Posted on October 30, 2011
By Michael Lewis
You’ve got to hand it to Gregg Berhalter. While he will never be known for a great goal he scored, but for his involvement in two hand ball calls concerning the World Cup.
The Englewood, N.J. native and St. Benedict Prep’s standout admitted that he never realized that he was involved one two of the strangest and most controversial handball calls in American soccer history. And, the happened less than two years apart.
“Sometimes things can go wrong and some times things can go right or you,” said Berhalter, who will play for the LA Galaxy against the Red Bulls in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal playoff series at Red Bull Arena at 3 p.m. on Sunday (ESPN2).
On July 23, 2000, things went wrong for Berhalter and the U.S. National Team when referee Peter Prendergast of Jamaica called a phantom hand ball in the penalty area on Berhalter two minutes into stoppage time of a 1-1 deadlock. Berhalter, who was defending with both his hands behind him, headed the ball out of bounds. According to television replays, it appeared the ball accidentally hit Berhalter in the upper arm area after he had headed the ball. Many game officials usually won’t make the call unless it was intentional.
Hernan Medford converted the ensuing penalty kick past goalkeeper Kasey Keller and several minutes later Costa Rica walked off with a controversial 2-1 victory.
“It was early on in my National Team career,” he said. “It was something that was an eye opener. Some decisions go your way and some decisions don’t go your way. That was an eye opener because it was a reality of what could happen in that environment. That’s just part of the game. Getting over that, not reacting the way we did, putting it in the past. It’s unfortunate that the ref called it. I remember, after heading it, then all of a sudden the ref pointed to the penalty spot.”
As it turned out, the U.S. overcame the handball call and the defeat and qualified for the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan.
On June 21, 2002, things went wrong again for Berhalter and his American teammates when Torsten Frings saved a Berhalter shot off the goal line with his hand to preserve Germany’s 1-0 quarterfinal victory.
“That was one of the most special teams that I have been a part of,’ Berhalter said. “Everyone had the same goal in point. Again, very disappointing. An experienced referee, you would think he wouldn’t get something like that wrong. That hurt. You also think how different it could have been for American soccer if that would have been a goal. We could have gone to the semifinals. It could have been a lot greater. It still was an amazing experience.”
Berhalter said he has spoken to Frings, now a member of Toronto FC, many times through the years.
“Every time we talked, I never brought it up,” he said. “He’s a professional and he did what he had to do at the time. . . . I don’t like to well on the past. As far as I’m concerned, he did what he had to do. They got to the final of the World Cup. If I was there, probably would have done the same thing.”
Gregg Berhalter: “Sometimes things can go wrong and some times things can go right or you.” Andy Mead/YCJ
Categories: National Team, North America, U.S.A., World Cup Qualifying
Tags: 2002 World Cup, Gregg Beerhalter, Hernan Medford, Torsten Frings