Berhalter: USMNT ready for 'dangerous' Curacao
PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter insists his side is sufficiently wary of Curacao heading into Sunday's Gold Cup quarterfinal, going so far as to call the tournament upstarts "dangerous."
Curacao is ranked 79th by FIFA, but managed to progress out of a group containing Jamaica, El Salvador and Honduras. Curacao also draws from its Dutch influence with much of the roster either playing in Holland currently or at some point in their careers.
"I don't think they could be a dangerous team, they are a dangerous team," said Berhalter about Curacao. "[They get into a] lot of flexible movements offensively, they get into high positions with their fullbacks, the wingers are tucking inside overloading the middle of the field, and they have good players. We're familiar with all the players that play in Holland, we've been watching them for a while and it's a good team."
But Berhalter added that his team's preparation would be the same as every other game it had played in the Gold Cup, with midfielder Christian Pulisic echoing those sentiments.
"Once you get in these knockout rounds, you might be a favorite or whatever, but they are coming to fight and we're coming to fight and we want to move on just like they do," the Chelsea midfielder said. "It's not going to be easy and we're going to give everything and try to move on."
The U.S. team has been in camp for just over a month, including the preparation phase for the Gold Cup. As such, Berhalter has said he's seen improvement in terms of the U.S. team's attack.
"When we talk about interchanging positions, when we talk about fluid movements, when we talk about combinations, I think the team is definitely making progress," he said. "We've created a number of chances in all of our games so far, and it's something we want to keep building. We know that our offensive game is about 11 players, and they're responsible for our offensive game, relying on ball circulation, combinations, movements behind the lines, movements in the penalty box to create opportunities.
"When you think about some of the scorers of goals and some of the guys making assists, it's a diverse group of players so we're happy with the fact that we are spreading the ball around and using different players to attack."
With Jozy Altidore lasting 83 minutes against Panama, the U.S. forward is likely to be the only holdover from the reserve-laden lineup that took on the Canaleros, though Berhalter was non-committal.
"There's always competition for spots," he said. "You want guys to be performing well. I know Jozy is an outstanding player. We know he can help this team, and I know he has a lot to give. But I don't think any player is guaranteed to start. It has to depend on their form, it has to depend on their fitness and how they fit into the game plan and everything like that."
Pulisic remains the hub around which the U.S. attack operates. While he was given a brief run-out as a winger against Panama, it seems likely he'll play as one of two advanced attacking midfielders against Curacao. It's a role that Pulisic says he's "very comfortable with."
"The team likes to put me in a position where I can affect the game, make the runs that I do and try to score goals, get assists, and help the team in that way," he said. "I'm very comfortable. Obviously I have the flexibility to move wide and you saw me last game how I was more of a winger, so I'm comfortable in both positions."
Pulisic's hometown of Hershey is just a couple hours up the road from Philadelphia, and he said he's looking forward to having the support of friends and family.
"My whole family will definitely be there, we'll be taking up a whole section probably," he said. "They'll be there cheering me on, and I'm really excited. It's always cool to be back in Pennsylvania and to be playing with the national team in front of family and friends is the best thing."