FILE PHOTO: Mar 24, 2022; Mexico City, MEX; United States head coach Gregg Berhalter reacts from the sideline during the first half against Mexico during a FIFA World Cup Qualifier soccer match at Estadio Azteca. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
March 29, 2022
(Reuters) – The United States men’s national team are tantalizingly close to punching their ticket to the Qatar World Cup but will be taking nothing for granted when they face Costa Rica on the road on Wednesday in their final CONCACAF qualifier.
It would take nothing short of a catastrophe to derail the Stars and Stripes, who would earn their spot at the 2022 World Cup with either a win, a draw or a loss by less than six goals.
Doing so could help exorcise the demons of 2017, when the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in more than 30 years, prompting questions over the progress of the sport on the men’s side, as the women’s team flourished.
“We’re not taking anything for granted,” said head coach Gregg Berhalter on Tuesday. “We’re not gonna be cautious, we’re not gonna sit back, we’re not gonna play for a tie. We’re playing for a win and I think that’s the mentality you need.”
The U.S. hit the road on a high after a resounding 5-1 win over Panama at home on Sunday courtesy of a hat-trick from Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic and sit second behind only Canada, who qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time in 36 years.
Berhalter has leaned on a young pool of talent throughout qualifying, with 14 of the 27 called up in March aged 24 or younger.
“I think there’s still a lot of room for growth for this team – I think there’s some players that may even make the step up that we don’t even really know about yet or they’re just on the fringes,” said Berhalter.
The U.S. face Costa Rica at San Jose’s Estadio Nacional at 9:05 p.m. ET (+1day 0105 GMT).
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Toby Davis)