USA-Canada: Gregg Berhalter relishes his first U.S. road test

Canada coach John Herdman has termed Tuesday's USA-Canada match in Toronto a "cup final" for the Canadians, who have not beaten the USA in 34 years.

The Concacaf Nations League match also has 2022 World Cup implications for Canada. It needs favorable results to jump into the Concacaf top six in the FIFA rankings by next June to advance to the Hexagonal and avoid the secondary qualifying route from which one team from an initial field of 29 teams will emerge with a (one-in-four) chance of qualifying.

But what's the significance of the match for the USA, the first away match under Gregg Berhalter since he took over as head coach?

A win or tie will qualify for the USA for the 2021 Gold Cup, a competition to which it has previously always entered as host or co-host.

Berhalter pushed back on the notion that the USA had any interest in knocking Canada out of the Hex.

"Our objective is to advance to the next round of the Nations League," he said in reference to the Concacaf Nations League final four in June. "It's that simple."

By the Numbers: USA vs. Canada men (modern years)

Berhalter said he has a lot of respect for what Herdman has accomplished since moving over from the women's side to take over the men's team in 2019, mentioning teenage forwards Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies, midfielder Scott Arfield and left back Sam Adekugbe.

"They have a good team," he said. "For us, we're excited about this opportunity. We see it has a good challenge, away from home, the crowd is going to be good. It will be a beautiful night for soccer. Great field, great stadium, good environment for us."

He said there should be no doubt about his players being up for the match.

"We can play at an intense level," he said. "Our goal is in that intensity to be calm and still execute our game. That's what I'm looking for. The intensity, that's something that we can do. When you think about American teams, the heritage of who we are as a soccer nation, intensity comes right along with it. When I think about the best teams we've had, certainly relentless and intense is what comes to mind. For me it's about, can we still be calm in these moments? Can we still execute our game plan whether we're at home or on the road?"

Steffen in goal. Berhalter said Zack Steffen, who sat out Friday's 7-0 win over Cuba, would start in goal. The one question mark was Josh Sargent, who rolled his ankle in the Cuba but stayed in the game. “We’re working through that now," Berhalter said.

Berhalter did not say whether Reggie Cannon or DeAndre Yedlin would start at right back, but he did say he was impressed with how far Cannon has come since the beginning of the year when he struggled at the January camp.

“In the Gold Cup — and I told this before — when he was playing in the semifinal," he said, "it was just because he was a good player and he was ready. It wasn’t anything more than that. It was a guy doing his job and being ready to perform. He performed well then, he performed well in the September camp and I think he performed well again on Friday night.”

Berhalter also did not say whether Christian Pulisic would start in midfield or on the left wing, like he did against Cuba, but he defended his decision to pull the Chelsea player after he scored the seventh U.S. goal from the penalty spot.

"He felt good," he said. "He wanted to continue to play. For us, that's not what it was about. It was about can we also be ready for the next game. But I think we learned a lot in that game, and I mentioned before, we're always learning from Christian. He's such a high-level player that he gives you things that you didn't think were possible. We learned from him and it was a good game to see some things out of him."

4 comments about "USA-Canada: Gregg Berhalter relishes his first U.S. road test".
  1. beautiful game, October 15, 2019 at 10:06 a.m.

    GB needs to come up with the right player mix and talk less about intensity and more about execution. His comments about his players in this article cannot get more ludicrous.

  2. Kent James replied, October 15, 2019 at 1:19 p.m.

    Ludicrous?  That's harsh.  I think he gave reasonable answers to the appropriate issues.  I'm not sure what you expect from a pre-game interview.  

  3. Goal Goal, October 15, 2019 at 9:11 p.m.

    I just watched the first half of this game and I was very disappointed in what we call play.  I don’t care if we score a ton of goals in the second half.  This team should be playing chess because they haven’t shown squat in the first half.  Maybe we can play Cuba every game.

  4. Kerry Solomon, October 15, 2019 at 9:42 p.m.

    GB needs to go.  I believe he’s clueless.  The players were not well prepared and showed little care to perform.  It didn’t seem they gave a damn.  This is way too prevalent in their performances since the disaster in T&T.
    blow it up and start again with players who care.

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