HOUSTON — The US national team is looking to continue their winning streak against South American powerhouse Chile in what is likely to be toughest match yet for the under new head coach Gregg Berhalter.
They're coming in hot – three shutout wins in three games after downing Ecuador 1-0 on Thursday. Chile, on the other hand, enter after being beaten 3-1 last week by Mexico. But as the defending South American champions, the game is likely to be stiff competition for the home side.
“This is going to be a great challenge for this group, really excited about this game because I think this gives us the opportunity to have to play through some really intense pressure,” said Berhalter ahead of Tuesday's showdown at BBVA Compass Stadium (7:55 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMás, UDN).
Not to discount Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador as worthy opponents, but the USMNT haven’t faced a rival under Berhalter with the international pedigree of Chile.
“I think about the progression between Panama and Costa Rica, I think it will be a similar progression this camp, where Costa Rica came out, really high pressed us after playing a low block in Panama, Ecuador ended up playing in a low block and with Chile I don’t think we are going to see that,” said head coach Berhalter. “I think we are going to see high pressing and a lot of physicality and a lot of duels.”
These two countries have faced each a total of 10 times since 1950, with the USA trailing the all-time series 3-5-2. But Berhalter believes his team can play a good match against Chile and are certainly capable of winning.
“We want to set up to give [Chile] problems and it’s just about the right moments that we are able to play through them and get opportunities and I think that is the key,” he explained.
Chile are in something of a reconstruction process themselves under head coach Reinaldo Rueda, who has been on the job for a year and is trying to blend in youth with veteran players. They are a work in progress, as seen in their recent loss against Mexico, but La Roja are still a very dangerous team with talented players.
“I think [Chile] will come out with an ambition to win and then I think it will be a very difficult game,” said defender Omar Gonzalez.
The teams are using these friendlies to get in top shape for their summer responsibilities. The USMNT are aiming to win the Concacaf Gold Cup, and Chile are hoping to keep the title of Copa América champions for a third successive tournament.
“We are only focusing now on this game and we are not thinking about whether we win or if we lose. We are focused on the process of how we are going to play during this game [with Chile],” said Gonzalez when asked about the future of the USMNT in international tournaments. “This is the most important thing for us. It is very important to win, but also the way you play is also important.”