WASHINGTON -- Without a handful of his projected best XI and experimenting with a secondary formation, US national team coach Gregg Berhalter hesitated in drawing conclusions from a disappointing 1-0 loss, his first at the helm, to Jamaica in a Gold Cup tuneup at Audi Field on Wednesday night.
He hopes American fans will restrain themselves also.
“We didn’t play well,” Berhalter told reporters postgame. “And you’re going to have nights where you don’t play well. I’m not sure it should be that volatile that you turn against a team after one poor performance. There’s going to be more.
“As time goes on, there will be more performances when I’m coach. I guarantee it. And that’s part of it. But are the guys bought in? Are we working hard? Are we executing the type of soccer we want to execute? We’re getting there.”
Berhalter’s XI went out in a 3-4-3 that defended as a 5-4-1, with D.C. United’s Paul Arriola and Everton’s Antonee Robinson playing as wingbacks. Although the Reggae Boyz gained the upper hand in proceedings as they progressed, Berhalter insisted there were promising moments on the flank. They just usually turned into frustration before the final ball.
“We lacked speed, we lacked aggression in the final third,” he said. “When the ball is wide, there should be four guys in the penalty box, and we only had two half the time. Even when we won the ball in good positions, now it’s time to counter, now it’s time to force ourselves on the opponent, we didn’t do that.”
The absentees should help that, theoretically. Columbus Crew SC’s Gyasi Zardes was a precautionary scratch with a foot injury. Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic have yet to join the team, and while Weston McKennie is in camp, he was not on the matchday roster.
Josh Sargent got 90 minutes in Zardes’ place and created the Americans’ best chance when he took Duane Holmes’ service, turned and snapped a shot that forced Jamaica and Philadelphia Union No. 1 Andre Blake into an exceptional diving stop. Chicago Fire winger Djordje Mihailovic had a stoppage time breakaway cleared out of danger by FC Cincinnati defender Alvas Powell.
Despite playing without so many expected regulars, Berhalter disputed the idea that it was a less-than-ideal time to tinker with shape.
“Personnel effects formations and performance for sure -- but we’d be selling these guys short if we didn’t say that they can still perform at a high level,” Berhalter said. “Today it just wasn’t our day, it wasn’t the best.
“There were some things that I liked with this formation, there really were,” he continued. “And I’m also happy that we were able to see what it looked like. I think that’s important. The flexibility of the guys knowing what to do in another formation is important.”