Gregg Berhalter wants United States to be 'much more aggressive'
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- United States men's national team manager Gregg Berhalter hailed his side's second-half performance in a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica.
The U.S. struggled to create much in the attacking third during the opening 45 minutes, with Costa Rica's aggression and organization proving difficult to overcome. But a pair of half-time adjustments resulted in a much sharper performance in the second half. Both Nick Lima and Cristian Roldan hit the post before late goals from substitute Sebastian Lletget and Paul Arriola sealed the win.
"The mentality in the first half was too passive," said Berhalter at his post-match news conference. "We wanted to be much more aggressive, and we weren't seeing that from the group. So we addressed that at half-time.
"The second thing was the speed of the ball movement, particularly along the back line, it was much too slow. When we were able to speed it up, we were able to catch them out of position and open up spaces. I think those two things led to a much better second half."
Lletget entered the match in the 63rd minute and had a hand in both goals. Jonathan Lewis set up the LA Galaxy midfielder to head home in the 80th minute. Lletget's delight was evident as this was the same venue where he suffered a debilitating foot injury almost two years ago.
Lletget then turned provider eight minutes later, putting Paul Arriola in the clear to chip over Costa Rica keeper Esteban Alvarado.
"Sebastian is an interesting one because he's got a load of ability, a very good skill-set," said Berhalter. "He'll be the first to say he struggled with the structure a little bit in beginning [of training camp].
"I think it was part of his mentality to hang in there and keep going, keep learning, keep pushing himself that got him into these positions.
"All the credit goes to Sebastian, and how when he plays in structure, now his skill set can take over and allow him to be very effective."
The win concluded a nearly four-week camp for the U.S. team, the first since Berhalter was named manager back in December. The U.S. head coach pronounced himself pleased with what transpired.
"The camp was a good progression," he said. "We talked about the opponents getting increasingly more difficult, and we saw that tonight with Costa Rica. It looked like a tentative first half, we had to come to terms with that. We hadn't faced that intensity yet this camp.
"It was a great experience today. We certainly learned that if we can continue to persevere, if we can continue to try to our play game, it has a cumulative effect on the opponent. You saw what happened to Costa Rica, they got very fatigued in the second half, they couldn't match us and I liked that mentality from the group."
Next up for the U.S. are a pair of friendlies in March against Chile and Ecuador, games that will feature the U.S. team's contingent of overseas players.
"I think it will continue to be a work in progress," he said. "When you integrate new players into camp -- and we expect to integrate new players in March -- it will be another process.
"What we learned was how to effectively teach parts of how we want to play in a short period of time. We'll go back, and we were meeting with the coaches yesterday, and evaluating the training sessions, we're evaluating how well players were able to learn based on what we were providing them in terms of training sessions.
"We'll evaluate all that, and when we hit the ground running in March, hopefully it will be much tighter, much more concise, and hopefully we'll see some improvement in that group of players."