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Sporting director Earnie Stewart: USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s job is safe

Stewart denied rumors that Berhalter’s job rests on the results from Friday’s rematch against Canada.

Then-Philadelphia Union sporting director Earnie Stewart walks the field during halftime of a game between the Philadelphia Union and the Vancouver Whitecaps at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite rumors following the Americans’ loss to Canada, U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart said coach Gregg Berhalter’s job is safe regardless of the result of Friday night’s rematch in Orlando.

Stewart has been with the team in Central Florida, watching training on Monday and praising the team’s energy as it prepares for its second round of Nations League games.

“We’re looking at the future, so yeah, I would say when I evaluate Gregg and the coaching staff and what I’ve seen today, I’m a pleased man,” Stewart said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “An individual result is not going to change that. It’s just not. I’ve seen that progress.”

The team’s 2-0 upset loss in Canada last month left the team rattled. It wasn’t just a Concacaf rival; Canada sat more than 50 places lower than the Americans in the FIFA rankings, yet the team lacked intensity against an opponent that it should’ve easily handled. Following the loss, some began to question whether Berhalter could keep his job if the U.S. lost back-to-back games to Canada.

Stewart, however, shook off the question, saying his concern is the team’s progress rather than singular results. He added that he has “no fear” the U.S. won’t qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

Although he acknowledges the dissatisfaction of fans following losses, he said improvement in the team’s style of play is a long-term effort. For Stewart, the focus remains on finding the positive stretches of each result and working to sustain that quality of play for a full 90 minutes.

“Everybody looks at the last result that we had, that’s really simple,” Stewart said. “That wasn’t good enough. We can all be very short about that. However, I have seen in games we’ve played, and I’ll reference the first 25 minutes against Mexico, our players showed they can perform at a really high level, and there’s been some other games.”

A loss on Friday would naturally put pressure on the entire organization, from the bench players all the way up to sporting director. The Americans had not lost to Canada since 1985 and back-to-back losses could also knock the team out of contention for the next round of the Concacaf Nations League tournament.
 
That pressure, however, won’t be make-or-break for Berhalter and the process will come with growing pains.

“I still think there’s progress in this, I really do,” Stewart said. “When you don’t win games, there’s a certain pressure that comes with that and we all understand that, but that’s also something we all need to get through and keep doing what we have to do.”

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