USMNT Starts Gregg Berhalter Era 2.0 With Two Wins
The United States men’s national team played its first matches under returning head coach Gregg Berhalter this past week, earning shutout victories over Uzbekistan and Oman. The September friendlies kicked off Berhalter’s second stint in charge after being re-hired in June following a lengthy investigation into the program.
Facing Uzbekistan in St. Louis on September 9th, the Americans leaned on timely goals from Tim Weah, Ricardo Pepi, and Christian Pulisic to grind out a 3-0 result. Weah opened the scoring early in the 4th minute by finishing a clever pass from Weston McKennie.
The contest remained tight though until second-half stoppage time when late substitute Pepi doubled the USA’s advantage in the 91st minute. Pulisic then sealed it from the penalty spot in the 94th to cap the scoring.
The match saw the 57th player debut under Berhalter as left-back Kristoffer Lund entered as a late sub, the Danish-American having recently switched national team allegiance. Pepi’s goal also continued his red-hot 2023 form, making it seven tallies in just five matches this calendar year.
Shifting to Minnesota’s Allianz Field three days later, the USMNT earned another clean sheet in a 4-0 thrashing of Oman. This time, the goals came early and often starting with Folarin Balogun’s 13th-minute strike.
Brenden Aaronson, who has emerged as a lethal weapon off the bench, made it 2-0 in the 60th minute courtesy of a free kick. Ricardo Pepi kept rolling by netting the team’s third goal in the 79th minute before a late own goal provided the final margin.
The match also saw two more USMNT debuts under Berhalter as Inter Miami’s Ben Cremaschi and Wolfsburg’s Kevin Paredes entered as second-half subs. With his brace against Oman, Pepi now has an incredible nine goals in his last six national team appearances.
Takeaways From September Window
The camp proved productive for Berhalter as he continues evaluating talent for World Cup qualifying starting in 2023. Pepi made the strongest case, playing his way into contention as a potential starter up front moving forward.
The addition of young prospects like Cremaschi and Paredes also points to the program’s growing depth. Berhalter has now handed debuts to 59 players in his tenure, trailing only Bruce Arena for the most among USMNT managers.
Facing Asian opposition provided a useful test as the team looks ahead to the 2026 World Cup which will see expanded representation from confederations like the AFC. The USMNT’s perfect September window allows Berhalter’s second tenure to get off on the right foot.
Up next, the national team has a pair of high-profile friendlies on tap in October against Germany and Ghana. Those matches will provide the last major proving ground before the all-important World Cup qualifying cycle kicks off next year on the road to 2026.
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