USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter is well aware of the caveats: The T&T side the US were playing hadn’t taken the field together in nearly a year, putting them well behind the curve in terms of fitness and chemistry, which was evident throughout the night. Still, as the program gets ready for a jam-packed 2021, Berhalter said after the game that taking the scoreline with a bit of a grain of salt shouldn’t diminish some of the positive takeaways.
“You can only play against the opponent on the field against you,” Berhalter said. “What I really liked from the guys was the focus and the intensity. After three weeks of training with a relatively new group, a young group, it’s good to be able to see those elements on the game field against a real opponent.
“We know that it wasn’t a World Cup qualifying caliber team based on who they had available. But nonetheless it was good to see the focus of the team.”
The Yanks were dominant from the opening whistle on Sunday, scoring the game’s first goal just two minutes into the match courtesy of Jonathan Lewis and never looking back. FC Dallas homegrown Jesus Ferreira was arguably the biggest star of the show with two goals and three assists, but Berhalter said it was the collective effort that has impressed him the most, not just on Sunday, but throughout January camp.
Sam Vines, Aaron Herrera, Miles Robinson and Lewis all joined Ferreira as young players who put in standout performances. Even New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner found a way to make his mark on a night where had virtually nothing else to do, stuffing a second-half penalty kick to ensure the USMNT would finish with the clean sheet.
“The whole team for the last three weeks has impressed me: The attitude, the mindset, the focus, the intensity was all there for three weeks,” Berhalter said. “When I look at today, when you talk about Jonathan Lewis and Jesus Ferreira, they did a great job of getting assists and goals. Sam Vines did a great job. The center backs were strong all game, Aaron Herrera played well.
“It’s very difficult to pick out a player that didn’t play well from the starting XI, so overall pleased with the guys, pleased with the effort of the group and most important the concentration and the focus that they demonstrated.”
The games promise to get much tougher later on in a huge year for the program, but Berhalter said the camp and Sunday’s friendly were all about building blocks, whether it was for the young up-and-comers looking to make their case for more caps going forward, or the more established players that have already been a part of the rotation.
In that sense, Berhalter said, he considers the team’s first mission accomplished.
“There’s players in this camp that are very much part of the full team,” the coach said. “When you look at Sebastian Lletget, Aaron Long, Paul Arriola, Walker [Zimmerman] has been a part of it, Jackson [Yueill] has been a big part of what we’ve been doing lately.
“So, to us we used this camp as integration camp where we were able to mix the senior players with the U-23 players and really work with both teams and prepare both teams for what’s ahead this year. When I look at that, when I look at the objective of the camp, it was a success based on that.”