With Gold Cup rosters due by midnight, USA head coach Gregg Berhalter used Wednesday’s friendly against Jamaica at Audi Field as a final showcase for players on the fringe of the roster. Berhalter also set out his team in a different formation, utilizing a three center back look, starting Matt Miazga, Tim Ream, and Omar Gonzalez.
The result was a 1-0 loss to the Reggae Boyz, courtesy of a thunderous strike from Shamar Nicholson in the second half. It was far from a shining performance from the US, but gave Berhalter a chance evaluate his squad in a different light.
“It was something to learn from,” Berhalter said, after the first loss in his short tenure with the national team. “There were some positives. One of the objectives of this first camp was to play an alternate formation. We achieved that.”
Beyond that though, it was not the greatest night for the team, who managed just one shot on target over the course of the 90 minutes. That came late on, when Josh Sargent nearly netted an equalizer in the 88th minute, only to be denied by keeper Andre Blake.
“The effort was okay, but we performed poorly tonight,” said Berhalter.
Noticeably, in the second half, several costly turnovers in their own half was the downfall of the Red, White, and Blue. The USA escaped danger on the first couple of misplaced passes, but in the 60th minute, Jamaica pounced on an errant pass from Cristian Roldan, quickly turning possession into the game’s only goal.
After the game, Roldan said that it wasn’t necessarily what Jamaica was throwing at the US that was the cause of the costly turnovers, but more that the US lacked the sharpness it needed to keep the ball in pivotal moments of the game.
“I did feel like it was mostly our part. I felt that everyone could have been better in that way, be smarter, be more secure with their passes,” said the Seattle Sounders midfielder in the mixed zone after the game. “It’s on us, that’s what led to their goal. You take it to the face, and try to do better in the next game.”
One factor that Berhalter thought influenced some of the performances against the Reggae Boyz was the fact that some players were trying to make one last impression to make the Gold Cup squad.
After the game, Berhalter said that for the most part, his squad had already been determined before the friendly. But at the same time, the former Columbus Crew manager felt for some of the players on the field, who didn’t quite have the individual performances they would have hoped to have.
“Individually, some guys, you could tell the moment of ‘am I going to make the team or not’ was wearing on them,” said Berhalter in his post game press conference. “It’s never nice for it to come down to one game or something like that. I felt for the guys.”
With Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams yet to join up with the team, Berhalter kept several other players sure to play a big part in the upcoming tournament off the roster against Jamaica. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Weston McKennie were some of the players who had the night off for the US.
Those three will likely be called back into action on Sunday, when the USA plays their final tuneup friendly against Venezuela at Nippert Stadium, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pulisic will be with the squad by that point, giving the US a chance to see where they stand as a group against the South American side.
Berhalter will be expecting a stronger performance than the one he saw tonight, but knows that games like the one against Jamaica happen every once in a while. What Berhalter is looking for though is whether or not the process is still there, whether the team is still adapting to his new style, regardless of the result.
“There is going to be more [poor performances],” said Berhalter, in a moment of honesty after the game. “There will be more poor performances when I’m coach. I guarantee it. That’s part of it.”
“But are the guys bought in, are they working hard, are we executing the type of soccer we want to? We’re getting there.”