Talk of the town: What USMNT coaches, players, media are saying
For longer than most Canadians care to remember, anytime Les Rouges played their southern neighbours, the rivalry lacked buzz, bite, and mutual respect. Canada was still chasing the Americans both figuratively and literally. Those days are in the rearview mirror and the way other nations discuss Canada — from journalists, opposing coaches, players, and supporters — has changed drastically.
Gregg Berhalter, head coach of Sunday's opponents, had his pre-match media availability on Saturday. Not only did he remind the press that he rated Canada in 2019, but the respect is certainly there now.
"If you guys remember what I said in 2019 after we lost to [Canada], I said it's a good team," Berhalter said. "I didn't think that team was given enough credit. And here they go, a couple years later at the top of the table after nine games. They’re a well-coached team. They know how to play, they have a clear philosophy and they deserve to be where they are right now."
And the New Jersey-born gaffer wasn't done there. There was talk of tactics, his positive relationship with John Herdman, and the depth of the squad. But then, something that might have taken a few reporters and supporters alike slightly off guard.
"We're pulling for the Canadian team to qualify, there's no secret about that. And it's only tomorrow that I want them to lose and then every other game, I'm happy that they win.”
Very impressive @ussoccer press conference from Gregg Berhalter & Walker Zimmerman. Close to an hour.— Kristian Jack (@KristianJack) January 29, 2022
Key notes - ton of mutual respect for 🇨🇦, want them to qualify & pulling for them aside from tomorrow. Did not match them competitively in 2019 at BMO. Need that in Hamilton.
On a recent show, ESPN pundit Sebastian Salazar was also prepared to heap praise on the Canadians, highlighting Jonathan David's excellence as well.
"I don't know that [the U.S.A.] are the favourites, even without Alphonso Davies. I think this Canadian team right now is on a roll. They've got the manager who is getting the most out of their team in all of Concacaf, and they got what the United States doesn't have—and what Mexico doesn't have—and that's an in-form, red-hot number 9. Right now if you look at Canada's finishing options, I mean, it's not even close compared to what the U.S. is dealing with. I have to give the edge, at home here, to Canada."
Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman, one of only a dozen or so players who will actually lace up and compete against the hosts on the pitch, knows he and his teammates are in for a battle.
"I think there's been a shift in their mentality and they play with a chip on their shoulder, they play with something to prove, and they play with an intensity that is very high ," Zimmerman said.
"They're a confident group. And so whenever you go out there, you know that they're going to compete and that you have to match that level of intensity and desire"
There's a clear directive to not provide the boys in red any bulletin board material, but unlike past fixtures, these commendations are warranted. It's a fight for the top of the table and lucrative bragging rights. After Sunday, who knows when Canada and the United States will go head-to-head again. Make sure you tell your friends, this is appointment viewing.
Canada returns to World Cup Qualifying action on January 30, 2022 (3PM ET / 12PM PT), taking on the United States of America at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, ON.
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