United States men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter thinks the CONCACAF draw for 2022 World Cup qualifying was a good one for his team, even if he wouldn’t bite on the tasty possibility of matching up with Trinidad and Tobago in Couva to kick off the final round.
The Yanks would start the Octagonal at T&T if the Soca Warriors win their group and a two-legged playoff tie to reach the final stage.
[ MORE: Breaking down the USMNT qualifying schedule ]
“Certainly the potential to play Trinidad in the first game away from home is a nice storyline but we’re focused on things much bigger than that game,” Berhalter said in a Wednesday conference call.
American center back and Fulham mainstay Tim Ream did bite on the Trinidad possibility, however, billing it an opportunity for vengeance.
“It’s an interesting one if Trinidad makes it through their group and wins that A+F playoff, there’s a little bit of a revenge factor right from the get-go,” Ream said.
Berhalter was also asked about the worries that could come from a slow start considering two of the Yanks’ final three matches will be away to CONCACAF powers Mexico and Costa Rica.
“For us every game is pressure,” he said. “You have a lot of pressure to win your home games. Hopefully towards the end we’ll be in a good position to qualify.”
Here are some other highlights from Berhalter and Ream over 45 minutes on Wednesday.
Berhalter on choosing venues, and possibly facing Mexico in Columbus again
“We want a pro-U.S. crowd, which is normal. When you’re in Mexico, it’s a huge pro-Mexico crowd. That’s what we want to create in our home games and we have plenty of opportunities to do that. The infrastructure in MLS is fantastic and we’re confident we’ll pick the right venue to make a great crowd.”
“We want to find an environment that is intimidating. When I think of Columbus, we’ve had a lot of success there but that doesn’t mean we won’t be open to other locations. We want to find the best place to win a soccer game and be intimidating.”
Berhalter on plans for upcoming friendlies.
“Right now we’ve been focused on trying to compete in the United States, trying to find a safe environment where we could play games. We’ll switch focus in November and try to play two high-level games in Europe. I’d expect a domestic-based side for October and a European-based side for November.”
Berhalter on the target to qualify from 14 matches and 42 possible points
“26, 27 points pretty much gets you in there.”
Berhalter on Antonee Robinson and Weston McKennie possibly moving to the Premier League
“Regarding Antonee, it’s exciting news a potential transfer to a Premier League team. Especially after the break he came home and was in really good form. For the national team it’s great news. When you think about that left back spot being open and contested, it’s a good opportunity for Antonee to prove he’s capable of being the left back for the national team. Weston is very focused on raising his level. When you think about the Premier League, it’s the best league in the world. It’s exciting. We wish him the best and hope it’s concluded sooner rather than later.”
Berhalter on Christian Pulisic and his injury problems
“I talked to Christian today. He’s doing well. The leg is doing really well. It’s recovering, it’s healing. We have a lot of confidence in Chelsea and their medical staff. He’s a good who’s exploded on the scene in the Premier League and we’re excited to see how he comes back.
“As Christian was adapting to the Premier League, we all know it’s a very physical league. Champions League also have a lot of fixtures in short, congested schedules. It’s something we have to look at but certainly not uncommon. As his body strengthens and as he’s used to the congested fixtures, it’s good for to recognize the chances to strengthen.”
Berhalter on Tyler Adams’ experience in the Champions League and focus moving forward
“He’s going to be an important part of what we do. When you think about playing in pressure games, there aren’t too many games that have more pressure than Champions League quarterfinals and semifinal, and he got to play in both of those. He’s had a phenomenal rise, coming back from the injury he had, hanging in there. He’s going to be a big part of what we do. If he can handle those games, he can handle World Cup qualifying.”
Berhalter on Wolfsburg center back John Brooks’ Europa League red card
“John had a good season. There were ups and downs like every player but the end of the season I thought he came on really well. He had some really good performances. It was really good to see. Getting a red card and things like that are part of the experience. For us he’s an important part of the team.”
Berhalter on Zack Steffen staying at Man City to backup Ederson
“I don’t know those two things to be true. I’m not sure that he’s definitely going back to Man City and I don’t know that if he went to Man City he wouldn’t be playing. All I can say is they’ve been working hard with Zack to get him right and he’s looking forward to having a strong year wherever he’s playing.”
Ream on the young USMNT players rising to World Cup challenge
“All these young guys, a lot of them are playing in big games already. You look at Tyler Adams in a Champions League semifinal, you’ve got guys playing at the very top of their game in Germany and England. You don’t have to give them too much information on what it’s gonna be like. We know as older guys what it’s like to go away from the U.S. and play in these games.”
“(We’ll tell them) The fields aren’t great. The accommodations aren’t great. Sometimes the food isn’t great. But we can’t control these things so there’s no point in dwelling on them. They have to go out and perform.”