.

Part of the issue here is that Gregg’s brother Jay is a high-ranking executive in the U.S. Soccer Federation. You and I have been talking about this on Twitter in recent days, and you saw that I asked U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn and president Carlos Cordeiro about the subject at the press conference. What did you think about their answers?

I think they explained a little bit about the committees, and I think some of the higher-ups - well, most of the higher-ups - were sitting here on the stage. They did what they are in positions to do, which is make decisions.

And we can second-guess them and we can disagree with them, but ultimately I want people in positions of power to make decisions. I don’t have to agree with them, and I can be critical of the way that it was done, but that’s what their responsibility is.

I’m happy, at the very least - I can talk about how long it took and all that - but I’m happy that there is somebody in place right now. And somebody that’s eminently qualified, and who I think will do a good job. Because I don’t think we’ve been at a lower point when it comes to the way we look at our men’s national team - and soccer, to a certain extent.

So I think Gregg has a really good opportunity to kind of pull us out. Is it good optics having Jay Berhalter there? No. But I also know that he’s very smart and capable, and the fact that his brother is the head coach - or the fact that Gregg’s brother is the chief commercial officer -- shouldn’t preclude them.

I want as many good people working in this Federation as possible, and in both Berhalters, I think you have two very good people.

Should a business and marketing guy been involved in a technical-side search for a general manager, as Jay Berhalter was in the hiring of Earnie Stewart?

Would I have had him involved? I’ve known him for a while and I’ve talked to him. He’s a smart soccer person.

Obviously, that [technical-side involvement] is not what his job is. But in the same way that we are taking to task the Federation for what we may feel is not a thorough enough process in leaving no stone unturned, I want to access as many different people as possible, and their diverse backgrounds and their understanding and their intellect that they have.

So I don’t necessarily think that it’s inappropriate. If it’s inappropriate because ultimately his brother was hired, how would you have known his brother was going to be hired? As he [Gregg] just told you, he only heard in August.

Well, going forward, should this all preclude Jay from being U.S. Soccer’s next CEO?

I don’t think so. I want good people. To have them be brothers, that’s fine.

And by the way, not for nothing, but there’s also going to be times when what that man up there, Gregg Berhalter, wants is almost diametrically opposed to what Jay Berhalter wants. So they might be working at odds, because what’s good for Gregg Berhalter might not necessarily be good for Jay Berhalter, in terms of the two different jobs that they do.