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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Dike, Striker Depth, and Berhalter

Daryl Dike is scoring goals, the Lions need more firepower, and Gregg Berhalter’s statement.

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Soccer: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022-USA at Netherlands Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

We’re only a few days into 2023, and I can tell it’s going to be an interesting year, though hopefully not in a “2020 was interesting” way. It is a time of the year to be reflective on the past, and that’s what I’m going to do, except in the very short-term past. Here’s what I came up with this week.

The Good

You may remember that Daryl Dike got injured on opening day for West Bromwich Albion and missed the next 19 matches due to that thigh injury. Since his return, he is showing the Baggies exactly what makes him special. Dike has played 264 minutes over six matches with three starts. In that time he’s scored two goals — including the match winner over Reading — and provided an assist.

In his first match back against Sunderland he provided an assist on Tom Rogic’s 70th-minute goal.

The way he used his body to make space in the box, and then the deftness of the pass was a thing of beauty. Of course, he wasn’t done yet as he scored an 82nd-minute goal to put the match out of reach on this athletic header.

In the last match against Reading, he muscled his way into position to put a diving header into the back of the net.

It was a goal that showcased his timing, strength, and skill. Of course, I suspect that the rest of the Championship is already aware of how strong he is.

I really miss the big guy, but more importantly his success after being at Orlando City speaks to other younger players that this club is a place where you can work towards moving to Europe and be successful.

The Bad

It seems that Benji Michel may be heading abroad, according to online reports. The Orlando native has only played professionally for his hometown club, but given the minutes he’s gotten over the last two seasons, and his production — or lack thereof — it might be a good move for both the club and the player if he gets a fresh start somewhere else. If he succeeds with a new club in Europe, it will be yet another example of Orlando City being a place where young players can make the jump internationally. None of this is bad.

The bad news comes in that the Lions have Ercan Kara at striker, and if Michel leaves, Jack Lynn, and two recent draftees — Shakur Mohammed and Duncan McGuire. For a club that will play a regular season, plus Concacaf Champions League, the U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup, that is not enough proven depth for a team that struggled to score goals. Lynn did fine at OCB, but not good enough to warrant more minutes with the first team. The other two are rookies who may or may not ever sniff the first team, though one hopes they are good enough to do so.

Orlando City is far from done when it comes to signing new players, but I’m still waiting for the new striker rumors to surface. It is way too early to panic, but come on, Orlando City…do something!

The Ugly

Gregg Berhalter came out with a statement earlier this week regarding an incident with his now wife from 31 years ago. Berhalter stated that someone was trying to use the information to, as he said, “take me down.” Here is the statement:

Let’s be clear, it is never right to hit someone. In my time writing for The Mane Land, I have been consistent on this point. Usually it has to do with fans throwing stuff at players or something like that. I’m also consistent in allowing people to grow and change, which is what happened according to the statement. It’s been 31 years, and he and his wife have dealt with the incident together in that time.

Now we know that the information was shared by Danielle Reyna, the wife of Claudio Reyna, and mother of Gio Reyna. During the World Cup, Gio reportedly showed a lack of effort during training for which he apologized to his teammates. At one point, he was almost sent home rather than playing for his country. As a result, he didn’t get the playing time many expected from the young American. The internal strife was reported on by The Athletic, evidently prompting the response from Danielle Reyna in defense of her son.

Claudio and Gregg Berhalter were teammates on the USMNT, and their families became close friends over the years. Now, all those years of friendship appear to be in ruins, as a result of the Reynas outing the Berhalter incident to U.S. Soccer. The families are not the only parties being harmed by all of this. Infighting in the U.S. Soccer community after a successful 2022 World Cup, and with the 2026 World Cup taking place in the United States, creates the wrong type of attention on the program and puts unnecessary obstacles in front of the program as it tries to make the next steps, with or without Berhalter as head coach.

U.S. Soccer is conducting an investigation into the allegations, and I would guess the surrounding events will be looked at as well. Regardless, the entire situation is an ugly, black eye on U.S. Soccer. The findings of the investigation may determine how and under whom the USMNT moves forward.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.