Soccer  

‘Difficult’ time to take charge

Anthony Hudson’s first practice in charge of the U.S. men’s national team would have been a career milestone for the veteran coach in ideal circumstances.

The actual situation is no cause for celebration, Hudson admits.

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Hudson has no idea how long he’ll be in charge of the American team, and nobody knows whether his former boss and close friend, Gregg Berhalter, will ever resume his job amid a misconduct investigation and an ongoing review of the USMNT program after his contract expired three weeks ago.

“On one hand, this is a very prideful moment, and it’s an honor to be in this position,” Hudson said after the opening workout Saturday at the team’s training complex. “On the other side, the circumstances in which it comes about, I’m a very loyal person, and it’s difficult for me. It’s difficult for the staff.”

Hudson acknowledged he’s still in regular contact with Berhalter, who promoted him in 2021 from a head coaching job with the U.S. Under-20 team to an assistant role.

“I’m close with Gregg,” Hudson said. “There’s no coaching course or anything, really, to guide you in moments like this. … This is a really different situation, and I just fall back on being honest. I have a lot of respect for Gregg, and he gave me this opportunity, so I don’t know why my relationship would change. He’s still a good man.”

Berhalter’s future is in limbo while U.S. Soccer conducts an investigation amid a dispute involving Berhalter and the family of U.S. player Gio Reyna.

After handing Reyna a limited role at the World Cup, Berhalter subsequently revealed during a leadership conference that he almost sent an unnamed player — later revealed to be Reyna — home front the tournament. In response, Danielle Reyna — Gio’s mother and former U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna’s wife — said she notified U.S. Soccer last month of an incident in 1991 in which Berhalter kicked his future wife, Rosalind — Danielle Reyna’s college roommate.

The drama around U.S. Soccer hasn’t been limited to the Berhalter and Reyna families, either. On Friday, sources told ESPN that Brian McBride will not return as general manager of the program.

All that anyone knows for sure is that Hudson is running the U.S. team’s annual January camp in Southern California outside an official FIFA window. The camp typically provides a showcase for the team’s MLS-based talents and any available international club players to begin preparations for the upcoming year, which includes the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The U.S. hosts Serbia at LAFC’s BMO Stadium on Wednesday, followed by a second exhibition against Colombia in Carson next Saturday.

The 41-year-old Hudson is no stranger to leadership roles: The Seattle-born Englishman has led clubs ranging from Newport County and MLS’ Colorado Rapids to the national teams of Bahrain and New Zealand in his peripatetic coaching career.

“It’s really important for me to understand that it’s not about me,” Hudson said. “It’s about this group of players that have an opportunity to come in in this window and represent the national team, and potentially there’s some players in there that will do well and stay with us, and have a chance to compete at the next World Cup.”

The U.S. team was in a fairly similar leadership situation at the start of the previous World Cup cycle. Bruce Arena resigned in October 2017 after the Americans failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and Dave Sarachan served as their interim coach until Berhalter was hired in December 2018.

Hudson said he already “had a really nice conversation” with Sarachan about the challenges of filling this temporary role for however long it lasts.

Hudson’s players also aren’t acknowledging any concerns or disappointment with the current state of leadership in U.S. Soccer.

“You’re still coming in and you’re representing the United States of America,” said Julian Gressel, the German-born Vancouver Whitecaps right-sided player getting his first shot with the U.S. team after receiving citizenship in November.

“You’re playing for your country, so no matter what happens in the future, you can show you want to be part of the group moving forward, no matter what that will look like. It’s a big opportunity.”

The team’s full roster won’t be together until Monday. Six players are scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday night, and Alejandro Zendejas will join from Mexico on Sunday before Matthew Hoppe and Jonathan Gomez arrive Monday from Europe.

Zendejas arrives in the wake of FIFA fining Mexico 10,000 Swiss francs (approximately $11,000) and ordering El Tri to forfeit two recent friendlies in which it used Zendejas, who played for the United States at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup.

“There’s a lot of new faces, including myself, and we’re excited to build on what has happened in the World Cup and what’s happened over the past four years,” Gressel said. “I think everybody is eager to step in and make a name for themselves to be considered for the future.”