Brian McBride, hired last week as general manager of the beleaguered United States men’s national team program, liked a lot of what he saw from the squad in 2019 in coach Gregg Berhalter’s first full year at the helm. He also saw plenty of room for improvement, with one area in particular sticking out.
“Certainly I think there was a need for some pride sometimes,” McBride, who played in three World Cups for the USMNT, said Monday on a conference call with reporters. “Sometimes we may have lacked a bit of that effort.
“At times there was a lack of real focus and determination,” he added. “I think I can help with those things.”
Shaping the culture of the national team is one of the tasks the 47-year-old will be charged with in his new position. That culture was sorely lacking when the Americans missed the 2018 World Cup, the program’s first qualifying failure since 1986, a little more than two years ago. U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart outlined some of McBride’s other responsibilities as GM during Monday’s call.
Berhalter will report directly to McBride, who in conjunction with Stewart and other senior members of the federation’s braintrust will determine when or if a coaching change is warranted. McBride’s contract runs until the end of 2022, following that year’s World Cup in Qatar. McBride will not be directly responsible for youth national teams or the hiring and firing of those coaches, Stewart said.
McBride knows Berhalter well. First of all, the two were teammates at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Before becoming coach in late 2018, Berhalter spent five seasons leading the Columbus Crew, McBride’s former club. McBride said Monday that he has followed both the Crew and the USMNT closely since retiring as a player in 2010.
The USMNT went 11-5-2 in 2019, losing in the Gold Cup final to Mexico and qualifying for the semifinals of the CONCACAF Nations League. They also suffered humiliating losses to El Tri, a 3-0 drubbing in a friendly in September, and Canada the following month.
McBride’s main task, it seems, will be to establish a strong rapport with players and their clubs, particularly those in Europe, where top American players such as Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Sergino Dest (Ajax) and Weston McKennie (Schalke) are based.
“Building those relationships are really important,” Stewart said. “It sounds really easy and really simple, but there’s a lot of time that goes into [that process] ... that for me is one the most important and essential parts of this job.”
In addition to his international exploits, McBride’s success at the highest levels of the sport — he also captained Fulham in the English Premier League — mitigates his lack of management experience, Stewart said. Unlike former GM Stewart, who was an executive with the Philadelphia Union and multiple clubs in his native Netherlands before joining the federation, McBride has never worked in a front office role within the sport.
“It’s true, within soccer itself, if we’re looking at that experience, that was not there,” Stewart admitted. “But there are some innate qualities that you need to have as a manager.
“When I look at Brian and those unique interpersonal skills that he has, they are outstanding. And when it comes to that relationship building, and making sure that we’re collaborating with clubs and players and coaches, one domestically but two on the other side of the ocean, those are skills that are going to be very, very important for this job.”
And McBride, who was approached about an unspecified role with the national team when Jurgen Klinsmann was the coach that ultimately didn’t materialize, appears to understand what the challenge entails, with qualification for 2022 a must.
“I look forward to helping the men’s national team,” he said, “get to where we all want it to be.”
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