U.S. expects 'good challenge' from Canada - Berhalter
TORONTO -- U.S. men's national team manager Gregg Berhalter says he's expecting a "good challenge" from Canada in Tuesday's CONCACAF Nations League match.
While the match will mark the 16th time the U.S. has played this year, Tuesday's encounter will be the first to be played on the road, in this case at BMO Field.
"They have a good team," said Berhalter about Canada. "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."
Canada hasn't beaten the U.S. since a 2-0 friendly win back in 1985, a stretch of 17 games. Yet the Reds have the look of a team that is on the rise, especially with an attack that boasts Cardiff City's Junior Hoilett and Gent's Jonathan David.
"It's nice when you see a country have young dynamic players because you know the future is going to be bright for them," said Berhalter.
Canada is expected to come out with a lot of emotion and intensity, although Berhalter doesn't think that will be an issue for his side.
"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?"
Defender DeAndre Yedlin expects the atmosphere at the game to be intense.
"Sometimes [playing on the road] can get your head a little bit wild, the tension can get filled up. The most important thing is to stay true to who you are...and just to focus on our game plan, on what we want to do," Yedlin said.
Berhalter added he likes the progression of his midfield throughout the past few months.
"I think we're getting there. We're making improvements," he said. "The guys have done a good job -- no matter who plays in there -- of working on the concepts, but also competing."
Midfielder Weston McKennie credited Berhalter with improving his tactical awareness.
"I'd say it's a lot better than it was in the beginning, for me as well. For me, I was a little bit, I guess you could say, not positionally disciplined. His system has really taught me to be disciplined and be calm and be patient that the ball is going to come to you," McKennie said of Berhalter.
"I think it's been developing. We've had more time to get comfortable with it, and I think many other players have felt also the comfortability of playing with this system and how we want to press and how we want to build up. And also this system is teaching us that we can keep the ball, and play confidently and comfortably."
In terms of his lineup, Berhalter said that Zack Steffen would start in goal. He said he hasn't decided yet of Josh Sargent or Gyasi Zardes will start up front. Sargent picked up an ankle injury in Friday's 7-0 win over Cuba.
"We're going to keep assessing him to see where he's at," said Berhalter about Sargent. "But whether it's Josh or Gyasi or whoever, we're comfortable with what we have as options."
Berhalter was also full of praise for midfielder Christian Pulisic's performance against Cuba.
"[Pulisic] felt good, he wanted to continue to play," he said. "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."