Gregg Berhalter - US national team - on the sideline vs. Curacao - Gold Cup
Bill Streicher-USA Today Sports Images

Gregg Berhalter sympathizes with US national team fans, but won't abandon his style

ST. LOUIS — Gregg Berhalter hears the criticism and can sympathize with it.

“Listen, let’s be fair to fans,” the US men’s national team head coach said in a Monday afternoon press  conference. “We have an obligation to the fans, and that obligation is to win games and entertain them. We’re trying our best.”

Fans and media were less than kind after the USMNT lost 3-0 to Mexico Friday night in the first of a two-game set of friendlies that wraps up with the US playing Uruguay Tuesday night at Busch Stadium (8 pm ET | FS1, Univision, TUDN).

Some of the criticism centered on issues the US encountered playing short balls out of the back, a tendency which Mexico capitalized on frequently in their big win.

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“First of all, I wouldn’t get caught up on playing from behind,” Berhalter said. “We want to be able to break lines, we want to open up and disorganize the opponent. It was a huge emphasis against Mexico in that game to show the guys they can do that, be brave against a high-pressing team and you can succeed.”

Uruguay, ranked fifth in the world but without some key players such as Luis Suarez, presents a different challenge.

“We’re liable to set up differently,” Berhalter said. “Mexico is a team that traditionally high presses and we don’t expect that to be the case for Uruguay.”

There will be new faces for the US, too, with six players released back to their club teams after Friday’s match. But whatever Tuesday night’s result, Berhalter expresses satisfaction with where the U.S. team is. Asked if he believes the team has the players to execute his system effectively, Berhalter replied, “The answer is do I believe the players have the ability. We have a large group of talented players. They are intelligent players, technically good players, and we’re going to develop and we’re going to keep developing.

“Don’t forget it’s a very young team. Our average age in the starting 11 Friday night was 24,” Berhalter said.

“They have a new generation of players that want to change the way they have played historically,” Mexico goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco said after Friday’s game. They seek to play the ball, play out from the back and that takes time to learn.”

So, while the byword for the byword for the US team is patience, Berhalter is pleased where the team stands now and sees potential down the road. “In terms of international soccer, it’s really a young group,” he said. “You’re talking about a number of young players that could easily be the core of this team for eight years.”