Antonee Robinson playing against Mexico. (Keith Furman/FrontRowSoccer.com)
By Michael Lewis
When asked if he could find one word to describe the U.S. men’s national team, head coach Gregg Berhalter pondered the question for a bit and find the right word.
“Resilient,” he said after the Americans played Jamaica to a 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifying match in Kingston on Tuesday night.
“I think resilient is a really good word,” he said. “A lot of these guys are logging big miles to get into camp. There’s ups and downs in qualifying. We talked about the roller coaster that it is but we just kept slowly and steadily climbing. I’ve been happy with most of the home performances. Our road record is pretty much like expected. We would have loved to have that one point in in Panama [a 1-0 loss]. But we’ve been resilient. This group has character. It’s a really fun group to work with. And we’re on the right track.”
There was little doubt that the USMNT left The Office with mixed emotions.
On one hand, they were disappointed that they could not bring home the full three points as they settled for a draw with Jamaica in The Office.
“You could see it on the guys’ faces,” Berhalter said. “They weren’t happy with a point. And that’s a good sign. It shows this group is highly motivated to win game and have high expectations for their performance.”
On the other hand, they were happy with the fact they completed the November window with four points and at worst would be in second place with a 4-1-3 mark and 15 points in the Concacaf Octagonal passed the halfway point.
Berhalter then changed his stance just a bit.
“We’re not looking at as a disappointing result,” he said. “We’re looking at as a good result. Anytime you can get a point away from home is a good thing in Concacaf qualifying and I want to be very clear by saying that. For the guys to have their heads down because we want it more is completely natural. But this is a point that will absolutely take on the road.”
Regardless of what transpired in the Canada-Mexico match in Edmonton, the USA was assured of second place in the Octagonal with a 4-1-3 mark and 15 points.
Considering how young a team the Americans have deployed in their opening eight games of qualifying, Berhalter said he was pleased with the team’s progress from September until now.
“I think we’re on the right track,” he said. “Having to get the guys experience on the fly. We’re playing an Olympic age team. It’s really learning as you go, and the guys have done a great job adapting to that. We’ve had very strong home performances. We’ve gotten five points on the road already in four games. We’re on the right track. We’ll use the winter and spring of ’22 to hopefully get qualification.”
The average age of the USMNT Starting XI Tuesday night was 22 years, 341 days, the second youngest American squad in World Cup qualifying, only to the side that defeated Costa Rica last month, 2-1.