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USMNT focusing on present not past ahead of return to Trinidad & Tobago


While the U.S. men’s national team’s last trip to Trinidad & Tobago ended with the heartbreak of not reaching the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the current group of players is focused on the present ahead of a potential return to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals.

Gregg Berhalter’s side holds a 3-0 aggregate lead over the Soca Warriors ahead of Monday’s second leg showdown in Port of Spain. The previous USMNT visit to Port of Spain occurred in 1990, where Paul Caligiuri’s game-winner sealed a 1-0 victory in World Cup Qualifying, a result that ended the Americans’ 40-year absence from the World Cup. 

Caligiuri was recent invited to speak to the current USMNT squad last week ahead of Monday’s return to Trinidad & Tobago, which continued the connection between the past and present.

“We actually had Paul in, connecting the past with the present. I was only a couple years old, I think, at that time so I don’t remember it but you hear and we’ve seen highlights of that game,” veteran defender Tim Ream said Sunday. “Without that goal, without qualifying for the 1990 World Cup, potentially we’re not sitting here again. Being able to connect the past with the present during this camp has been nice and it is something that we’ve discussed and touched on.

“For everybody, it’s personal when they move on, when they move past it,” he added. “I think for me, it was, I’d say the 2019 Gold Cup. I believe we played Trinidad, if I recall correctly, and that was kind of the moment for me and then as a whole, as a squad, I’d definitely say it was going into the World Cup last year, when the guys qualified for that and put the wrongs of the past on a better path.”

Several changes could occur in Berhalter’s starting lineup to keep the USMNT fresh and ready to go. Weston McKennie departed camp on Saturday due to a knee injury, opening the door for Lennard Maloney, Luca De La Torre, or Paxten Aaronson to all potentially see time in his absence.

McKennie was the victim of two aggressive fouls by T&T’s Noah Powder in the first leg, which led to Powder’s sending off seven minutes before halftime. The USMNT will surely miss McKennie’s midfield presence, but having him rest and recover now could do wonders for his long-term availability in 2024.

“All week, we discovered it,” Berhalter said. “There were some training sessions where he’s hobbling around and it really took a lot for him to even play in this match. I had to go to him and have a private conversation to see his availability and thankfully, he was able to play this match but sometimes you push it to the limit and something bad can happen.

“In this case, where he was getting treatment all week, we saw him hindered in training and after speaking to him, it was about recovery and getting this thing right and trying to nip it in the bud so it doesn’t linger for months and months,” Berhalter added.

Robin Alam/ISI Photos

The Americans recently extended their winning run to four matches against the Soca Warriors, outscoring them 22-0 over that span. Despite not playing its best overall match on Thursday in Austin, Texas, the USMNT grinded out a 3-0 result thanks to goals from Ricardo Pepi, Antonee Robinson, and Gio Reyna.

The USMNT lacked the cutting edge for 80 minutes on Thursday night at Q2 Stadium before Pepi’s clever flick-on finish opened the floodgates. Confidence will be on the USMNT’s side, especially holding a 3-0 lead, but an improved performance overall is also high on its overall agenda.

“We weren’t completely happy with the performance,” Ream said. “Obviously to come away with three goals and a win is nice but especially in the first half, we didn’t feel like we were doing enough in the final third. Obviously you have to give them credit for the way they defended and stayed behind the ball and made things compact and difficult for us, but it’s one of those where we made some adjustments at halftime.”


  1. JR, your argument is inaccurate and dishonest.
    1st, i gave landon as the example of the one we ran in the ground. i said he was basically the pivot point. my whole point is we ran him into the ground by about age 30 so he was out for 2014 when someone with his drive and fitness should have played til he was almost 40.
    2nd, bradley is after klinsi when i said the change happened. and you aren’t practically pondering whether his usage 15-17 was counterproductive. what i remember is someone who went from that mexico golazo to about useless by the end of the cycle. you are failing to grasp my point is the AFFECT ON PLAYERS OVER TIME OF DOING THIS.
    3rd, mcbride played 93-1; 96–7; 97–7; 98-12; 99-10; 00-10; 01–5; 02-15; 03-8; 04-11; 05–7; 06–5. since you are being insincere or dense, let me point out that his peak years were “1998” and “2002.” hmmm what did we do those 2 years. world cup? hmmmm. maybe i recall TIV’s theory he would “parachute in for the big stuff.” like in 2004 his total is boosted by playing qualifiers. LOOK AT THE GAMES PEOPLE SHOW UP FOR. LOOK AT THE SEA OF RED ON HIS TM FOR FRIENDLIES HE SKIPPED. makes my point for me. you can fib he was used in some other way using outlier WORLD CUP YEARS but you’re missing my point about PICK YOUR BATTLES.
    4th, RE REYNA, DUDE, DID YOU REALIZE HE DIDN’T TURN PRO UNTIL FALL 1994? YOU CLOWN. he went into BORA’S YEARLONG CAMP. ALL THEY DID WAS TRAIN AS A TEAM AND PLAY GAMES. he went from UVa to the camp. like the old WNT. he only signed pro after the world cup. know your history when you come for me. and you’re still missing my point about PRO+NT = WEAR AND TEAR. if he’s not yet pro……QED.
    5th, your read of the 1990s is likely just as inaccurate because you forget MLS didn’t exist til the latter half of the decade, a limited set of players were abroad, and the rest were either collegians or minor leaguers. and in the build up to 1994 they didn’t even play college or a-league, they signed with USSF and played the equivalent of a team schedule with the MNT — like the women used to do.

    do not give me “know your facts” then come with numbers you don’t know the stories behind. numbers before MLS this wasn’t fully professionalized or their job was MNT. i am not worried about 20 caps in that context. what i AM worried about is when it’s no longer reyna fresh from UVa, but instead a guy playing 35+ times for juve PLUS MNT appearances.

    my thing is people talk like it bothers them everyone is getting hurt but then they are so fanboy they can’t be bothered considering why. my personal experience when a team i was on had a rash of injuries, my college coach had us doing endless conditioning running all preseason and 2-1/2 hour practices day after dat. by mid-season everyone was getting hurt.

    • what the fanboys do not ask is how do you have talent all over elite europe and such, and yet not match the competitiveness of the 02 or 09/10 teams. for whatever reason the tendency is to blame the players (or their individual health) rather than examine the big picture, including the clunky system and way we go about calling up players, including calling them hurt. most teams if the pretty or dominant games were the exception would be changing systems. and most teams wouldn’t be calling anyone hurt.

      and i realize we might not be a finalist yet but morocco isn’t exactly los galacticos and they made a semi which is further than we ever have. but morocco had tactics designed more to thwart the big dogs than to appeal to the frat rush coordinator. i continue to be amused by these are supposedly the tactics that will win us games but they just don’t. the results in europe are probably worse than in a couple decades.

  2. Musah & Mckennie are redundant pieces. Play these two together and one of them goes missing every time. Both are right midfielders and are not effective as left midfielders, attackers, wingers, and both don’t give max effort defensively at all. So playing these two as defensive midfielders is developing them to be 6s. Having a player who actually plays the six full time would nix this. That means McKennie or Musah comes off the bench. KP is a left footed dominant player. Tillman is a right footed dominant player. Having them in positions where their weakest foot is on the inside IS developing them because it’s having them do something that they’re uncomfortable doing. Any right footed player playing LB is developing them into being a LB. It’s against the dogma of “best skills in your best position to the national team”. Muitoma & Luis Diaz, are right footed LWs, so was Cuadrado earlier in career for Colombia. Jeremy Doku was miscast as right footed RW, now w/ Pep he’s at LW where he can use his weaker foot to plant and shoot w/ his right foot like normal players do. (His left footed shot was going extremely wide until it hit Akanji.) Other miscast right footed players are Dembele (France), Kingsley Coman (France) and Tim Weah. Salah, Ziyech, Kulusevski, Foden, & Riyad Mahrez are left footed RWs so putting them at LW handicaps their productivity. Ziyech & Mahrez came up playing the attacking 10 just like Greizmann. Kyle Martino is so far off, on in game analysis, I don’t know why people with soccer IQs would quote this guy. It was a 4-3-2-1 to start the game. To oversimplify, Gio wasn’t disciplined enough to stay in the middle. How many times do I have to bring up that the USA’s young players are extremely undisciplined? 2nd half formation switched to Ream & CCV, w/ Musah & McKennie in front, w/ Gio, Jedi & Dest (wingbacks) w/ BA, Balogun & Pepi.
    That’s a 2-2-3-3! That’s exactly what it look like and that’s exactly what it was. The usage rate of the ‘best’ players, and the ‘best’ players who are often injured is no coincidence. You can’t repeatedly play your team at full strength for friendlys, then double back and play them for competitions while they’re are currently playing significant club minutes and expect no collateral damage. Again, humans aren’t robots. You can’t replace a hamstring, muscles, ankles, ACL/MCLs, or knees with a prosthetics and continue being a professional soccer player. Can you use your body an infinite amount without fail? The 60/30, 70/20 splits would significantly decrease our ‘best’ players frequency of injuries and give new or younger players an opportunity to grow into the national team. My opinion- we are actually observing what fans want!!

    • IMO we need to decide which end of the field we are emphasizing, either in general or for that night. we haven’t really decided if we are an attacking team or a defending team. if we are trying to attack, i thought reyna could use more technical help and the DMs are redundant overkill. we didn’t need more defense to stop TnT. we overdid it as it was. what we needed were a few more skilled players out there. i feel like we get stuck between because GB wants to play a 433 but fairly defensive in the MF. there are better formations to play defense in. they are the wrong mids to possess and create with.

      so you either add another technical guy like reyna — and better wing choices — or you (probably some other night) can use the DMs but in a formation that could possibly hold up for 90 against germany or holland or better than that.

      we haven’t quite landed on an identity.

      • We’re not attacking anything. The eye test says Gregg sets us up for defense through possession… defensive, passive, ineffective possession. Which barely functions within CONCACAF, gets you 1-0 vs El Salvador at home, 3rd in qualifying and… not very much vs top quality opponents.

      • RP: i think the DMs are set up to defend but 433 is a lousy defensive formation and the wingbacks aren’t consistently good at their job, are really picked to go forward. i personally don’t care if jedi tears TnT up only to lose to holland. teams like holland and panama have taken advantage of the narrowness, lack of mid bodies, and poor shape.

        i thought we’d fixed the shape issue with the 4231 against ghana but nothing stays fixed with this horrible coach. you play 4231 and we have deeper wing coverage. i see no value in having the wings 100 yards upfield.

        more to the point this just rarely looks well oiled, smart, and like strategy meant to punch up. for all the talk about get the ball on the floor and possess this is kind of a grinder team like klinsi’s empty bucket or bradley. for this talent pool it’s not that progressive or actually good at defending. as in could beat mediocre wales for 90′.

    • to clarify, the way the old US used to be run was “staggered.” x would be left off this window. y would be left off next window. the idea is not literally run out C teams.

      if i had my druthers we’d spend year 1 trying out players, we’d start settling on the best 30 or so year 2, and we’d be aiming to gel the final team the back end of the cycle.

      in europe they have NL/euro quali the first half of the cycle but they also rarely leave the continent to play games. vs. it’s a transocean flight to come play games here, every time. vs. we will have a summer tournament EVERY YEAR. i get the fanboy idea is just copy anything anyone in europe does but maybe consider the context and consequenes.

      kind of like our system is very european but also like a faint xerox of a xeros and hardly helpful to get results. think through the things you are grabbing from the euro a la carte cafeteria line. are all of my players turning up hurt. hmmmmm

  3. IV,

    What are you talking about?

    As Tele57 said in another thread, Weston played because Berhalter selected his best 11 available players on the field.

    Johnnyrazor’s reply is anchored by truth and objective data. I’ll, also wait to your response to his question.

    After only four posts to this thread, five including this one…no matter what else is posted on this thread today, Vacqui is the winner for the day…very well said, brother.

    • he selected a guy who i understand limped through some practices. period. this would not happen under previous regimes. you do not call injured players and risk aggravation or worse injury. go ask your buddy what the “statistics” are on that. this current regime seems to have a lot worse player health.

      IMO he selected this unit and gave them scary TnT stories because he lacks the coaching nous of most of his predecessors to gauge an experimental team sufficient for this task. i in contrast think a team with 3 wins by 19-0 on this opponent can win a 4th and 5th without using all of the first choice players.

      • IV,

        It’s not the current regime’s fault that players are getting injured…that is always a risk, in any game…but to your point, the excessive loads placed on players can be chalked up to the commercialization of the game, and I put that more on the clubs and governing bodies, than on the NT’s.

        While I understand your argument, in this instance, it is misplaced. This is an international window with games of importance because they funnel into 2024 Copa America, so the best available players play.

        This past summer, if the current regime had called Weston in for both Nations League and Gold Cup, then your argument would have validity…as we know, that was not the case.

  4. I do not think motivation is an issue anytime you are representing your country. No matter whom they are playing, it is an opportunity for the players to show how good they are which will allow them to find a better club, or get more time at their present club. Every game is an audition for something.

    This whole “motivation” thing is just silly. They are all, even the ones you may not like, elite professional athletes who got where they are by competing. These are not weekend pickup games where often players simply do not want to expend much effort.

    Some players will not flourish under pressure and they may disappear on the field, but it is not because they are not motivated.

    • this is nice in theory but not true in fact. i could go down a list of games eg honduras away, panama away, wales friendly, wales world cup second half, holland, where we came out flat as a pancake and tentative. all due respect but there are two main causes for that. 1– coach told me to play tentative and low risk. 2– the coach plays the same guys every time so i don’t have to play 100 mph today to earn the next one (motivation).

  5. why are we playing someone who is limping in practice? why wasn’t he on the first plane back to Turin? this only underlines my concern the man rests our fate in the hands of far too few people rather than developing a set of redundant players who can be trusted, if not as much, plenty enough, to get this done.

    similarly, we beat TnT 3 times since 2017, 19-0 total, including once this past summer 6-0. this demon was exorcised. why am i reminding my players of failure potential? this underlines my concern that if he’s not involved it didn’t happen, and this summer it was coached by BJ, and BJ leaned on ferreira, so per usual he has to be different.

    if the idea was to create artificial motivation because the matchup seemed so easy then you’re all but saying we could do this with some B guys who might also be more motivated to put up goals and get the result faster.

    • Still waiting on that list of all those players Berhalter is playing 15-20 times a year? Here’s a hint Weston McKennie is not one. I’ll wait.
      -Do you know two players that did have years with 15 or more caps? Brian McBride 2002 and Claudio Reyna 1994.)
      -Landon Donovan under Arena played 20, 15, 14 from 2002-2005, had 15 more 2009.
      -Michael Bradley did it once in 2009, but also in ‘08 and ‘07 if you count U20 WC and Olympics. Of course Klinsmann /Arena ran him into ground with 50 caps from ‘15-‘17.
      -Cobi Jones did it twice after becoming a pro.
      -Jozy once in 2009. Bease once in 2017.
      So the truth is we’ve always had guys playing significant matches from the mid ‘90s through the Klinsmann era and Berhalter is no different.

    • Mr. Voice,

      ” this only underlines my concern the man rests our fate in the hands of far too few people rather than developing a set of redundant players who can be trusted, if not as much, plenty enough, to get this done.”

      Gregg barely has a set of reliable starters let alone “a set of redundant players who can be trusted. ”

      This isn’t high school, college or your select teams. Real national team managers can’t “develop” players. They don’t have the time and the resources. If they did not have a #6 for example, they would have to improvise one or get creative tactically until someone emerges from their club. Musah for example may eventually fill that role at Milan..

      Gregg is working with a small core largely because that is what he has. The hope is that eventually enough players will emerge so that the USMNT can have at least one reliable backup for each position.

      You are not the first person or the only one to realize that the USMNT has inadequate depth.

      Since 1990, the USMNT have NEVE R had adequate depth.

      That is not the USSF’s or even Gregg’s fault.

      “similarly, we beat TnT 3 times since 2017, 19-0 total, including once this past summer 6-0. this demon was exorcised. why am i reminding my players of failure potential? ”

      Because that is the manager’s job.

      This is not high school, college or one of your select teams. Regardless of what goes on in private, managers cannot publicly allow their teams to take anyone lightly especially TNT.

      Bruce Arena very publicly began planning his lineups for Russia as well as how much he would enjoying rubbing his return to the World Cup in the faces of those people who had suggested he should have been fired in 2006. Do you know what GLOAT means? Bruce was in full on GLOAT mode going into Couva. His team, guys like Arriola, followed Bruce’s lead and played accordingly.

      You speak of “exorcism” like we are talking about magic or some such bullshit.

      Lazy, arrogant overconfidence has nothing to do with magic.
      It has to do with being lazy, arrogant and overconfident. And stupid.

      While exceedingly unlikely, it is entirely possible for TNT to tie and maybe even beat the USMNT. I’ve seen bigger long shots come through.

      And Gregg, of all people, is in no position to take even the slightest chance that might happen to him. Even being bullet proof as he is, if he fucks this up, it will cause the USSF to take a real hard look a him again. They might even enforce a dress code on him for his technical area appearances.

      “this underlines my concern that if he’s not involved it didn’t happen, and this summer it was coached by BJ, and BJ leaned on ferreira, so per usual he has to be different.”

      That’s a pretty a ridiculous concern.
      This isn’t high school, college or your select teams.
      Teams play differently for different managers, especially interim managers.
      They also play differently for friendlies than they do for actual competitions.
      In those cases there is a lot less pressure involved for all concerned. BJ proved that these players were capable of playing a certain way FOR BJ in a competition.

      BJ did NOT prove that they could play for Gregg that way in a competition.

      If I’m Gregg today, there’s only so much to take from the games this summer, especially when you consider it was the summer and ALL the players involved then are through at least a half a season now.

      So some are playing better, and some are playing worse.

      That’s the fun part of being a national team manager. With so much time between games and practices, maintaining consistency of the whole can be elusive.

      “if the idea was to create artificial motivation because the matchup seemed so easy then you’re all but saying we could do this with some B guys who might also be more motivated to put up goals and get the result faster”

      Not really.

      Our A team guys are mostly euros and they know at their clubs your job is on the line every game, every practice. They aren’t going to take this game off. They come to the USMNT camps to play not sit on the bench like they do in europe.

      Gregg’s public stance on this is just reminding his starters that the same ( allegedly) holds true for the USMNT. That may actually be bullshit but publicly it is a stance Gregg has to take.

      The B team guys are not more motivated. That is a myth.
      They are less consistent. Once they get more consistent, more productive then eventually they will force Gregg to give them a real chance. Maybe. Especially if Ariolla or Long is not in front of them.

      This is not high school, college or one of your select teams. At this level when your opponent is that inferior to you, most managers primarily try to guard against overconfidence.


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