Berhalter happy with US win over Curacao, laments lack of killer instinct

PHILADELPHIA — The dominant performance that many anticipated for the United States against Curaçao in the quarterfinal of the Concacaf Gold Cup never materialized, but the end result was another trip to the semifinals after a 1-0 win Sunday night. 

The US scored in the 25th minute on a back post header from Weston McKennie on a cross from Christian Pulisic and overcame a couple tense moments in the second half to grind out a result.

“The interesting thing about this game and when you look at both in Copa América and Gold Cup and look at these quarterfinal matches, they’re all tight matches,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said in the post-game press conference. “I think you guys wanted us to go out here and beat ‘em 5-0 but we knew it was going to be a difficult game.”

Though they weren’t able to create many quality chances in the box, Curaçao edged the US on possession in the second half and nearly found an equalizer through a shot from outside the box from Leandro Bacuna that goalkeeper Zack Steffen did well to keep out. 

“They were a good team, they had some very skilled players and kept the ball really well,” US and Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris said. “Coming off the bench I was just trying to come in and bring some energy. We were defending a lot of the time.”

The US had a number of chances to double their lead, but the second goal never came. 

“What I’d say from our group is we had the opportunity early to put a couple goals in and we didn’t do that and we kept them hanging around,” Berhalter said.

For Curaçao, the tiny island nation making its first appearance in a Gold Cup quarterfinal, the 1-0 loss marked the end of an impressive run and earned a “well done” from head coach Remko Bicentini.

“I am proud of my players on the team,” Bicentini said. “They did work hard. We know for us it’s not an easy game, but we create 1-2 chances and we had 90 minutes of fight.”

Berhalter had a similar message in his remarks.

“Despite the tone in here we’re happy with the result of this game and that should be said,” Berhalter said.” I’m proud of the guys for their effort and now we move on to Nashville.”

The US will face their next test on Wednesday night against a team they know well, when they face off against Jamaica for a spot in the final (9 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN).