ST. PAUL, Minn. – As the US men’s national team opened up their 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup campaign with a comfortable 4-0 win over Guyana, they experienced an in-game progression comparable to the broader one they’re part of.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter deployed a relatively inexperienced starting lineup for the start of a major international tournament, with more than half of the players entering the game with 10 or fewer caps. The Gold Cup, as Berhalter has said, is about giving some of those players experience, and that was on display on Tuesday night.
“We got stronger as the match went,” said Berhalter after the game. “We, for the most part, stayed organized, not getting too stretched.”
The USMNT entered halftime with a 1-0 lead, but added three goals in the second half as the attack found its feet. On the other end of the pitch, Guyana’s offense was generally well contained: goalkeeper Zack Steffen only faced one shot on target.
There were moments early in the match, however, where the Golden Jaguars had opportunities, especially with set pieces. For Berhalter, that was part of the process, too.
“The first game of a tournament is always a little bit nervy,” he explained. “I remember back in the day, in youth soccer, in tournaments, the first game is always a little bit nervy. We expected a lot of the same and told the guys [to] enjoy the experience.”
Another part of the game plan was squad rotation. Berhalter previously said he would “manage” player workloads as the USMNT progressed through the tournament. In an effort to preserve the fitness of two key players, he pulled veteran Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley and wonderkid Christian Pulisic from the game in the 62nd minute.
Those moves limited Berhalter’s flexibility within the game, but will likely expand his opportunities for adjustment later in the competition.
“The biggest concern was just pushing the minutes,” explained Berhalter. “Going into the game with two planned subs was also very difficult, because then you only have one extra guy. As it turned out, Weston [McKennie] did go down, so that was our last sub … that is what it is.”
Entering the game with a clear plan and expectations, Berhalter maintained that he saw no real surprises in the team’s performance.
“Overall, I think it was a good start to the tournament,” he said.