The first big test of the Gregg Berhalter era is here for the US national team, and Landon Donovan is confident they will rise to the occasion. That said, he knows there are no guarantees.
"I think [Berhalter is] the best coach in the moment for the US national team," the former USMNT star and four-time Gold Cup winner told UDN's Linea de Cuatro on Wednesday after the groups were unveiled for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. "He did really good work in Columbus and he's a young coaching star in our country. I'm really happy that he has the opportunity to lead our national team. And we'll see this summer what he does. If he can have success, it's going to help him a lot."
The USMNT will face Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana in Group D play at the Gold Cup. Considering the recent history against Panama and T&T hasn't always been favorable for the US, Donovan was wary of the road in group play for his country.
"In our group we have Trinidad and Tobago — the team that beat us to prevent us from qualifying to Russia [2018 World Cup] — so there's extra motivation in this game. It's a difficult group with Panama, which always has a chance to eliminate some teams in the Gold Cup," he said.
While handicapping Mexico's road through group play (against Canada, Martinique and Cuba) as "a little easier," Donovan — who played for Liga MX side Club Leon last year — said he hoped the US and Mexico would square off in the final to determine the current "king of Concacaf."
"At the moment the United States is not [the best country in the region] because we didn't qualify for the World Cup in Russia. At the moment it could be Mexico but we'll see in a few months who is the king of Concacaf and hopefully the United States again are the kings of Concacaf."
But it all comes down to the play on the field, and Donovan is eager to see what is likely to be a rather inexperienced USMNT side go through the pressure of tournament play.
"Hopefully they are [ready for this challenge]. We'll see. Last year they brought in many young players in the US team and they played pretty well at times and in other games they didn't play as well. Now is their test. We'll see if the younger players like Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and [Christian] Pulisic and others if they can or not. This tournament is tough. On paper people say, 'Ok it's Guyana and they're not that good.' It's tough to play in this competition. Every four days you're playing and traveling. It's not easy. we'll see what the young players can do.
"If they can lift the trophy at the end it's going to say a lot about their ability, their mentality and their talent," he added.