Coach Gregg Berhalter, who experienced another special and happy night as the U.S. team he coaches, full of young talent but lacking international experience, won the 16th edition of the Gold Cup, admitted that the 1-0 victory over Mexico in the final exceeded all expectations.
"We came into the tournament with the objective of meeting young talent that could help us in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, that was our goal," Berhalter said at the conclusion of the match, the same day he turned 48. "Winning the Gold Cup represents the icing on the cake."
Berhalter explained that finding some players who showed the value of being with the national team heading into the World Cup was the priority everyone was looking for with the Gold Cup, but having the title as well, gave them a new projection for the future, especially with how well the mix of young values with veterans worked out.
"The one thing that exceeded our expectations was the mentality of the group," Berhalter stressed. "You never know exactly how the group will come together when the roster is named. Everything has impressed me both in the way we've responded to challenges and our goals."
Berhalter acknowledged that the team had not played the best soccer and that even against Mexico as they did against Qatar, they very well could have lost, but the way the players had responded on the field in the most difficult moments made them worthy of the title they won.
"For us, it's about pressing relentlessly, dominating up high, not letting our guard down and hence the changes we made in the second half," explained Berhalter. "We needed new people on the field if we were to maintain the pace we wanted to make Mexico start to feel the effort put in."
As it happened, Mexico went from more to less and having failed to take advantage of up to four clear scoring opportunities they had, the United States did with the clearest of the match and that for Berhalter, who beat the Argentine Gerardo Martino, coach of the Mexico national team, the strategy of the changes, makes them just winners of the match.
USMNT changes were key to winning the match:
"We had good chances with Paul Arriola, Matthew Hoppe and Sebastian Lletget, but Miles Robinson came on and made our philosophy that all players are valuable and necessary a reality," Berhalter stressed. "We have full confidence in all the guys on this roster, and I think we showed that today in the starting lineup and the players who then came out in the second half."
Berhalter, who already has two titles under his belt at the helm of the national team and both with wins over Mexico, said he was very "proud" of the way they won the last one in the Gold Cup.
"So I'm very proud of the guys who came in. They did an excellent job. And again, it was about putting the team in position to win the game, and that's what we did," Berhalter stressed. "Qualifying is everything right now. We're focused on that right now."
Berhalter reiterated that the great harvest of the tournament has been having a larger group of players who had matured, lived the experience of international competition and above all having once again lifted the pride of USMNT in CONCACAF by regaining CONCACAF's reign with a seventh Gold Cup championship title.