Gregg Berhalter on what went wrong for USA against Curacao

After two positive Gold Cup results with its current first team, the USA took a step back when it struggled to beat Curacao, 1-0, and advance to the semifinals of the Gold Cup against Jamaica.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said the performance was similar to the friendly against the Reggae Boyz in early June when the USA lost, 1-0.

"It's about speed of movement," he said, "having a mentality to turn their defenders, having a mentality to disorganize their defense. We could have been more aggressive with that, for sure. When I think about the last Jamaica game, it was very similar type of performance, where we had an early flurry and could have scored a goal but we then lacked the speed and movement to get behind the backline."

Berhalter praised Curacao for its performance.

“We had the opportunity early to put a couple goals in," he said, "and we didn’t do that. And we kept them hanging around. Then they were very compact, and for us, it was about moving them out of position. Their midfielders were man-to-man against Weston [McKennie] and Christian [Pulisic], and our job was to move them out of position to now find Gyasi [Zardes] or find one of our wingers in the pocket. Especially in the first half, there were times when that came off and it was OK, and just times when there wasn’t enough movement to execute that.”

While Curacao caused the USA lots of problems, it did not create lots of chances.

"When we get pushed, when get in a low-bloc state," Berhalter said, "the guys have performed well defending in the penalty box. Set-pieces have been good. One of them today was iffy but other than that it's been OK."

He said close games have been the norm this summer in the Gold Cup and Copa America.

“An interesting thing about this game, when you look both at Copa America and at Gold Cup, these quarterfinal matches, they’re all tight matches,” Berhalter said. “You guys wanted us to go out here and beat them 5-0, but we knew it was going to be a difficult game. You look at all the quarterfinals so far in this tournament and in Copa America, they’re all tough games. They know there’s no tomorrow if they lose.”

Photo: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

32 comments about "Gregg Berhalter on what went wrong for USA against Curacao".
  1. Ginger Peeler, July 1, 2019 at 8:49 a.m.

    The team I watched was lacking in intensity. Somewhat similar to overconfident players facing a (perceived) weaker opponent ... no? Over and over again, they failed to finish. Everybody was just a little bit off. Subs made no difference. Hard to watch after awhile. 

  2. beautiful game replied, July 1, 2019 at 9:28 a.m.

    Ginger, let's call a spade for what it is. This team lacks quality players, it's inconsistent because of that, and it will never get better until the right players are found who can deliver the goods. Excuses are meaningless. One or two players who can make it happen is not enough.

  3. Ric Fonseca replied, July 1, 2019 at 3:17 p.m.

    Ginger, you couldn't have said it better!!! I always caution the team after we defeat a somewhat honest and hard opponene and then find out we'll be facing a somewhat untried and untested opponent. For whatever reasons, the MNT seems to always drop their intensity knowing they will face a not wo strong or "unworth" opponent, and last night's game was no exception; yes McK got the gol, however, after his score, he showed utter disrespect and very little humility.  Granted, one mus celebrate after putting the ball in the net, but I fear that McK will cause more trouble than warranted and the day will come when he might even fall into the ranks of Yazy, Bradley, et. al, who feel they're the USMNT's answer to what ails it.  I was impressed with Curacao, even during the pregame (Spanish language) preview, that a good number of them play in the Oranje proleague, and their play showed their skill.  Good luck to the USMNT!!

  4. Bob Ryan replied, July 2, 2019 at 11:55 a.m.

    This is so true. Movement of the ball from Bradley had little to no creativity. The lackadaisical attitude the midfield showed reflected on the quality of the match. A young Bradley wanted the ball and would demand service and run at his teammate to give him the ball but the current Bradley expects his teamates to find him, at times not standing in a place where that is possible and if they can get the ball to him, he only wants to make that low percentage long pass. Movement of the players and the ball is key. Our U20's were doing that and it made for an exciting game. The sooner we move the U21 and U20s in the lineup, the better. 

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, July 2, 2019 at 1:07 p.m.

    Bob, what you are describing is the current USSF style of play. It isn't simply a matter of how Bradley chooses to play. It is the current USSF system for "building out of the back".  

  6. R2 Dad replied, July 3, 2019 at 12:48 a.m.

    Bob, building out of the back is how all possession-oriented teams play. ALL of them (though we're not one of them when playing quality opposition). You're attributing this tactic to our failure--I'd suggest that it's only difficult when GB picks MLS players to  do it. The right players can manage to get the ball on the ground to midfield, but that's not how GB wants to play. He keeps going on about how he wants our players to get BEHIIND the opponent's back line--that's lame nonsense. I want to hear how he plans to go THROUGH the opponent's midfield to arrive between the lines with the ball on the ground. THEN we will be making progress as a team. Until then, it's all long balls, balls down the channels, cross-field passes and crosses into the box (but not from the endline).

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2019 at 5:28 a.m.

    You misunderstand me R2. It isn't building out of the back that is the problem. It is how USSF conventional thinking wants to do it. The hallmark is the rather static W shape with the fullbacks standing on the touchlines 72 yards apart. The way it is typically executed is with the players isolated, tactically slow, and very predictable. It is too easy to defend. What ever happened to the age old idea of advancing the ball by "pass and move" (what I call combination passing).

    The current USSF system reminds me of a giant 72 yard diameter rondo exercise with a static circle of 7 on the outside and 3 moving around in the middle. The problem is the player with the ball is relatively isolated and it is easy for the defense to maintain numbers up around the ball.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2019 at 5:45 a.m.

    I thought of another way to describe the US system. It avoids playing in tight spaces by not creating any tight spaces, i.e., it doesn't allow players to support close to the ball.

    It is the opposite of how Barca played 10 years ago. Barca would concentrate around the ball playing quick short 1-touch passes until the opponent was drawn in, and then Barca made the break out pass to the weak side.

  9. Bradley Rogers, July 1, 2019 at 9:16 a.m.

    We just got outclassed in the midfield. Bacuna was a joy to watch (sigh). Surprised we didn’t concede a goal.

  10. Mario Cesarone replied, July 1, 2019 at 9:37 a.m.

    Absolutely agree.  I was talking to myself during that second half how we were being shown a master class in ball handling and movement by the Curacao players.

  11. Nick Gabris, July 1, 2019 at 11:19 a.m.

    This game confirmed for me that GB knows nothing of the technical aspects of a game. He keeps playing his favorites, not players abilities. How many times do we the fans need to point out that we have to get away from the old status quo and revamp this team with new blood? Altidore, Zardis, Bradley are NOT the ones to get us where we need to be for the next WC. How many "wake up" calls does the USSF need? All GB does is pander to everyone and tells them what they want to hear. listen to all his interviews, it is never his fault, always the players. Excuses, excuses. This was one of the the worst games by the MNT I have ever watched. The writing is on the wall.   

  12. R2 Dad, July 1, 2019 at 11:23 a.m.

    Here is the test. GB should play that exact same lineup in the next match against a bunkered team, swapping out Bradley for Zelalem. Using a real 10 instead of a box-to-box mid in that 4-3-3, and see how we perform. I don't think you can do this against Jamaica, which could effectively counter (a la trackmeet) against our slower CBs. When I read "our midfield was outclassed", that's just the price you pay for having MB at the hub of your wheel. GB just made it worse by not making him the captain.

  13. Sam Bellin replied, July 1, 2019 at 4:11 p.m.

    R2 was Curacao bunkering?  Maybe for the first 20 - 25 minutes, but after they figured out we aren't really very good at passing the ball they came out to play and had us bunkered for at least the last 20 minutes!  I really like your idea of replacing Bradley with an actual #10 and I wanted to add to that.  Pulisic, who is a fantastic player and clearly our best, should not be in the midfield, certainly not the center.  His best attribute is running full speed forward with the ball, which is far easier to do on the wings.  He is our Eden Hazard, but by playing him inside he is forced to work in very tight spaces, often with his back to the field and a defender draped on him, which is not where he shines.  I'd like to see more of a 4-2-3-1, with Adams and McKennie as the holding mids (able to play as 8s, not just one very deep lying 6), Pulisic as the left of the 3 and Boyd (at least for now) as the right, and of course we don't have a striker right now who can do much but hopefully soon Sargent.  For this system to work well we also need outside backs with pace and skill to frequently get up into the midfield (level with the holding mids) and occasionally overlap like wingers.  I think Lima has potential and maybe Cannon or Yedlin but certainly not Ream.  Lastly, just have to find that 10, right?  You say Zelalem, I say Pomykal, but that doesn't really matter right now, let's try them both (and others too) until we find what works.  At least this would be the foundation of a team that could really compete some day, not a team forced to play "vertically" (and badly) against a tiny Island team. 

  14. Seth Vieux replied, July 1, 2019 at 6:41 p.m.

    Ugh - you think Bradley is supposed to play the 10?? There isn't a 10 in the world that plays the CM of a 4-3-3. Afgain with Zelalem, the guy hasn't played more than a handful of professional minutes in 2 years. I think he just earned his first start to rest an aging Feilhaber like this weekend... He's the answer for the USMNT #10?!?!? I like Pomykal a lot, but not sure he's ready to be the USMNT 10 just yet, probably going to force his way into the #6/8 conversation soon though. Hopefully he keeps on the path he's on, as I agree that would be nice to push Pulisic further up to his more natural position.

  15. R2 Dad replied, July 3, 2019 at 12:40 a.m.

    Seth, the fact that you can't imagine Zelalem playing the 10 is not surprising--few MLS teams can manage it and in the history of the sport in this country I can't recall a real American 10 anywhere. That doesn't mean that it's not possible--it just means coaches can only imagine Zelalem as a 6 (for the Nats). But Arsenal played him there and he was very effective when playing weaker opponents.

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2019 at 6:25 a.m.

    R2 Dad, I don't think you understood what Seth said, because as a 3rd party I don't see a connection between your thoughts and his. It was like ships passing in the night. 

    When you talk about "no American 10 anywhere", you can't really mean that. If by American you mean players in this country, you don't get around enough. There is a lot of variety out there and a lot of players and coaches from other countries playing good soccer who aren't part of USSF. I personally never played in a USSF sanctioned match until I was 62.

    I took some low level courses in 2 different states and was greatly impressed with the quality of the instructors. I was paying close attention to how they handled the USSF doctrine. What I saw those couple of times was coaches still teaching good soccer regardless of what USSF doctrine was. They would just hang the USSF curtains on a window of good soccer underneath the curtains. But to do that, they needed to know what good soccer was. 

    From my personal experience back during the youth soccer boom, we had a generation of players taught how to play by youth coaches who had never played the game and thought their task was to win youth matches. Now some of those former players are coaches. It wasn't all like that back in the boom days. There were some very good coaches, but they were in the minority. I didn't see that licensed coaches were any better. I did see that playing and teaching experience did make a difference. And of course I was only seeing the situation at the clubs I was at.  

  17. Dan Flood, July 1, 2019 at 11:28 a.m.

    Half of the starting line up trotted out last night have no business wearing the USMNT jersey.  Why Zardes ever sees the field is a mystery.  if Berhalter sticks to playing Tyler Adams at right back as some sort of "extra midfielder" in his great "system" he should be fired.  

  18. Karl Sonneman, July 1, 2019 at 1:12 p.m.

    Too many MLS players in the 11.  MLS teams sleep-walk through the game.  Beerhalter needs to remember his European experiences and play players who reflect that.  The commentary during the UEFA U21 championship argued correctly that the play was better and the players more talented than found in any of the American full team tournaments (ie the Gold Cup or the South American championship).  Which leads to the question:  Where is Sargent?

  19. frank schoon, July 1, 2019 at 1:20 p.m.

    I think GB should go the Curacao for a year or two and pick up some tips on player development and coaching....Even better the USSF coaching Academy Instructors much spend some time in Curacoa and receive an Official Curacao  A-level coaching license and then come back here....I say MLS begin to look for Curacao players...

  20. Ben Myers, July 1, 2019 at 2:21 p.m.

    Clockwork orange from the Caribbean.

  21. Mark Torguson, July 1, 2019 at 2:51 p.m.

    Best line " Showcase for Curucao players looking for MLS or USL contracts"   uhhmmm, should be winning by a couple more goals no?

  22. Jamie Clary, July 1, 2019 at 2:56 p.m.

    This is excellent reporting, Beau. The other reporters refused to do the research and math. 

  23. Ron Benson, July 1, 2019 at 4:08 p.m.

    Curacao played very well , creative , fast  , accurate passing and organized . Give . A team on fire  ( couple of hundred thousand people on a small island has created a remarkable team ) .

  24. Wallace Wade, July 1, 2019 at 4:12 p.m.

    No way these players on the USMNT Gold Cup Roster, the best this country has to offer.  It’s hard to watch! Even worse, very few are likeable individuals. Where’s the Dempsey’s and McBride’s in this country? Don’t play for the correct DA or attend the right schools I suppose. Complete lack of “Grit” on this team. 

  25. Tim Lenahan, July 1, 2019 at 4:24 p.m.

    Pulisic is one of the top young WIDE players in the world yet we make him an average striker / #10.  Let him do his thing wide and build around that.

  26. Bob Ashpole, July 1, 2019 at 5:39 p.m.

    Quite frankly I was shocked at how bad the US starting 11 compared 1 to 1 to the Curacoa players in the fundamentals of the game. Pulisic, Bradley, the CBs and the Keeper compared well, but the rest of the team did not compare well. (I would have reluctantly rated McKennie as a 4 only because he finished Pulisic's beautiful cross.) 

    I don't have a clue as to how to make this starting 11 better. Clearly the US needed to put some second half subs into the match, but after Morris I could not think of a single player on the bench who would have improved the 1 to 1 matchups against Curacoa players. Altidore was not the answer because this wasn't the type of game he is best suited for and Zardes, for all his weaknesses, is a better defender than Altidore simply because Zardes covers more ground, although not as much ground as any other forward on the roster. (I actually thought Morris might come in for Zardes because there was space for someone that could move and handle a ball.)

    Since Berhalter thinks the problem can be solved by having these 11 players, play faster, I conclude that he doesn't really understand what to do either.

    Part of the problem is the way USSF wants to play soccer. But system or style is not the only problem. The US MNT should have dominated that match even if the coach chose the worst system in the history of soccer.

    The game is not about x's and o's. It is a matter of using players who have mastered the fundamentals and then giving them the freedom to make good decisions to fit the circumstances of the game. Having a good game plan is nice, but it isn't the objective. Winning is.

    Any team that struggles to beat Curacao has about the same chance of qualifying for 2022 as Curacao has. That is a truism.


  27. Bob Ashpole replied, July 1, 2019 at 5:43 p.m.

    I need to qualify that statement about our CBs compared to Curacao. When they defended, they were okay. When they had the ball, they played like Sequoia trees.

  28. Ginger Peeler replied, July 1, 2019 at 8:30 p.m.

    Thanks, Bob, you made my afternoon/evening! I nearly fell off the sofa laughing with your description of our magnificent team, the Sequoia trees. Priceless! I nominate, as a nickname for our USMNT, THE “SEQUOIA TREES”, or “Sequoias”, for short! We are, obviously, a work in progress, but we’ve got a couple years to build the team. There are promising youngsters coming up through the U-17s, -20s and 21s. Tab Ramos’s having to leave some very talented youngsters off his U-20 team for the first time for ANY of our national teams is a milestone! We’ve never had a surfeit of talent before. EVER! I’m not sure GB is the coach to take us to the heights. Ramos seems to have a more inherent sense of where to use the talent he’s been gifted with. By World Cup time, our Sequoias  will be much more mature and we should have a truly competitive team. 
    Thanks again, Bob!

  29. Bob Ashpole replied, July 4, 2019 at 1 a.m.

    Turns out I was wrong. Berhalter did know how to make the team play better. He made several changes, which made a difference.

  30. frank schoon, July 1, 2019 at 6:18 p.m.

    We're talking about Pulisic and the other two supposedly stars....As far as I'm concerned all 3 became  just mundane...Pulisic wasn't even noticed out there the second half. What is Pulisic if his team can't get the ball....
    Here is the problem, any team that can play good ball possession like even a low level team like Curacao means the US becomes a no-show. Without the ball we can't fight, run or hustle other than defensively trying to chase a ball. 

  31. frank schoon, July 2, 2019 at 6:40 a.m.

    Guys, lets not jump on GB on this one, his hands our sort of tied on this one in two ways. His lack of having played at a high level as well as related to the position he played himself, two the it is the overal bigger picture which he can't control. Yes, you can question his selection, like not having a Sargent there, or MB, or Zardes, or whatever, but that is not the issue. When in the land of volkswagens it is very tough to pick a team that looks like and plays like a Mercedes and the knowledge of how to play like a Mercedes when you yourself played at that level. Take Pulisic for example, it dawned on me almost near the end of the game that he was even out there.
    Do you really think when you watch the Curacao players in how they handle ball 1v1 in close space against our players that thius is trainable, you just learned these ball maneuvers by doing drills at practice.
    And note each of those Curacao players has their own little quirks, dances, 1v1 movements with the ball. Where do you think they really think learned this ?  It is from playing PICKUP SOCCER !!! 
    The only aspect that is trainable and learned is the ability of playing "keep away" , "possession/positional" style soccer and the manner of passing, I.e. velocity.
    There is a reason why our players look like 'Neanderthal stiffs' or Bob's "Sequoia" trees out there and that is we don't have a PICKUP"  culture.
    THE PICKUP CULTURE IS THE ONLY METHOD FOR OUR PLAYERS TO LEARN HOW TO EVADE OR BEAT AN OPPONENT AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE, and each Curacao player not only executes differently, but also employ their own style.   That aspect is not trainable, therefore it doesn't matter if you even 10 A-licensed coaches per team out there using the programmed garbage gotten from USSF coaching academy. 

  32. frank schoon replied, July 2, 2019 at 6:53 a.m.

    Earney Stewart , made a bad calculation on picking GB as coach. GB was a simple fullback, never played at high level and therefore lacks the knowledge of how to play at a high level. How is he suppose teach and improve the players...CAN'T BE DONE..
    You might as well realize that instead of every time after every game trying to pull your hair out because so and so should of play a #10 or someone else should play #6 or we need less MLS or whatever... Guys the problem is much bigger than that but the solution is simple.
    You want better level of soccer than go to coaches who have played at the highest level who are capable of teaching players and have more knowledge than the players...that is the FIRST step. The other step is to NURTURE PICKUP SOCCER.....We are currently trying to learn how to ice skate using roller skates... 

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