Louis van Gaal says he does not recall the closing time he confronted Gregg Berhalter in a aggressive fit.
Berhalter, whose United States staff will play Van Gaal’s Netherlands on Saturday within the closing 16 of the World Cup, does not consider him for a 2nd.
The date was once 4 May 1997. Berhalter was once a fresh-faced 23-year-old center-back for a mid-table Sparta Rotterdam aspect that beat Van Gaal’s Ajax staff – who had performed within the Champions League semi-finals most effective 11 days previous – due to an 88th-minute winner.
“I think he remembers,” Berhalter mentioned Friday with a grin. “Being that competitive, he has to remember that game.”
Twenty-five years later, the United States supervisor will take at the underdog function as soon as once more when the Americans meet a popular Dutch aspect that experience but to style defeat in 18 fits since Van Gaal took over after closing yr’s European Championship, conceding most effective 14 instances in that span. Should they greenback the percentages towards the Oranje, the Americans would undergo to the closing 8 of a World Cup for the primary time since 2002, when Berhalter’s left foot just about despatched the United States into the semi-finals at Germany’s expense.
That the most important recreation of his three-and-a-half-year tenure will come towards the Netherlands carries added that means for Berhalter, who has grow to be the primary guy to play for and arrange an American aspect at a World Cup. After leaving the University of North Carolina after his junior season, he reduce his tooth with numerous Dutch golf equipment on the outset of a decade-and-a-half enjoying occupation in Europe, signing with Zwolle in 1994, then with Sparta in 1996. and Cambuur Leeuwarden in 1998.
It’s no wonder that Dutch soccer has deeply knowledgeable its training philosophy.
“I learned so much in Holland,” Berhalter mentioned. “It’s almost like, what concepts Haven’t I took from Dutch football? It was a great experience being there.
“After every training session, you have a debate with your players about it. After every game, you have a talk with people about the game. People love to discuss soccer and you really learn a lot.
“I went to Holland just out of university, totally unprepared for professional-level soccer. If I wasn’t in Holland, I don’t think I would have had that background that really helped shape my ideas.”
Berhalter described how his experience in the Netherlands was an awakening to the nuances of the game that weren’t a part of his development back home.
“Just about spacing and the positional game, third man, triangles,” he said. “There was a striker, an old striker that I played with when I first got there. His name was Remco Boere. He would yell at me for giving him the ball with too much spin. He wanted balls that came straight at him that I had to hit with my laces. And I wasn’t good enough hitting with my laces, so I had to practice, practice, practice so I could play him a ball that he wanted.
“If you ever laid a ball off to someone and you put it to their wrong foot, they would start yelling at you. How crisp you play passes. There were a lot of details that I was missing that I learned in Holland.”
Berhalter is not the only figure in the US camp with deep ties to the Netherlands. US Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart, who captained the national team in the famous win over Portugal that launched their 2002 World Cup run, was born in the southern Dutch town of Veghel.
Meanwhile US right-back Sergiño Dest, the son of a Dutch mother and Surinamese-American father, grew up in Almere and came up through Ajax’s vaunted youth academy. When he was deciding whether to represent the US or the Netherlands at the international level, it was Berhalter’s connection with the Dest defender that helped tip the balance.
“As he transitioned to the pro stage, there got here some consideration from the Dutch aspect and our aspect,” Berhalter said. “And basically it was about me just making a connection with him, talking to him about what we thought his role could be for us, what the plans are for this group over the next eight years, and then introducing him to his teammates and getting him into our environment.
Said the 22-year-old Dest: “It’s going to be a pretty fun one, playing against the country I was born in. I know almost every single guy over there.”
The maximum urgent query in the United States camp forward of Saturday’s fit surrounded the health of Christian Pulisic, who suffered a pelvic contusion whilst scoring the winner in Tuesday’s win-or-go-home fit with Iran that sealed the Americans’ growth to the knockouts. the 5th time since 1994.
One day after the Chelsea winger mentioned he was once taking it day by day with the damage sooner than a coaching consultation on the staff’s Al Rayyan headquarters however “doing everything in my power to be able to be out there on the field Saturday”, Berhalter presented a moderately rosier evaluate.
“We’re going to see him on the training field today,” mentioned the executive. “What I think is it looks pretty good, so we’ll have to see him today on the pitch to get confirmation of that.”
US Soccer later confirmed Pulisic has been cleared to play towards the Dutch.
Berhalter was once much less constructive in regards to the availability of Josh Sargent, the Norwich City striker who went off with a proper ankle damage within the 77th minute of the Iran fit.
“He’s another one we’re going to test in training, to see where he’s at,” Berhalter mentioned. “… He’s going to check. At this degree, it is pass time. If you’ll be able to push thru it, you do.”
The United States’ have done little to assuage long-running concerns over their ability to produce goals during their time in Qatar, scoring just twice in three matches so far. But they have yet to concede from open play – and Berhalter is confident the closely knit team play that has seen the Americans go this far will be enough to close what’s an undeniable gap in individual skill.
“It’s difficult,” he said. ,[The Dutch] havetalent. I can see them playing with two strikers, one behind the striker. It could be any combination of who they’ve been playing, but they have some real top-end talent with Memphis Depay and [Cody] Gakpo and if [Steven] To install Bergwijn plays.
“But for us it’s about the collective. The back four have done a great job. The goalkeeper has done a great job. It’s about team defending, working as a unit, moving collectively. And when we do that, we put the opponent in difficult positions where they can’t access the spaces they want to access. And I think that’s been what we’ve been good at in this tournament so far.”