Berhalter excited about process, but insists USMNT not Gold Cup favorites

Gregg Berhalter gestures to his team vs. Chile

ST. PAUL, Minn. — From the beginning of Gregg Berhalter’s tenure as head coach of the US men’s national team, his message has been about the future.

Berhalter debuted alongside new matching US Soccer slogans: “The future is US” and “Somos el future.” More than a year removed from the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Berhalter spoke of a new era at his introductory press conference.

“I don't think it's appropriate to talk about the failure of the past,” he said in December.

Appropriate or not, the shadow of that failure still hangs over the team as they prepare for their first competitive matches in nearly two years. With criticism descending on the team and exterior pressure rising, the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup will be about delivering on promises.

“The process has to accelerate,” Berhalter said on his first day in charge. “Each and every game, you should expect to see development. That's my job.”

Though the USMNT will be without some key factors in that development, including former New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, due to injury, the need to display a more-finished product is present. As the defending champions and a traditionally successful team in the competition, the US are among the favorites.

Berhalter challenged that notion at the beginning of his press conference before his side’s opener against Guyana Tuesday (10 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN, TSN 1/3, Fox Sports GO) at Allianz Field.

“I don’t think we’re favorites in this tournament,” he said.

Berhalter chose instead to preach toward the bigger picture, which, with a less-experienced squad on his hands, becomes more about experience itself.

“I think this is a great process for this group to go through,” he said. “In training today there was a little bit of nerves, because we have the first game, we’ve been building this up. It’s great that we get to experience this together.”

The question still remains, however: What does progress look like for the USMNT in the 2019 Gold Cup?

“I think that we have to win [the tournament],” D.C. United winger Paul Arriola said in a Spanish-language interview. “The thing about the Gold Cup is not how you start, [but] how you finish.”

But will the USMNT finish the tournament in the final at Soldier Field on July 7?

Berhalter wouldn’t point specifically to that match, but still expects a positive outcome.

“For us, it’s just managing it step by step, not getting ahead of ourselves,” Berhalter said. “At the end, hopefully having something we can be proud of.”