HOUSTON — The reactions to Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the US men’s national team and Chile were completely opposite – with one team viewing it as a step in the right direction while the other questioned the continuity of its head coach.
“Pretty impressive” is how USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter categorized his team’s performances against the reigning Copa América champions, content with their performance on the pitch.
“We learned about resiliency, knowing that we can go into difficult games against difficult opponents that have the strength that can hurt us,” Berhalter said. “We know that we can hang and know that we can push them to the limit.”
During his four-month tenure, Berhalter now has three wins and a tie as his vision of how he wants his team to play is starting to take shape.
“It was a great test for the guys,” Berhalter said. “I’m really happy we got to play a game like this, and I think we learned a lot.”
Taking a step up in competition against Chile left the USMNT players with a stronger knowledge of how to handle adversity — Chile dominated possession and had the US on its heels for much of the second half — and left them with a positive outlook for what’s to come in the future.
“There were some times that we executed it well and there were also times that we didn’t, but that’s why we play these games, to work on the things that we need to get better in,” said defender DeAndre Yedlin, who wore the captain’s armband.
The vibe was decidedly less positive on the Chilean side. The draw, which came on the heels of a 3-1 loss to Mexico, felt more like a loss and almost all of the players rushed through the mixed zone to avoid questions by reporters.
Coach Reinaldo Rueda, who replaced Juan Antonio Pizzi after La Roja failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, received the brunt of the criticism from the Chilean press in the post-match press conference.
“I knew what I was coming in for, that … [it] would be a very huge challenge, big, very difficult,” Rueda said. “It will not be easy.”
Rueda is somewhat of an expert in reconstructing teams and getting them World Cup-worthy – he did this with Honduras in 2010 and Ecuador in 2014. But in Chile, there’s an expectation to always win, something that La Roja have spoiled their fans with in recent years. Many have already called for his resignation and fans at BBVA Compass Stadium unfurled a banner that read “Get out Rueda.”
“There is desperation to win and it is normal because this team is a winner and everyone is used to that,” Rueda said, when asked about the lack of victories under his command. “But that concept can hurt us.”