USA-Trinidad & Tobago: Gregg Berhalter: 'I'd classify today as a good game'

Why couldn't T&T have been this bad in Couva?

As good as the USA was in Saturday's 6-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago -- setting a record for its biggest win ever in the Gold Cup group stage -- the Soca Warriors were a shadow of themselves on the night of Oct. 10, 2017, when they beat the USA, 2-1, in their final World Cup 2018 qualifier, depriving the Americans of a trip to Russia.

“How can you play so good for 65 minutes and then so awful for the last 25?” asked Dennis Lawrence, who has been the Soca Warriors' head coach since January 2017. “We have to learn to stand up and fight. We lost focus and we paid the price.”

If the truth be told, T&T has been terrible for the last three years -- except for in Couva -- winning just four of 24 international matches.

Soca Warriors' second worst defeat ever. Lawrence started six players who played in Couva, where T&T jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half and held on for a 2-1 victory. T&T stymied the USA until late in the first half when Aaron Long got free of his marker, Kevin Molino, at the far post and put his header past keeper Marvin Phillip.

Phillip might have done better on Long's goal, but he prevented the USA from hitting double digits in a second-half onslaught that included two goals from Gyasi Zardes and one each from Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola and Long and two shots by Zardes and Arriola off the woodwork.

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As it was, the 6-0 loss was the second worst defeat in T&T history. The worst: a 7-0 loss to Mexico at Azteca Stadium in World Cup qualifying in 2000 when T&T had won its first four games to qualify for the Hexagonal and rested six starters, including star Dwight Yorke.

Pulisic carries chip on his shoulder. Before the game, U.S. players said revenge was not a motivation, but Pulisic, who had one goal and two assists on Saturday, admitted afterwards the memory of Couva -- where he scored the lone U.S. goal -- was certainly on his mind.

"I didn’t like to say it," he said in his post-game interview on Fox, "but I definitely had a little chip on my shoulder today. I hope you guys could see that today."

More important, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter was looking for signs of improvement, like he has been each time he has assembled the national team, and they were certainly hard to see in the pre-Gold Cup losses to Jamaica and Venezuela and for stretches of the Gold Cup opener, a 4-0 win over Guyana, the lowest ranked team in the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2019.

What Berhalter saw on Saturday was a team growing in confidence and fitness. The latter had been an issue with several players, including Michael Bradley and Long, who had been battling hamstring injuries.

USA converts on T&T doorstep.
  Before each game, Berhalter has been clear about what he wanted to see from his players -- get behind the opposing backline and create chances in the penalty area. For much of the spring, that has been a struggle.

But it all came together on Saturday night when four of the six goals were scored on Phillip's doorstep.

“I’d classify today as a good game," said Berhalter.

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