U.S. Soccer Federation sporting director Earnie Stewart indicated that Gregg Berhalter's job as men's national team manager is safe, no matter what the results are in the upcoming Concacaf Nations League matches against Canada and Cuba.
Berhalter has come under fire recently for some poor results, namely a 3-0 friendly defeat to rivals Mexico back in September in which the U.S. was thoroughly outplayed, as well as a 2-0 loss to Canada in the Nations League last month. The latter defeat makes Friday's rematch against the Reds in Orlando a must-win if the U.S. is to progress in the competition.
Speaking on a conference with reporters, Stewart was asked directly if Berhalter's job was safe, no matter what the results are against Canada and Cuba, Stewart said, "We're looking at the future, so yeah. When I evaluate Gregg and the coaching staff, and what I've seen today, I'm a pleased man. An individual result is not going to change that. I think that answers the question in itself."
Stewart admitted that the performance against Canada "wasn't good enough", but he believes the U.S. men have made progress in the last year.
"I do think there's been progress, I really do," he said. "What we've seen in the Gold Cup is that in Concacaf we have a really good level, and that we can play the game we want to play. Getting to a place where we can do that over 90 minutes, that's the place we need to get to. That progression is there, except against teams like a very good team in Mexico and a very good team like Uruguay, it becomes a little bit more difficult."
Berhalter has also come under criticism for implementing a possession-based, play-out-of-the-back style. The U.S. has at times struggled to implement this approach, leading to concerns that it doesn't necessarily fit the collective skillset of the player pool. Stewart believes he seen enough positive moments that the approach is the right one.
"Our players showed that they can perform at a really, really high level. The question is not so much, can these players do that, because they've already shown that they can. What I would say is we need to do that over 90 minutes, and that's something that we're constantly talking about. How can we get there? How can we progress to have enough players to keep that and maintain that for 90 minutes."
Stewart's optimistic outlook extends to qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
"I have no fear that we're not going to qualify for the World Cup," he said. "I'm very, very confident about that."
Stewart also hit back against what he called "conspiracy theories" about the process in which Berhalter was hired. Berhalter's brother Jay is currently the USSF Chief Commercial Officer, and there have been suggestions that he had an unhealthy influence on Stewart during the coaching search, especially given the fact that just two candidates were interviewed.
Stewart was also asked about the role that the Latino community plays in the U.S. program. Latinos are not well represented in the USSF hierarchy, and a newly created a 59-person youth soccer task force that outside of USSF president Carlos Cordeiro, includes one other Latino person.
"When we put it together, we were just looking for the best people, it's as simple as that," said Stewart, speaking generally about Latino representation.
"There's not other stuff that goes on or anything like that. Is the Hispanic community an important part of the U.S. and U.S. Soccer? Yes, I truly believe that. Should there be representation? I believe that as well. That is hopefully what the future will also entail and what that will look like. But it's also about the quality of people that you bring in and everything. It's an important part of our heritage, it's an important part of our community, so that should also be represented within the USSF. And I don't believe anybody within the USSF thinks differently than that."