The U.S. coach believes his team are behind their rivals at the moment but says his squad will continue to fight for Concacaf supremacy
United States national team manager Gregg Berhalter believes Mexico are “slightly ahead” of his squad, but says his squad remain in a position to battle them for Concacaf supremacy.
The Americans face their biggest rival in a Friday friendly, the first game for either national team since El Tri topped the USMNT 1-0 in the Gold Cup final.
The victory for El Tri in Chicago continued a recent spell of dominance in Concacaf since the fall of 2017, when Mexico qualified top of the region in World Cup qualifying while the USMNT missed out on the 2018 tournament.
And though Berhalter conceded Martino’s team has a bit of an edge at the moment after its Gold Cup final win and triumphs in World Cup qualification, he believes the USMNT remain in the battle to reign supreme in Concacaf.
“I think that we’re both in a position where we’re battling for supremacy in Concacaf. We’re both trying to be the top team,” Berhalter said at a news conference Thursday. “I think right now Mexico is slightly ahead of us, having beaten us in the last game and performed well in the last few years.
“But when we play them, you see the intensity takes a different level. Everything is up a level. The tempo of the game is up, tackles are a little harder. These are special games. It’s always an occasion to be playing against Mexico – even if it’s a friendly game or a Gold Cup game or qualifying game or World Cup game.”
Friday’s friendly will be a back-to-back meeting for the two nations, albeit separated by two months.
It will also feature different squads than the ones that battled in the Gold Cup final. Berhalter once again gets the services of center back John Brooks, who missed the Concacaf championship with an injury. There are also returns for Bundesliga duo for Josh Sargent and Alfredo Morales.
Mexico’s team is different as well, with World Cup veterans Hector Herrera, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Hirving Lozano among the players who didn’t take part in the Gold Cup but are in Tata Martino’s squad for the September games.
But Berhalter is looking forward to the opportunity to face the same opponent twice in a row, anxious to see how his adjustments will pay off.
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“That’s the beauty of playing them in the next game. You get to make adjustments,” said Berhalter, who played in the rivalry matches as a player and now is participating as the coach. “You get to look at what you want to learn, how you want to learn, change things a little bit, how the team is going to react. For us it’s good. What we’re trying to do is just gather information on Mexico, gather information on what we can do to off-balance them.
“These are fun games. When you get to play them back-to-back, we’re obviously going to alter things and see what affect it can have.”
The contest is set to kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET. at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.