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Berhalter's Status

After 15 years and more than 300 appearances in European soccer, has the time come for New Jersey-born defender Gregg Berhalter to come play in MLS? Perhaps. Berhalter's contract with second-division 1860 Munich expires this summer, and judging by the dwindling playing time he has received recently under new manager Uwe Wolf, he does not seem to be in the club's plans.

Berhalter, 35, left the University of North Carolina after his junior year and has played for six clubs in the Netherlands, England and Germany. Among his 43 national team caps were two starts at the 2002 World Cup. He was also a late addition to the 2006 squad but did not play.

While Americans have come and gone in Germany, Berhalter has been a regular for years. Do you think he would be a nice midseason acquisition on free transfer for an MLS club needing to fortify the backline?

By Steve Goff  |  March 9, 2009; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  MLS , U.S. men's national team  
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Comments

He'll fit right in with the Over 40 USMNT - I mean the LA GALAXY

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | March 9, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Maybe MLS needs special salary cap exemptions for retiring Americans wanting one last hurrah...

QUICK! File a discovery claim on him before Toronto does.

Posted by: Reignking | March 9, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Beat me to it! Galaxy always have first dibs on aging players!

Posted by: ZidVicious | March 9, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I've always liked Berhalter. He could provide that veteran leadership that DC lost out on when the Roger arrangement fell through.

Posted by: ahelms10 | March 9, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Berhalter was the player who I thought that DCU was going to sign after the Roger deal collapsed - he should have just a bit more in the tank than Vanney did in a similar role. DCU may need him sooner if the current center backs keep getting red cards.

Posted by: PhillyMLS | March 9, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I'll take former USMNT players with limited marketability and no negotiating leverage with the league for $600, Alex.

Posted by: IamAM | March 9, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Steve,
How about an article on Bobby Convey's return to MLS?

Posted by: ViennaMike | March 9, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Berhalter or Vanney? No thanks, though it should be pointed out that Vanney is a year younger.

I like Berhalter's composure, intelligence, distribution, tackling, reads, and ability to stop a shot dead, but you could not find a slower center back, and he has been plagued by frequent minor injuries. He is the absolute opposite of what succeeds in MLS. Any team paying him six figures is nuts.

He would be a good signing if he was enough of a team player that he could live with only starting against teams without a lot of speed, or as a game-killing defensive sub, and if he came at the right price.

Vanney may not have worked out for DC, and he's too slow to play at left back, but he's still got that left foot and is a smart player. At the right price, I'd take him over Berhalter.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 9, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I think he would work in DC if he doesn't want too much money. An experienced center back would do us a world of good. But it would be better if he were in a rotation. I doubt he plans on coming back to America to sit on the bench half the time and make no money.

Posted by: bighungry | March 9, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I like Berhalter's composure, intelligence, distribution, tackling, reads, and ability to stop a shot dead, but you could not find a slower center back, and he has been plagued by frequent minor injuries. He is the absolute opposite of what succeeds in MLS. Any team paying him six figures is nuts.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 9, 2009 4:04 PM

Sounds like the perfect addition to the Galaxy's menagerie

Posted by: VTUnited | March 9, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Also, he has been known to grow an arm out of his forehead at inopportune times

Posted by: ahelms10 | March 9, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

but you could not find a slower center back
==============================

I can't imagine a US MNT player slower than Peralta

Posted by: OWNTF | March 9, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe he's 35.

Posted by: sitruc | March 9, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I guess it's not easy to get excited about USMNT guys "retiring" to MLS after playing in Europe. Still, I'd like to see Berhalter in MLS this season. The Galaxy does seem a likely taker should he end up stateside. (Another USMNT reunion with Bruce Arena?) It could be interesting.

Posted by: Brokenbil | March 9, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart, John O'Brien, Greg Vanney, Kasey Keller and the list goes on and on (Bruce Arena). If they played in Europe and for the USMNT, chances are they will be a bust in MLS. Especially at the end of their careers. I'd like to see Convey buck the trend, but face it, MLS needs to stop being the "thank you for your service" payday for these chumps. It's been the tried-and-failed (Donovan, Twellman, Razov, Kirovski) who have proved their worth over the years.

Thx,

Jay!

Posted by: jayrockers | March 9, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Jay, Convey is only 25 years old. He's still not sure thing due to injury history, but I think his odds of being a productive players (if not an All-Star) in MLS are pretty darn good.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | March 9, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me or does it seem that Mastodon has come back out of the woodwork with what almost seems like a supporter's concern in DCU... I could understand after last years MLS cup let down, what gives MJ?

Posted by: DadRyan | March 9, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Berhalter actually would probably be the organizer our team needs. Although that wasn't primarily his role (he was a marking back in his USMNT days), he's a smart player who has played in some leagues that punish laxness and sloppy "D". Which leads me to believe that potentially he might be a good organization (along the lines of a Steve Morrow with Dallas). OTOH, counting on him to be the central defender, the chief marker or part of a pair of centerbacks splitting responsibilities on the field--no way.

And he's probably out of our price league.

Posted by: JoeW1 | March 9, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

""MLS needs to stop being the "thank you for your service" payday for these chumps."'

That's ridiculous. Every league in the world--minus the Euro ones--has a return of the old guard---Gallardo? Veron? Ronaldo? Etc, etc . .

Why should MLS be any different? The players may be far from their best playing days, but they are certainly able to play in this league---and they bring years of knowledge and professionalism to clubs that could use it.

Posted by: delantero | March 9, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Yes. How much?

Posted by: Eugene7 | March 9, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Jay where should US players go for their last year before they retire to exile in Siberia? They are from the US it only makes sense that they return here. They still can be a decent squad player that will be more effective to the team than an unknown will likely be.

As far as Kasey Keller goes how is he a washout in the MLS? He hasn't even played a season game yet. I think he is overrated but he hasn't even had a chance to washout yet.

Posted by: bighungry | March 9, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

" like a supporter's concern in DCU... I could understand after last years MLS cup let down, what gives MJ?"

I don't want Berhalter on NY if he expects to get paid more than about $80k. That's what I'm saying.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 9, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

10-4, Copy that.

Posted by: DadRyan | March 9, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: BananaMan | March 9, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I think, courteously, those who want him have lost their minds. He's old, he's slow, and the last big game he played for the national team(against Germany) he was responsible for every single goal.

A post would be more effective. Alright, a Wide post. Dane Richards could do a spry jig around this dude, juggle over his head, and roll the ball in with his head.

Agism works both ways. Think about it.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | March 9, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

This has been discussed here before. It's been assumed that Berhalter would be most interested in playing for the Red Bulls, given that he's from northern NJ.

ON the other hand, when he's been asked about that, Berhalter has kinda pooh-poohed the relevance of his hometown: "I think it is more important to find the right situation rather than focusing on where it is."

Berhalter has been pursuing a coaching license in Germany. With his Bundesliga experience, I'm sure he'd be a valuable addition to any American coaching staff. Even though his playing time has plummeted in recent weeks, Berhalter is hardly washed up. By most accounts, he was performing at a pretty high level this year.

He was briefly linked with United by one German paper a few months ago. It seems a pretty natural fit, especially given the lack of experience DCU has in the back. Still, it's too soon to judge this team and what it will need this summer....

Posted by: fischy | March 9, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

@BananaMan -- thanks for the link. Always good to know what's going on in other cities as MLS' decision-day moves closer. As for Paulson, I guess it wouldn't be fair to visit the sins of the father, huh?

Posted by: fischy | March 9, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

The killer word "slow" is deployed to shoot down just about anyone who can't stay with Donovan in a foot race, but some of those "slow" guys seem to be able to get the job done. Agoos was "slow;" Nellie was no burner; Burch and Namoff have been called "slow;" and so on. I do remember seeing Berhalter absolutely shut down some hotshot Italian forward some years back at a match somewhere in Sicily or Sardinia, I believe. I believe the striker got off one shot in the whole match. So "slow" isn't the whole story, not by a long shot.

That said, I wouldn't mind it if he were here, but I don't see it happening.

Posted by: b18bolo | March 9, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

b18bolo, that was in Catania, Sicily in early 2002. The US was fantastic in the first half of that game, and Donovan put a shot off the post, which led the crowd to start cheering for the US.

Italy won 1-0 when Del Piero, a second half sub, literally shoved Regis, who otherwise was excellent, off the ball with the US moving up field, leaving Friedel exposed.

But the entire US defense was excellent: Sannah, Regis, Agoos, Berhalter, but particularly Armas, who marked Totti out of the game. Reyna had an awesome performance as well.

The hotshot forward you're thinking of was almost certainly Christian Vieri, who was impressive for Inter that year. Italy subbed out Vieri, Totti, and somebody else at the half, which made room for Del Piero to play a great second half (even accouting for the push).

Playing Italy, who aren't known for an explosive style now and certainly weren't then, was probably the best possible scenario for Berhalter, whose great positioning and reads were on display that game. But that was seven years ago and he hasn't exactly gained speed since.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 9, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Ha, I dug this up. With the exception of up-and-comers Donovan and Wolff, and the ageless Friedel and Hejduk (as well as the badly aging Lewis) this reads like an AARP mailing list:

United States - Brad Friedel, Tony Sanneh (Frankie Hejduk 59), Gregg Berhalter, Jeff Agoos, David Regis, John O’Brien, Chris Armas, Claudio Reyna - captain (Eddie Lewis 80), Earnie Stewart, Landon Donovan (Josh Wolff 65), Joe-Max Moore (Jovan Kirovski 79).

14 names that aren't Berhalter. Eight are retired, one is an indestructible goaltender who will be playing after we're all dead, one is Frankie Freakin' Hejduk, three ought to already have retired, and then there's Donovan.

Berhalter ain't Donovan, he ain't Friedel, and he ain't Hejduk. But if you can see him playing 90 on an August afternoon in Texas without also imaging 20 year olds whizzing past, you're welcome to him.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 9, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

" I believe the striker got off one shot in the whole match. "

By the way, Italy was playing basically three forwards at the time. Since no one played more than a half, what you mean is "the striker got off one shot in the half." Italy didn't attack much, but relied on a couple US turnovers for two good chances, one of which was a goal. Sorry for the reality check: I think Berhalter has been a reliable professional who, against the right opponent, can be one of the best players on the field. But MLS is a run-and-gun league where a slow defender, no matter how smart, is going to be exposed.

Posted by: Mastodon_Juan | March 9, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

13 days until United's first match!

Berhalter wouldn't be my first, or second, choice at the moment. But who knows what we'll need when the summer window opens up. By then we may not have any uninjured center backs.

Posted by: Curious99 | March 9, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Berhatler doesn't have to be fast. He just needs to stand and shake his fist, yelling "Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!"

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 9, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

JayRockers:

Stewart was a crucial part of the 2004 championship team. Along with Nelsen, we've never replaced his leadership and intelligence. Comparing his time in MLS to that of O'Brien or Reyna is ludicrous; O'Brien barely even played! Also, Keller hasn't even had a chance to do well or poorly, so how he made such a list I'll never know.

For that matter, you list Kirovski as an MLS success. Last time I checked, he was unable to find much time with MLS's worst offense and has never been an important player on a team that went anywhere.

***

I'm with MJ here for the most part. Berhalter has many of the qualities we need in a center back, but his lack of speed wouldn't be covered by our other defenders. It would be one thing to pair him with Soumare, but unless Jakovic is a speedster, we don't have a guy like that. Wallace is our only defender with legit speed that we know of, and he's not starting. I should also point out that you can't really cover for slow center backs with one fast outside back; if you're slow in the middle in our formation, your outside backs and defensive midfielder have all got to be B+ or better in terms of speed.

We have a slow team, and everyone in MLS knows it. Adding a wiser but slower player in the back will make teams go even more for the defend-and-counter that we encounter against almost everyone. Being the smartest guy on the field doesn't matter if the opponent just puts you in foot races all day long. If you sit deep to cut that off, you make it harder to get away from defending and you pretty much lose playing for possession as an option in the attack. Considering that possession soccer is all this team knows, defending deep is more or less off the table.

For the salary he's going to want, Berhalter is a non-starter for us. It could be that I've convinced myself that going young at center back is the way to go (after all, DCU history has players like Pope and Nelsen doing well before hitting their prime playing years), but when I imagine us with Berhalter, I imagine a weaker team overall.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | March 9, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I agree. My heart goes for Berhalter, but my head says MJ and Chest are correct. As an old defender, I have this thing for old defenders, I guess. I would like to see Greg go into coaching. I think he could be very good. And when Vanney was here I thought the same thing. I read his post-game analysis of a match in which he played and I don't think any MLS coach could have improved on it. I like defenders as coaches, although Jason Kreis is doing pretty well. (Onalfo, also).

Posted by: b18bolo | March 9, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Well, that consensus developed pretty fast, considering we're talking about a guy who was earning top defensive plaudits a couple of months ago playing for one of the top teams in the Bundesliga 2.

Of course, DCU is much better off in the middle with Janicki, who was a standout in the USL (level 2), and Jakovic, who had a few games with Red Star and who must have played fairly well at a second-tier NCAA program, before that. Also, we have Anthony Peters, who looks like he's built solid, in that photo we've seen of him. On the other hand, he's already 26 and has almost no pro experience.

Yeah -- I'm sure adding a player like Berhalter will really bring down the DCU defense. What planet are you people on? I realize everyone on the internet thinks they're freakin' geniuses and that everyone with any real talent for the sport is an utter clod, but the comments in this thread really take the cake,..

Posted by: fischy | March 9, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Stupid me -- I forgot that we've got Dev McTavish holding the middle. Yeah. DCU doesn't need anyone with Berhalter's proven track record in defense. Seems he struggled in one game against some of the best players in the world -- so, he'd be in way over his head amongst the immensely talented strikers in MLS...

Posted by: fischy | March 9, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Off topic, but ESPN2 not airing the 2nd leg of Inter-ManU on Wednesday?? Highly disappointed.

Posted by: carmines757 | March 9, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

So what all you guys are basically saying is that the German 2nd League is way worse than MLS and that the competition that the aging, decrepit, soon to be senile Berhalter has faced, pales in comparison to the onslaught of talent you'd see on any given team here in the States?

Man, you guys are starting to remind me of Cramer on Money Madness talking about buying Bear Stearns 7 weeks before it went belly up---FOS.

Posted by: delantero | March 9, 2009 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Off topic, but ESPN2 not airing the 2nd leg of Inter-ManU on Wednesday?? Highly disappointed.

Posted by: carmines757 | March 9, 2009 11:31 PM
--------

yeah, what the hell? I know it's only soccer but ManU / Inter knockout game can't compete with 'outside the lines'? Maybe it's just the ESPN t.v. listings that are screwy but it's weird that the Tuesday CL matches are on ESPN but on Wednesday it's shoved past ESPN2 to Classic.

As far as I can recall, this will be the first Champions League match day game shown on ESPN (Tuesday) and the first CL match day not to be shown on ESPN2 in a long time (especially for the knockout rounds)

Posted by: churtmah | March 9, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Well, that consensus developed pretty fast, considering we're talking about a guy who was earning top defensive plaudits a couple of months ago playing for one of the top teams in the Bundesliga 2....What planet are you people on? I realize everyone on the internet thinks they're freakin' geniuses and that everyone with any real talent for the sport is an utter clod, but the comments in this thread really take the cake,..
----------------
It's REALLY funny to read though.

Berhalter likely isn't going to make or break this team. Or any team. He's most likely going to be a worthwhile pickup if we can get him at a slightly lowballed figure. He's definitely worth, say, Namoff money, but definitely not Gomez money.

He'll add some of the good stuff discussed above, and if we win, we'll look back and say, gee, that was a really good pickup, just like we did with Stewart, even though the collective wisdom of internet fandom didn't recognize his brilliance until we won a trophy.

He'll also be slower than some famous centerback that we can't afford, or some mythical youngster (a budding Eddie Pope!) that we don't have, or haven't yet recognized. We'll lose some games and goals will get scored, and someone(s) will, deservedly or not, blame some of them on him without accounting for however many non-goals he may or may not have been responsible for.

Play ball with the guy. If we can get him for good money, sign him. Otherwise, don't.

Posted by: vivzig | March 10, 2009 12:35 AM | Report abuse

I doubt he'll want Gomez money. He is making $500k in Germany and I'm sure he expects to take a pay cut at his next team regardless if that's in the states or not. If I had to make a guess with no foundation at all I'd say he is looking for around $100-$200k. I don't know where our salary cap situation is right now. Gomez and Emilio each max out, so how much room is left?

He's slow, but so what? Even the people that say he is slow say he has good positioning and reads the game well. John Terry is hardly any faster and plays at a much higher level of competition in England.

Fischy is right, he won't hurt our defense at all. It's not like we've heard of any other options that are better. It depends on 1. if he even wants to play for the MLS and DC. 2. If we have the salary cap room for him. 3. If no other MLS teams make him a better offer which very well may happen.

Posted by: bighungry | March 10, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Me too posts bite, but I agree with the last couple posters. I don't know where people get off saying GB isn't good enough for us. The spine of any team is key. And right now that's looking really iffy for us in DC.

We have to hope that Moreno has more gas left in the tank, and stays relatively injury free. That Luciano stays healthy and returns to form. That Gomez is the player we remember. That some combination of McTavish, and the unproven, inexperienced guys at Centerback are the answer. Simms is the only one up the middle that, IMHO, seems to be as much as a lock as you can find to have another productive year.

With all that iffiness and uncertainty there, I'll take an experienced international centerback (who speaks english to organize the defense, and doesn't have to adjust to the culture, ect.) whether he's 35 and slow or not. And I'll disagree somewhat with others here as well... I'd be very comfortable paying him realatively well. We need experience, composure, strength in the air (when's the last time we scored off a corner for example?), good positioning and GB seems to fit that bill very nicely.

Posted by: harryfuchs | March 10, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

don't know what you guys are looking at in regard to Man-U/Inter. The game is on ESPN2.

Posted by: DadRyan | March 10, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

As I said above, I have a thing about old defenders. I think even a 35 year-old Berhalter could do good things for our suspect defense, particularly in the area of organization,but it clearly would be a short term solution. I think we need to go for youth all over the field, because we are counting too much on players in their 30s who are at or near the end of their careers (Moreno; Gomez; Olsen; Lucy; et.al.). But if we could get Greg at a price we could afford to be in effect a player-coach for some young defenders, then I'm all for it.

Posted by: b18bolo | March 10, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

He is not Maldini. He was never that talented to begin with. I really think people need to take a breath, write down their age, and figure out if all this is just wanting to believe that 35 isn't that old. To the earth, no, as a highly payed starter in defense, you better show the highlight reels. Berhalter is solid, slow, and clearly two months from retirement.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | March 10, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

ESPN just recently changed their schedule for tomorrow. Yesterday, it showed some other program at 3:30 on ESPN2

Posted by: carmines757 | March 10, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

We have experience in back. Goff wrote a nice piece about Crayton. And Simms and Olsen are not newbies at defensive mid. This team needs to get younger, not older. And someone would need to be cut to make room for Berhalter. Who are people thinking should be cut to make room for Berhalter on the 20 man senior roster? So while it would be nice to add someone like him in the abstract, I'd like to see what the new crop of young guys has to offer before we panic.

Posted by: regularfan | March 10, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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