Gregg Berhhalter: “It would be a failure if we didn’t qualify for the World Cup.” (Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer)
By Michael Lewis
U.S. Soccer added some more hardware to its trophy case this past summer with the U.S. men’s national team winning the Concacaf Nations League and the Gold Cup.
But head coach Gregg Berhalter realizes those trophies won’t mean a thing if the Americans fail to grab the big prize – qualification to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“It’s nice to win a trophy in Nations League, it’s nice to win a Gold Cup trophy. It’s nice to be ranked 10th in the world and FIFA rankings<‘ Berhalter said. “But it doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t qualify for the World Cup.”
The USMNT will start a 14-game quests with its sights set on Qatar when it visits El Salvador on Sept. 2. It will be the first of three qualifiers during a seven-game span as the USA will host Canada in Nashville, Tenn. Sept. 5 and travel back down to Central America to take on Honduras Sept. 8.
“Our mission is not even close to being complete,” Berhalter said during a Thursday media conference call. “It would be a failure if we didn’t qualify for the World Cup. All the work would be undone if we didn’t qualify for the World Cup. So this is our next challenge. It’s really simple. Our next challenge is understanding that everything we’ve done until now is only a foundation.”
The USA won both its CNL encounters and swept all six games in the Gold Cup, including a 1-0 win over Mexico in the final.
“What it’s done is it’s given us the ability to be confident that if we can stick to who we are as a group that will be successful,” Berhalter added. “So, the foundation is there. Now it’s about going out and competing in a World Cup qualifier and hope to eventually qualify for the World Cup and then make an impact to the world.”
The Americans are coming off a disastrous WCQ campaign in which they failed to qualify for the greatest show on earth for the first time since 1986.
The USMNT needed a win at Trinidad & Tobago in October 2017 and failed to obtain the three points with a disappointing and humiliating 2-1 defeat to essentially was a Soca Warriors B team.
Berhalter said he addressed that game with the team prior to meeting T&T at the 2019 Gold Cup.
“That was a big moment for that group … basically fresh off of not qualifying,” he said. “We had to address our fears that back then. Since then, we’ve built this team to be resilient, to be competitive. Now, it’s about it’s not about looking backwards. We’re focused on having a good start to qualifying. We’re focused on qualifying for the World Cup, and we feel like we’re in a good position.”