KANSAS CITY, Kan. — After using the same lineup for the first two matches of the Concacaf Gold Cup, US men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter went with a fully changed XI with first place in Group D on the line Wednesday night against Panama.
While at times nervy, the group still got the job done, winning the game, keeping a clean sheet and topping the group.
“I think everyone helped themselves tonight,” Berhalter said. “When we think about the conditions, it was a very physical Panama team, very warm conditions, and I think the guys showed grit and determination.”
Leading up to the final group stage match, the team talked about the importance of winning the group. Still, Berhalter didn’t think twice about rotating the squad ahead of their toughest opponent of the tournament to date.
“The decision to start 11 new players was an easy one to be honest,” Berhalter said. “We believe in the group, we believe in keeping the group together, we believe that everyone can contribute to this team for the team’s success, and we wanted to show that. The guys have been training really well and they deserved this opportunity.”
Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan was one of the beneficiaries of the rotated lineup.
“In this tournament we have to use all 23 guys and we had a game plan going into it,” Roldan said. “[We] kept a shutout, kept them to one shot, zero corners, [we’re] pretty happy with it. Defensively we were a little sloppy, maybe because we hadn’t played in a while. But in the end you grind out these games and you win the group.”
Berhalter’s happiness with the group’s performance wasn’t just in how the “second team” got the result, but in the way they fought and battled for each other.
“First of all I thought they were brave in the approach to the game,” Berhalter said. “It was warm and we wanted to go out and be aggressive, be attacking and get behind them and create goal scoring opportunities.
“But aside from that, especially when we scored, the guys can dig in, you see that they can keep fighting and that they can fight for each other, and that’s important and that goes a long way. The team spirit is really good right now, and it’s been fun to watch these guys develop.”