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Alexi Lalas on the USMNT’s Path to Unlocking World Cup Glory

Boardroom gets the Fox Sports commentator and former US international’s thoughts on the outlook for Gregg Berhalter and the Stars and Stripes in Qatar.

For nearly 30 years now, Alexi Lalas has been one of the US Men’s National Team‘s biggest and most public-facing supporters. It all started as one of the side’s most visible players during the stateside 1994 World Cup, and it has only continued during his time as Fox Sports’ lead studio analyst, which has given him a direct line to the American soccer audience for so long through both thick and thin.

And while Lalas has decades of experience in the game at this point, the same can’t be said for the 26-man USMNT squad competing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Fulham defender Tim Ream is the only member of Gregg Berhalter‘s squad that has competed at a previous World Cup.

To hear Lalas tell it, however, that’s actually something the side can use to its advantage.

“If they harness it and use it, that youthful exuberance and swagger could help,” Lalas told Boardroom in October. “But they’re also young and inexperienced and are going to make mistakes. You just hope that those mistakes aren’t the hugely costly ones.”

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The USMNT head coach has taken his fair share of criticism, including the decision no to play Borussia Dortmund phenom Gio Reyna in Nov. 21’s 1-1 opening draw against Wales, but Lalas believes the gaffer ahs earned the benefit of the doubt after bringing the team back to the World Cup after a glaring absence from the 2018 tournament.

“I know he takes criticism as any coach does,” Lalas said, “but he’s been pretty successful. You or others may not agree with something that he’s done, but he believes that the changes that either were mandated or he brought himself were essential, and he’s done it in a very different way.”

Looking ahead, a few of Lalas’ chosen X-factor players include Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner, Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah, and FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira, the latter of whom also didn’t appear in the Wales match.

“Musah is huge in the midfield. What we saw over the final window before the World Cup is that when he is not in that midfield three, the team looks very, very different,” Lalas said. “And scoring goals — we know it’s not ideal, but Ferreira might surprise us. I think he’s feeding off some of the negativity.”

Lastly, Qatar is a just different kind of World Cup in so many ways, for better or for worse. One of those positive differences is the close proximity all the stadiums are to each other, with no air travel necessary during the tournament.

“It’s a soccer Brigadoon,” Lalas said. “Everybody is in there. And from a soccer perspective, that’s pretty cool.”

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