U.S. Soccer men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter talks about amazing atmosphere at Nippert
U.S. Soccer men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter is no stranger to Nippert Stadium, but his last memory of visiting Clifton isn’t necessarily a positive one. Berhalter was the coach of the Columbus Crew when his team lost to FC Cincinnati in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup.
“The first thing about that match is, I’m still mad we lost it,” Berhalter said in a conference call last week to promote the national team’s upcoming friendly with Venezuela at Nippert on June 9. “But if you think about how rivalries are started, I think that was a perfect example.
“When you look around the stadium and see the colors of FC Cincinnati and then you see Columbus Crew FC and their yellow, it was one of the better atmospheres I’ve experienced while working in Major League Soccer. There’s just an amazing atmosphere in Cincinnati.”
Berhalter was named USMNT coach in December, the first U.S. World Cup veteran to be named to that position. He’s also the first men’s national team coach with experience as a player and a coach both here, and overseas. He told area media he thinks the upcoming match with Venezuela will be a good test as the team prepares for cup play.
“Venezuela had a very successful U-20 group that they’ve been able to push through to their full national team,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a really difficult final preparation match. When I think about some of the competition in Gold Cup, this is really going to prepare us.”
Berhalter was brought in to turn around a men’s national team that was left out of the last World Cup, and he knows it’s top of mind for his players as well as fans. “It’s something we’ve discussed with the team, and we have embraced this failure, just as much as we have embraced the good times in U.S Soccer,” he said. “And what it’s done, is it’s given us fuel.
“I’ve seen how the players have been extremely focused in camp, I’ve seen how their mindset has been not to take things for granted, understand that things are going to be difficult. Part of this journey is reflecting on the past and seeing where we can improve, and then actually going out and doing it.”
As someone who has coached at both the club and national level, he said being part of the men’s national team is a special experience. “There’s a tremendous sense of pride when you’re representing your national team, and I really felt that in these first couple of games,” he said. “It’s a different feeling than club soccer, in the sense that you feel like the whole nation is behind the team.
“The opportunity to bring the national team to a great soccer market like Cincinnati is important. We’re excited that 19,000 tickets already have been sold, and we’re looking forward to a great atmosphere in Cincinnati.”
Tickets are still available for the June 9 friendly at Nippert Stadium at https://fccincy.com/2GlNINz.