Gregg Berhalter could wind up on the hot seat if the USMNT doesn’t play to its potential. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
So, who are the dozen national soccer personalities to watch in 2020?
Take a look here on one writer’s opinion:
- Gregg Berhalter
The Concacaf Hexagonal for the 2022 World Cup kicks off in September. The U.S. must avoid repeating history when it got off to an awful start in the 2016 hex for the 2018 World Cup. Can the USMNT head coach raise the level of the team so it can compete successfully against the likes of Mexico and Costa Rica?
- Vlatko Andonovski
When you’re the coach of the U.S. women, expectations are similar to the Brazilian men’s team, if not greater (the USWNT has won a record four Women’s World Cups and four Olympic gold medals, a feat the South American side has yet to accomplish). When the American women tie or lose to anyone, including a top squad, it raises concern. Can the new coach keep the quality up while putting his stamp on the squad that will try to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo later this month?
- Christian Pulisic
He had a great run for Chelsea this past fall. Can keep his fitness and health to become more of a factor for the English Premier League side? And can he be fit and healthy so the USMNT can play up to its potential or even beyond it in the Concacaf hexagonal when World Cup qualifying begins in September?
- Carlos Cordeiro
Actually, Cordeiro symbolizes the U.S. Soccer Federation. As president, the USSF has plenty on its plate several lawsuits, including one from the U.S. women’s national side on gender equality and another of the anti-trust kind by the North American Soccer League. U.S. Soccer also is looking to find a successor to CEO Dan Flynn and working at Soccer House in Chicago has been reported to be a toxic situation for many workers. It would be unfair to say that Cordeiro alone can solve all these problems, but the USSF need to get its ducks in a row.
- Megan Rapinoe
After an incredible 2019, can the 34-year-old USWNT forward continue her success and scoring prowess, during Olympic qualifying and the Tokyo Summer Olympics? If she does, it would be a rare accomplishment for an attacking player in their 30s. Then again, Rapinoe isn’t your typical 30-something player. She lives for the spotlight and big moments.
- Carli Lloyd
Can Lloyd continue her amazing goal-scoring feats — having tallied 16 for the USWNT in 2019? She turns 37 on July 18. While Andonovski needs to take only a 20-player roster to Tokyo, down from three from the WWC roster, Lloyd’s hunger to fill the net and her ability to excel in the midfield and on the forward line should make her invaluable for another quest for the gold. Besides, Lloyd is the only soccer player to have connected for the winning goal in two Olympic finals.
- Tyler Adams
Now that the former Red Bulls midfielder has returned from injury, can he make a major impact for Red Bull Leipzig in the Bundesliga and the USMNT? Even as a right back, Adam has the ability to be a game-changer. The U.S. men need him if they want to clinch a spot at Qatar 2022.
- Crystal Dunn
With a new head coach running the show, will Vlatko Andonovski move the North Carolina Courage and Rockville Centre, N.Y. native back to a position in which she can make the most impact at? Dunn, as we all know, excelled at left fullback at the Women’s World Cup. But she is so much more at home as an attacking midfielder, forward or wing.
- Thierry Henry
Will the former Red Bulls striker and 1998 World Cup champion have the patience to put up with losses and the media as coach of the Montreal Impact. One of Henry’s downfalls as coach of Monaco in France is that he expected every player to play like him. That’s unfair to any player. Henry had, for the most part, contentious relations with some members of the NY/NJ media. Just wonder if he has mellowed out a bit.
- Tab Ramos
After being passed over as U.S. national coach after paying his dues during four cycles as Under-20 boss, the former MetroStar and U.S. standout midfielder will coach his first professional team with the Houston Dynamo. Knowing Ramos’ high soccer IQ and passion for the game, don’t bet against him.
11. Rose Lavelle
Can the the Bronze Ball winner at the Women’s World Cup continue her progress and turn into a dominant player in just about every game she plays? The Washington Spirit midfielder will have ample opportunity with Concacaf Olympic qualifying right around the corner and most likely a trip to the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
- Mystery USMNT player
Can a player come out of the pack and become an impact performer for the USMNT? As good as Pulisic is, one player a team does not make. He needs help. Heck, the team needs as much help as it can get.