U.S. set for 'Soccer Day' Sunday - Berhalter
CHICAGO - U.S. men's national team manager Gregg Berhalter has said that Sunday -- which will see the U.S. contest the Women's World Cup final against Netherlands while the men face Mexico in the Gold Cup final -- should be looked upon as "Soccer Day in America."
The day will also feature the Copa America final between Brazil and Peru (stream it at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN+). But there have been complaints that the Women's World Cup final should have a day to call its own. Berhalter says he sees it differently.
"This is an opportunity to be Soccer Day in America," he said. "When you think about the opportunity for the women to win the World Cup in the morning, then I think you get to party for half the afternoon. Then you get to take a little nap, and then get up, you go to the game and you enjoy the final of Gold Cup."
As for the Gold Cup itself, Berhalter believes Mexico remain the favorite, though he remains confident about his side's chances.
"When you're going into a one-off game, anything can happen," he said. "We believe in our team. We think we have a good team. Likewise, I think Mexico is a good team. I think it's going to be a good game for both teams. It's going to be a difficult game for both teams. We know how they can hurt us. We've identified how we can hurt them. Now it's just about going out and doing it."
Mexico comes into the match having played two extra time games in a row, though they will have a day more of rest heading into Sunday's final. Berhalter said he doesn't think those issues will be a factor, and that the U.S. had its difficulties to overcome as well.
"Think about all the work we did against Curacao, remember? Chasing the ball for 45 minutes, so we did our work also," he said. "We played in heat; Mexico played in air conditioning. Listen, when it comes to a final, all that stuff just doesn't matter. Take all those components, whatever you want to say; long tournament, tired, short rest, this, that, weather delay, two days' rest. All of that doesn't matter because all you want to do is get to the next game and when you get to the last game you want to win it."
With the exception of the 1-0 win over Curacao in the quarterfinals, the U.S. team has been consistent throughout the tournament. Berhalter said the team's chemistry is what has pushed the team forward over the last month.
"I like the camaraderie within the group. It's a strong group," he said. "I think they've been really focused on working together, really motivated. Overall, we've been together for a while but it's been an absolute pleasure to work with the group."
Berhalter also praised the team's leadership, which has come from a variety of players.
"I think what we're doing is we're tapping into different forms of leadership, and everybody is," he said. "So there's times when younger guys step up. But the veterans, they've been leading by example. They've been leading verbally. The whole idea of this tournament was to pick the right group of players, and have enough leaders in the group that can propel the group forward."