BLAINE, Minn. — As the US men's national team Gold Cup preparations moved to Minnesota on Wednesday following disappointing friendly losses to Jamaica and Venezuela last week, goalkeeper Zack Steffen insisted the mood in coach Gregg Berhalter's camp remained "all good."
And the European-bound former Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper insisted both those results would ultimately help his side's tournament campaign, which begins next Tuesday in their Group D opener against Guyana (10 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN, TSN).
“We can really see what we need to work on from those friendlies,” Steffen explained. “There were some positive things and obviously there were some negative things, so we’re all excited that we had a good couple days off and we can mentally get out of it, come back together and now we’re here on the same page — physically, mentally — and get back to work.”
On Wednesday, that work involved a small-field game and set piece rehearsal. There was an undeniable air of intensity about the training session and plenty of shouting, after Steffen indicated there may not have been enough chatter between teammates during the two friendlies.
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“With these international games, you always have to be on and you always have to be anticipating the play and communicating and staying connected and covering and helping each other out,” said Steffen. “There’s moments in those games where we didn’t do that. We went back and looked at the video and had a good couple discussions and we’re all on the same page now.”
Head Coach Gregg Berhalter also insisted that, despite some disappointing results, the bigger picture preparations remain on course.
“Our job is to evaluate and make adjustments as necessary. It’s not to be reactionary,” he said. “We know the groups that we had going in those games, we know what we need to work on. We know what was good and it’s just about improving and continuing to make progress.”
One of the biggest areas for improvement is fitness. Berhalter pointed out that five players entered camp with hamstring injuries and that the level of fitness among his squad drastically varies.
“[We have] MLS guys that have been playing every week, and multiple games in a week, and then we have guys that have been on vacation,” he explained. “Our objective of our first camp … is just to try to get everyone on the same page physically.”
Despite losing a likely starter in Tyler Adams, Berhalter was optimistic regarding the unit’s fitness level.
“I think we’re making a lot of progress in that area,” he said. “The game against Venezuela provided a good platform to gain fitness, get guys on the same page. We’ll be a little short with some guys, and that will be life.”
Guyana was expected to arrive in Minnesota late Wednesday. The Golden Jaguars will be making their tournament debut on Tuesday, but the U.S. feels confident that they’ll be prepared for their opponent.
“We try to stick to the same script,” said Steffen. “We focus on ourselves and we look at them and see how they can really hurt us, and we look at them and see how we can hurt them.”