Gregg Berhalter: Curacao "are a dangerous team" the USMNT can't look past

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – On paper, the Concacaf Gold Cup quarterfinal Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field between the US men’s national team and Curacao looks to be a lopsided one (8 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN).

The USMNT stormed through Group D with three straight wins, outscoring their opponents 11-0 along the way. Meanwhile, Curacao advanced to their first Gold Cup knockout-round game via a stoppage-time equalizer against Jamaica in their third and final Group C game.

There are 49 places between the teams in the FIFA rankings, with the USMNT No. 30 and Curacao No. 79.

“I don’t think (Curacao) could be a dangerous team, they are a dangerous team,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said Saturday. “It’s a good team, a lot of flexible movements offensively, they get into high positions with their fullbacks. The wingers are tucking inside, overloading the middle of the field and they have good players.”

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Curacao midfielder Leandro Bacuna lines up a shot | USA Today Sports Images

More than half of Curacao’s players were born in the Netherlands and 12 play in various leagues throughout the European nation. The rest of the squad plays around the world, including one American-based player – midfielder/defender Michael Maria – who features for the Charlotte Independence in the USL Championship.

Berhalter called Sunday’s opponent one of the “nice stories of the Gold Cup.”

“They’re able to come to this competition and have a great run,” Berhalter said. “As we’ve said before with other teams in this tournament, we just see this as another team in our way and we’re determined and guys are in good spirits and we’re looking forward to a good game.” 

This will be the first time the two countries meet in the Gold Cup, with the USMNT six-time winners of the continental tournament. As for Curacao, much of the island nation’s FIFA participation came as the Netherlands Antilles before the country's dissolution in 2010.

“You go into it just like any other game,” midfielder Christian Pulisic said. “Once you get in these knockout rounds, you might be a favorite or whatever, but they’re coming to fight and we’re coming to fight and we want to move on just like they do and it’s not going to be easy.”

A win would put the Americans back into the Gold Cup semifinals for the 14th time in 15 tries, last failing to reach that stage in 2000.

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