The USMNT is back in this instance eight years later, since they didn’t qualify for the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Gregg Berhalter’s players managed to advance to the last 16 after drawing with England and Wales, while beating Iran by the minimal difference in their final group match.
Walker Zimmerman says the USMNT want to be World Cup champions
United States defender, Walker Zimmerman has said that he thinks that the USMNT isn’t finished yet, adding that the narrative continues as they’re still trying to accomplish their goal of winning the World Cup, something that he believes could inspire a new generation of players.
“I think if we’re able to do that, we’re going to inspire a lot of young players, a lot of young Americans to pick up the sport and, hopefully, make them proud.”
Gregg Berhalter knows that a new tournament starts on Saturday
USMNT’s coach, Gregg Berhalter knows that his team arrives as the underdog to their Round of 16 match against the Netherlands, but knows that’s unlikely to shake his team’s confidence, despite their rivals being better positioned of FIFA’s ranking.
Berhalter knows that advancing from the group stage is a huge accomplishment, but he assured to This Morning, that his team wants to keep going.
“We had two tournaments that we’re looking at: the group stage tournament and the knockout tournament. And now, we’re here in the knockouts, we just want to keep this thing rolling.”
Christian Pulisic is the player with the biggest name in the USMNT’s roster, but that has only boosted his leadership in the team as he know’s that somewhat like “Spiderman”, wearing the #10 jersey for the squad, comes with a great responsibility, specially during a World Cup.
Pulisic appeared when his team and country needed him the most, scoring the goal that gave the United States the victory over Iran in the final match of the group stage at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, advancing to the knockout stages of the tournament as the second best team in the group, behind England.
Similarities between Landon Donovan and Christian Pulisic
For a couple of decades, Landon Donovan came to mind whenever someone mentioned the USMNT, and upon his retirement the United States passed through a rough patch, even missing the 2018 World Cup.
While the current times weren’t bright, US Soccer looked towards the future and embarked in a project with the 2026 World Cup in mind, which they are hosting alongside Canada and Mexico.
Christian Pulisic was one of those bright young players that came out of their development system and pointed to be a star, finishing his youth career overseas and becoming an importan player for the biggest clubs in UEFA.
He now wears the #10 jersey in the USMNT and many seem to be pleased that a new “Captain America”, just like Landon Donovan in his time, is now defending the stars and stripes uniform with great skills, but also huge courage and leadership.
Christian Pulisic says he’s ready to play vs Netherlands on Saturday
The heroe for the United States against Iran and one of their most important players, Christian Pulisic was taken to the hospital after he was injured during the USMNT’s last game in the group stage.
Pulisic gave an update and declared himself ready to play Saturday against Netherlands in the Round of 16 at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The USMNT and Wales played to a 1-1 draw that leaves the future of both teams in Qatar 2022 uncertain for their other two World Cup group games, however, all indications are that the easiest path to that goal is in favor of Gareth Bale and company, essentially due to the order of each team’s next two games.
In the next matchday of Group B of Qatar 2022, the United States will have what is expected to be their toughest challenge as they will have to face England, while Wales will have the obligation to beat Iran, which, based on what was seen on Monday, seems to be the weakest team in the section.
What’s next for the USMNT and Wales?
It is worth remembering that England defeated Iran 6-2 and that if they beat Team USA they will mathematically assure their pass to the round of 16, so they will surely go out with their luxury team to try to beat a team that, incredibly, they have not been able to beat twice in World Cups.
That is why, if the logical results of the aforementioned games to be held on Friday are given, England would defeat the United States, Wales would beat Iran and then the situation for the final games would be a terrible scenario for Gregg Berhalter and company.
Wales have everything to reach the Round of 16
In the last series of matches, to be held on Tuesday, Wales would face England, who could keep some of their best players because they are already qualified and if they get a draw, even if the United States wins by many goals against Iran, they would be eliminated.
That is why not losing against England becomes vital for the United States, the mission seems very difficult, a draw against Wales could end up being fatal for the team coached by Gregg Berhalter.
The U.S. National Team disappointed with a 1-1 draw against Wales, not because they had a point in their World Cup debut, but because they had the victory assured, and just minutes before the final whistle, they were tied by Gareth Bale from the 11 penalty kicks. USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter spoke to the media about the draw.
Berhalter admitted faults in their set piece defense
“We gave it our all,” Berhalter said, insisting the U.S. had everything to beat Wales, but admits his team struggled when Gareth Bale‘s men were more direct in the second half.
The U.S. national team coach praised his team after the 1-1 draw against Wales in the team’s first World Cup match.
“It was a hard-fought game. We left everything out there,” Berhalter said after the match. The U.S. took an early lead after Timothy Weah scored the first goal for the Americans, before a Gareth Bale penalty kick tied the game 1-1.
“And we had some good counterattacking opportunities. But I thought the guys handled it well. You know we kept going right to the end. Well, I would say Wales were very direct in the second half. And they’ve got a great team. And they made it difficult,” Berhalter confessed.
Berhalter and the sins in the U.S. mark
“So, I think we handled a lot of our pressure well. But when they hit long balls and play for second balls, it becomes difficult. Even with the increased pressure from a Welsh side that played with their backs against the wall in the second half, the U.S. was still able to maintain enough stability in defense by allowing too many clear-cut scoring opportunities during the second half,” the U.S. DT clarified.
The horror tackle by center back Walker Zimmerman that sent Bale to the penalty spot would prove to be the turning point in the match that cost the U.S. three points in its return to the World Cup.
The U.S. will play England on Friday in what was already considered a big game, but will now have more pressure as it would do the U.S. a lot of good to come out of the game with at least a point.
When Timothy Weah scored the USMNT‘s first goal at the Qatar 2022 World Cup in the 36th minute of the game against the Welsh national team, it looked like paradise was in store for the team coached by Gregg Berhalter, who like most of his players was having his first experience in the greatest showcase of world soccer, however, the clouds and doubts came in the second half.
Berhalter, who took over this team in 2018 decided to go out with the same 11 players that opened the game and that even included Sergio Dest and Weston McKennie, who had prolonged inactivity at their clubs due to different injuries.
All of Gregg Berhalter’s tactical mistakes
Perhaps that was Berhalter’s first big mistake, as the physical exhaustion they had suffered in the first half caused these players to drop their performance and then, suddenly, Wales did what they failed to do in the first 45 minutes, take the ball away from the team that won the last edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
That said, the first change came in the 66th minute, it was McKinnie who gave his place to Brenden Aaronson, Dest gave his place until the 74th minute for the most veteran player of this roster, DeAndre Yedlin, and Wales began to harass the goal defended by Matt Turner.
Giovanni Reyna, one of the most talented players and one of the most capable of retaining possession for Berhalter and company, was left waiting on the bench and was outplayed in the final minutes, but still held the lead.
Walker Zimmermann’s mistake that will be hard to forget
In the accumulation of errors, the most important one was missing, that of Walker Zimmerman, who in the 82nd minute, when Wales’ star player, Gareth Bale controlled the ball in the box and was with his back to the goal defended by Wayne Hennessey, swept directly to his left leg, making it easy for the referee to sanction the penalty kick with which the game would be tied in the end.
Thus, the United States leaves frustrated for not having been able to obtain the victory against Wales, the little experience weighed, the next rival is the most powerful of Group B, the national team of England.
In a completely different tone than the one used by Jürgen Klinsmann prior to Brazil 2014, this Monday the United States National Team returns to the World Cup after an 8-year absence, in a completely different process, led by Gregg Berhalter.
On that occasion, Klinsmann wanted to be realistic with his players and assured that “it was impossible for the USMNT to win the World Cup” in that edition and he repeated it just before the US team’s debut. His comment was not well received and he ended up leaving the team after a resounding failure and a subsequent crisis that left them out of Russia.
Then came Gregg Berhalter to rebuild U.S. soccer and this Saturday he gave an interview to ESPN, in a completely opposite tone, prior to the USMNT’s debut against Wales. The coach was asked the same question as Klinsmann and his response, after a short pause, was full of enthusiasm:
Gregg Berhalter’s optimism
“What I do believe… is that on our best day we can beat anybody in the world. Anyone,” Gregg Berhalter said.
Berhalter’s most important job has been precisely the mental one, pushing them to accept that the only way they will make history is to trust in themselves. That’s why, before traveling to the Middle East, they invited Eric Thomas, a popular motivational speaker, to a lecture and he spoke to them about the incredible power of faith.
Then, Berhalter talked about how he prepared to travel to Qatar, based on the number of pairs of tennis shoes he packed for his trip (he is a shoe lover). His answer has a profound message: he has not chosen which pair he will wear this Monday for the match against Wales, but categorically reported that he packed seven pairs, the same number of matches needed to reach the Final.
“It’s a great honor to play in the World Cup, but we don’t want to just be participants,” Gregg Berhalter said.
However, he did not venture to assert that his team will be world champions in Qatar, instead focusing on the fact that success rarely comes without conviction, something he learned during his international playing career.
Rebuilding the USMNT
Berhalter is approaching his biggest challenge as a coach. He came to the job four years ago, with the goal of getting back on track after the failed process for Russia, and was dedicated to bringing about the USMNT’s generational change, including attracting high-level dual-nationality players Yunus Musah and Timothy Weah, as well as the emergence of young players competing in the world’s top leagues: Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson.
With this combination, Berhalter wants more: he increased the intensity of training since last week, and with his coaching staff have tried to consider all the potential scenarios they could encounter in the group stage. Berhalter is known for his focus on data and analysis, a habit typical of American sports and where soccer lags a bit behind.
“We have time now, we’ve had time over the last two months. When you’re on the field and on the sidelines and the crowd is loud and there are pressure moments, if you’re not prepared, I think it hurts your decision making,” Gregg Berhalter said.
He added in his bid to make history, “We believe the first step is to get out of the group. And the second step is, in the knockout games, to play our best game possible and see how far we can go.”
Two days before he starts his participation in the World Cup against Wales on Monday, Berhalter spoke with ESPN about a wide range of topics surrounding the USMNT’s and the biggest football stage in the planet.
He wants his players to understand that the only way that they’ll be able to make history is if they believe in it.
“On our best day we can beat anyone in the world. Anyone”, he told ESPN.
Gregg Berhalter wants the UNSMNT to be protagonist in Qatar
Gregg Berhalter said that is an honor to play in the World Cup, and his team doesn’t want to just be participans, they want to perform and do their best.
Under Berhalter’s leadership and guidance the stars and stripes team returned to a World Cup after missing Russia 2018 due to a disastrous qualyfing round.
He now coaches one of the youngest teams in the tournament and is leading a young generation of players with the goal of having an historic participation for the next World Cup, which they host.
Talented players like Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Timothy Weah and Yunus Musah, among many others.
“When you’re on the field and the sideline and the crowd is loud and there’s pressure moments; if you’re not prepared, I think it hurts decision-making.”
Gregg Berhalter thinks anything is possible
Ahead of his first game against Wales, Berhalter is yet to name the captain of his squad, but what he does know is that once they start they don’t have a set date for it to end so they’ll have to take it step by step to be among the two best teams in their group and advance to the knockout rounds.
“In the knockout games, playing our best possible game and seeing how far we can go.”
Gregg Berhalter unveiled the 26 players who will represent the USMNT at the upcoming World Cup in Qatar 2022, however, the note is not who is going to the tournament, but who, or who, has been left out of the call-up, the coach took some time to talk about some of the more controversial names.
Perhaps the three most controversial cases are those of goalkeeper Zack Steffen and striker Ricardo Pepi, three players who were part of this whole tortuous Qualifiers process, who were even part of several Team USA starting 11s and who Berhalter admitted were very difficult calls to make to explain to them that their dream would not come true.
Zack Steffen, from starting goalkeeper to being discarded
First up is Steffen, who a year ago was the team’s starting goalkeeper, was even part of Pep Guardiola’s team at Manchester City, has a connection to Berhalter from his time with the Columbus Crew in MLS and has now been dropped.
“Me and Zack go way back, and Zack’s been there for me a bunch of times. And to tell him he’s not going to be part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking for me,” Berhalter said.
Ricardo Pepi and his goals won’t be at Qatar 2022
On the other hand, there is the case of Pepi, who has arguments to be Team USA’s Most Valuable Player in the CONCACAF Octagonal, his goals literally took the team to Qatar 2022, but after being sold from FC Dallas to Augsburg of Germany, he was loaned this season to Groningen of the Netherlands, the good step in the Eredivisie was not enough for Berhalter.
“Ricardo Pepi could have a great argument for why he should be there, and I can understand that argument. But we had to choose to bring three strikers and these are the three that we chose,” Berhalter said.