The U.S. men’s national team has shifted its focus from high-level friendlies to the start of its Concacaf Nations League title defense on Friday, opening with a home match against Grenada as Gregg Berhalter’s squad looks to sharpen up the attack.
The Americans welcome Grenada to Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium on Friday night, in the third of four matches over a 13-day span. It will be the first of two Nations League group-stage matches for the USMNT, and the third match overall this month for the current group of players.
After up-and-down offensive performances against Morocco and Uruguay respectively, the goal for the USMNT will be to start capitalizing on its offensive chances.
“We have respect for every opponent that we play and we prepare for every opponent that we play,” Berhalter said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. “We know this game is going to be about our intensity, our mindset, and what we’re bringing to this game. The most important message is we’re defending champs and we want to get off to a good start and that means beating Grenada.”
“The mental state of the guys is very high right now,” Jesus Ferreira said Thursday. “We’re all focused because we know how important these games are and now important it is for us to defend our title. We don’t really look at the opponent, we just know every game is going to be different and tough. Anything can happen in any given game. We just have to come in focused and use the tools that the coaches give us to be ready to go.”
The USMNT has scored three goals in its first two matches this June, but overall will be itching to deliver more in the final third, especially after missing several key chances in Sunday’s goalless draw with Uruguay. Christian Pulisic, Timothy Weah, and Brenden Aaronson headline the creative attacking options in Berhalter’s offensive unit, but other players such as Ferreira, Haji Wright, Jordan Morris, and Paul Arriola will also be pushing for opportunities.
Wright came into USMNT camp off of the back of a sensational club campaign with Turkish side Antalyaspor, scoring 14 goals in all competitions. Ferreira and Arriola have combined for 16 league goals for FC Dallas, while Morris has totaled six goals in all competitions for the Seattle Sounders.
Ferreira was chosen to be the single USMNT player to address the media on Thursday’s conference call with media, suggesting he will start at striker on Friday as he searches for his first national team goal of the month.
“Yeah, I mean, the main focus as a No. 9 is to score goals,” Ferreira said. “But a lot of people have to see that the No. 9 can also assist, and can build out and can help out the build [up]. So I think for my job is to facilitate other players to be able to score and to help the other players be in a position to score goals also. As the connection and chemistry is getting there, every practice we get better and better.”
“The level between everyone has been competitive,” Arriola said. “Guys are competing for spots, guys are showing why they deserve to be part of this team going forward heading into the World Cup. At the same time, we’re trying to get better collectively as a team. Nothing changes regardless of the opponent that we’re going to play. We still have the same mentality, we’re still going to go out and try and execute what we’re asked to do on the field.”
After forcing Uruguay’s Fernando Muslera into only three saves in Sunday’s draw, pressure will be on the USMNT attack to deliver against Grenada. The Spice Boys are 0-1-1 in their opening two group stages matches and overall have not won in their past nine matches in all competitions.
Since its last victory back over the U.S. Virgin Islands in March 2021, Grenada has been outscored 20-5 across all competitions, conceding two goals of more in six of its last last nine matches. A 2-2 home draw vs. El Salvador on Tuesday is a favorable result for Michael Findlay’s squad, but ultimately the USMNT will be focused on avoiding any slip-ups and using Friday’s showdown as a confidence booster in its final home match before the World Cup begins this November.
“We’ve watched Grenada play, they’ve been playing hard and fair and that’s all you can ask for,” Berhalter said. “We want to go onto the field and bring the same intensity every game, we want to compete every game, and we expect our opponents to do the same in a fair way. What I have seen from these teams [Grenada and El Salvador] is they can push us and test us and we welcome that because that is what this tournament is about.
“Nothing changes based on the opponent,” said USMNT forward Jordan Morris. “We go out and execute our game plan and work on the things that we want to work on in the game. Everyone’s going to go out and compete and show themselves to the best of their ability. It comes back to the collective and getting better as a team, because there’s not that many games left before the World Cup and we want to continue to take steps before that tournament.”