Gregg Berhalter's winning message

Now comes the hard part.

Who will Gregg Berhalter take from the USA's 2021 Gold Cup championship team -- savor those words for a second -- and who will he bring in from Europe when World Cup 2022 qualifying begins in September?

It's right around the corner with camp opening in four weeks.

That was a question Bruce Arena faced in 2017 after the USA won the Gold Cup in Santa Clara with a squad of players closer to being his first team than Berhalter had at the Gold Cup. Arena mixed in five European-based players with six starters from the Gold Cup final, and we know what happened against Costa Rica in the Hexagonal at Red Bull Arena.

What Arena faced in September 2017 when a win over Costa Rica would have cleared a path for relatively smooth sailing to Russia 2018 is different from Berhalter will face next month when the USA's road to Qatar begins with games against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras over seven days. None of these games on their own will be a must-win game, but anything less than, say, five or six points from the opening three games will be concerning.

The good news for Berhalter is he will have a lot more choices of whom to bring in than Arena ever did. And he will have a lot more choices of whom to start than even he probably felt at the beginning of the summer. He not only added about a half dozen players he could bring in for the start of qualifying who haven't been regulars before, but he may have found a couple of new starters.

After the last four weeks, a very strong case could be make to start Matt Turner in goal, and Sunday's hero, Miles Robinson, at center back, who had four caps between them before July, none in a competitive match.

After Sunday's win, Berhalter, the birthday boy, said he felt the quality was there to win the Gold Cup despite the absence of all but four players from the Concacaf Nations League roster and the tournament was a great opportunity to evaluate the players.

"I think I've been consistent saying that we wanted to win the Gold Cup," he said. "From Day 1, when we came in camp, that was our objective. That was the team's goal. And we thought we had enough quality in the squad to get it done. And it sometimes looks a little different and sometimes the shape changes and the personnel change, but we have guys that are committed to winning and take great pride when they step on the field to represent the country."

Kellyn Acosta was the one player who started in both wins over Mexico this summer -- the Nations League final in Denver and Gold Cup final in Las Vegas -- and it will be hard to take him out of the lineup. (He might not supplant Tyler Adams at the No. 6 but he will be needed to step in because there is no way, even if healthy, Adams will be asked to start three qualifiers in seven days in September.)

Berhalter has always insisted he doesn't have two separate teams -- an "A" team and a "B" team -- just one big player pool. And it definitely grew bigger as the Gold Cup progressed.

Probably his boldest move was the replace his starters at both right back and left back for the final -- Reggie Cannon for Shaq Moore and George Bello for Sam Vines. And they did fine. All four of them.

Mexico's threat against the USA has almost always been with its ability to cause problems on the wing, creating chances off dribbles into the penalty area or drawing free kicks or penalty kicks, but they were limited in the Gold Cup final. (It didn't help El Tri that Chucky Lozano was hurt in the opener and missed the rest of the tournament and Diego Lainez is with Mexico's Olympic team in the semifinals in Japan.)

As it turned, Berhalter gave his four outside backs about 60 minutes each in the final -- a luxury made possible because of FIFA's pandemic-related decision to increase the number of subs from three to five in a competitive match (and four to six in a match with overtime).

Berhalter's master move was to go deep to his bench this summer and find winning combinations in each of the five knockout games.

The USA took its late show to Denver for the Nations League final, then to Texas for the Gold Cup quarterfinals and semifinals and finally on to Las Vegas for the final. None of the wins came on goals earlier than the 84th minute. Robinson's winning goal came in the 117th minute, the latest of the winning goals in the five knockout games.

"We think we have good depth and we think we can strategically use our substitutes to make an impact in the game," said Berhalter. "When you look at today, Sam and Shaq came in and were maybe disappointed not to start, but I told them how important their role would be. They made a big impact. [Gianluca] Busio had an impact role. [Cristian] Roldan made a big impact. It was important to have guys who can support the team and then when they're on the field, do their jobs."

The fifth sub on the field for the winning goal -- a sixth, Henry Kessler, entered in the 121st minute -- was Nicholas Gioacchini, who assisted on Gyasi Zardes' late winner against Qatar and was fouled on the play that led to the free kick from which Robinson connected for the winner.

The USA had a big advantage at the Gold Cup, where its fitness with a team dominated by players in the middle of the MLS season was superior than that of any team it faced except Canada's. It won't have that same advantage in World Cup qualifying, but will be about going 16 deep in each game and throwing out 20-25 players in the course of a three-day window. (Berhalter played 19 of 20 field players in two games at the Nations League final four and 17 of 20 in the Gold Cup semifinals and final.)

Berhalter said his message has been: "Next man up!" And he's been able to get buy-in from his players ready to contribute off the bench (or accepting that they will be subbed off).

That will be important on the road to Qatar and made possible, of course, when the USA wins two finals in eight weeks, both overtime wins over Mexico.

22 comments about "Gregg Berhalter's winning message".
  1. E Velazquez, August 2, 2021 at 6:14 a.m.

    PK:did you forget Hoppe for any motive ?

  2. Santiago 1314 replied, August 2, 2021 at 6:52 p.m.

    E V... I Liked Hoppe.... Could be Replacement for Arriolla... Boundless Energy and Intensity... Plays with a Real Bravado, Cockiness... Reminds me of Vermes

  3. John Sabala, August 2, 2021 at 6:15 a.m.

      Bottom line the US players made a very good showing and played well enough to keep the game level throughout the match.  Players from this tournament that made a case for the World Cup is Robinson, Turner, Hoppe and possibly Vines at left back which is a dire need.  Acosta made a cement statement that is the best #6 behind Adams.  I don't buy into the one large player pool that Berhalter is speaking...that is all politics.  There is definitely an A and B team of 23 players per squad.  Lets face facts, we played much weaker teams in the tournament that we will not see in the World Cup so it is important to keep performance in perspective based on the quality of the opponent.  We need to be able to play games without heroics from the goal keeper every single game.  Great to win the tournament and great experience for the younger players to build upon.

  4. Santiago 1314 replied, August 2, 2021 at 6:49 p.m.

    John, Acosta could be Starting #6, BUT, Too Many Unforced Passing Errors... Definite 23 Player

  5. Robert Ray, August 2, 2021 at 9:51 a.m.

    It was wonderful to watch Coach B's TEAM play and win the Gold Cup.  He has developed a true Brotherhood of men dedicated to each other who truely love the game and love representing their country.  This isn't an group of 0f 18, 21 or 25 members with different goals or agendas, it's a TEAM with a singular focus with all members having the same mindset and vision.  The WNT used to be that way and need badly to weed out the selfish, me first members that have ruined that element.  

  6. Santiago 1314 replied, August 2, 2021 at 6:12 p.m.

    Bingo Robert

  7. Greg Gould, August 2, 2021 at 11 a.m.

    Turner, Robinson, Sands, Acosta, and Hoppe increased their stock IMO.
    Lletget, Moore, Vines, Busio, and Bello showed potential as well. And the entire group contributed and bought in...very few weak performances or glaring mistakes! Berhalter deserves credit for this success as well.

    Going forward the next big test is to continue these kinds of performances on the road in CONCACAF WC qualifying. That's a whole different bag of weasels.

    And we need a striker who can step up and start scoring goals consistently. Winning all our games 1-0 is playing with fire.

    I was impressed with the poise and composure, especially considering the youth and lack of international inexperience in this group.

  8. Santiago 1314 replied, August 2, 2021 at 6:24 p.m.

    Greg. It seems to me that Sands can only Play as Libero, in a 352... Doubtful Ggg is going that way... Would still like to see him at a #6 Position, but, we are OUT of Practice Games...

  9. R2 Dad, August 2, 2021 at 12:17 p.m.

    GB got the result, which is big boost for him and the team concept he is advancing. Can't get too carried away, but we should allow a moment to thank GB, his staff and the players for an exciting summer of success.

  10. B McBride, August 2, 2021 at 1:35 p.m.

    I'm hoping Arriola is done. Although I like his pace, he is a terrible finisher. 

  11. Sam Bellin replied, August 2, 2021 at 2:13 p.m.

    B McBride you're right that Arriola's finishing, along with his passing and dribbling, were poor at this tournament.  But he's newly returned from ACL surgery.  He's been much sharper pre-injury.  I think we should keep him in the mix -- at least as a squad player-- and see if he regains his previous form.  At his best he's a great sub with his speed and energy.

  12. Santiago 1314 replied, August 2, 2021 at 6:06 p.m.

    Agreed...Squad player at the Moment... Showed some signs of Old Self in the 2nd Half... Only Winger that has Shown he can "Flip" Wings...

  13. David Lieberman, August 2, 2021 at 2:10 p.m.

    One of the many things the team needs is greater play and production from the Lleget and Roldan position. More creativity and possession to produce goal scoring opportunities. It's starts with that position I believe.

  14. Santiago 1314 replied, August 2, 2021 at 6:12 p.m.

    David I agree...Even though this was the Best I have seen Lletget play in the Midfield, it's Not Good enough.. I still think he should be Tried as #9... He is a Proven Scorer around the Box

  15. Kent James, August 2, 2021 at 2:16 p.m.

    GB's use of these players was masterful.  He seemed to give everyone a chance, and backed them even when they made mistakes.  The thrived on his support.  He's created a good problem in that there are now many more players who have proven themselves capable at this level, increasing his options. 

    Players from this squad that should be in consideration for the qualifiers: Robinson, Turner and Acosta.  Sands had a good tournament, but needs a bit more experience (but lots of potential).   Experienced players who we already knew, Ariola, Lleget and Roldan; they will never be more than role players, but are capable if we need them.  Cannon has more potential upside (and less experience that the previous 3), so he's a step above them.  Zardes is tougher; he didn't get as much playing time this tournament, but I think he has proven (in spite of the naysayers) that he's a good guy to have on the team.

    Young guys with a lot of potential; Hoppe, Moore and Bello (the first two I thought proved themselves capable of being in the mix now, and if Bello plays as well as he did in 60 mins in the final, he should be too).  Not quite sold on Vines, but he's a possibility.  

    Busio and Dike both have loads of potential, but aren't quite ready for the A team (but could be in a few years).  

  16. B McBride replied, August 2, 2021 at 2:58 p.m.

    Vines may get a closer look just based on need at the position. I'm interested to see what Sands does moving forward. To me, GB deserves a medal for sticking with him. The kid looked stellar at times, and also very suspect at other moments (esp against Qatar). Great experience for him, hopefully it serves him well and he grows from it. 

  17. Santiago 1314, August 2, 2021 at 6:29 p.m.

    Best 11 at the Moment:(Wait for It.!!!)

    CP.                    Arriolla

        McKenNIE Adams         
    Vines.                       Dest

              Brooks Richard's

              * Horvath *             

  18. Santiago 1314, August 2, 2021 at 6:33 p.m.

    Team that will WIN in COCcacaCrApF:

    CP.                                          ZARDES




                       * TURNER *

  19. B McBride replied, August 3, 2021 at 12:52 a.m.

    Dest can play either side. He starts regardless.

  20. Santiago 1314 replied, August 3, 2021 at 4:05 a.m.

    B, Dest has yet to show that he can Defend in an Away game in CONcacaCrApF... Especially on the Left Side.. 
    We going to need some Outside Defenders that can Overpower the likes of Honduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica.  
    Think "Ugly Ball"... Do you Dest Helping in There.???

  21. John Lyncheski, August 2, 2021 at 7:20 p.m.

    The effort was incredible. US players who should have been "gassed" were still working their butts off through the final whistle. Credit to them and to the coaching staff which motivated and enabled them to do so. New "stars" have emerged. Competition for the team going forward will be fierce at a number of positions.  

  22. Santiago 1314 replied, August 2, 2021 at 9:33 p.m.

    Right you are John, .Zardes and Acosta Especially ...
    Zardes Leads the GegenPress so well,
    Sargent does also, that's why I would put the 2 of them Starting in Concacacrapf  Games... They scramble Opposition attacks... Zardes is Not a "Pure" Winger, But he does Well enough Out there.

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