The American coach reflected on what was an up-and-down week for his team on and off the field
Gregg Berhalter says the U.S. men’s national team’s spirits are very high despite all of the setbacks they had to deal with on and off the field this week.
The U.S. ended the first international window of World Cup qualifying with five points in hand, and they needed a second-half surge past Honduras to get the final three of those points in a 4-1 win.
Berhalter’s side struggled through opening draws to Canada and El Salvador while losing several players to injury and, most notably, Weston McKennie due to suspension, but he says the team will come out better having gone through everything they did this week.
What was said?
“Regarding the negativity, we had a meeting and we talked about just tuning it out, focusing on what we’re doing,” Berhalter said. “It’s completely understandable that fans weren’t excited with two points from two games, but it wouldn’t have doomed qualifying.
“We took points off a team away from home, which is important. We noticed that a lot of teams were dropping points at home, which didn’t make it as severe that we did in that game.
“It was just about getting ready for the next game and that was the important thing. So the message and I think the mindset of the guys of these last two games completely changed. I think they’re more relaxed and more focused, the mood around the camp was really good. So despite all this crap that happened in these last couple of days, the guy’s spirits are extremely high.”
Living up to lofty expectations
In the lead-up to the game, USMNT star Tyler Adams talked up the hopes of a nine-point week, which went out the window after one game.
And, while the U.S. couldn’t live up to their own expectations this window, he says the lofty aims remain as the team builds through qualifying.
“Even if we lost the game, we wouldn’t have been out of qualifying,” Berhalter said. “I know there’d still be 11 games to play. It’s the mentality that we’re just jumping all over reactions, and I think part of it was our fault for setting it up with what we wanted to do and being that open about it, but that is the expectation of the group.”
He continued: “I think it’s a good win for the group. We did a lot of talking before the camp, before the first game, about it being a nine-point week and that was really important. I think that’s great to have high expectations. Everyone wants to win games, right?
But the other side of it is that it’s just talking, and then you have to go out and do it and it’s very difficult to do. I think that we needed to give these guys that experience they needed to see what these games are like because they’re completely different games.
“Both El Salvador and Honduras games were wars. You have teams and countries that are desperate to get wins to get to a World Cup and it’s a different animal than we were used to. So I think that this whole window was great for this group, we really needed that, in terms of the eye-opening of what this experience actually is.”