(Reuters) – U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter said on Wednesday he is not putting any added pressure on his team for the penultimate three-game World Cup qualifying window where they could move closer toward securing a spot in Qatar.
While the upcoming window includes two critical home dates for the United States and a chance for them to start staking a World Cup claim, Berhalter said that did not require them to alter their approach.
“To us there’s no extra emphasis. We know that we want to compete to win every single game and it starts with tomorrow,” Berhalter told reporters on a video call. “It gets a little bit dangerous when you start over-emphasizing one window versus other windows.”
The United States, who host El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, sit second in CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifiers on 15 points with six matches left and four teams in contention for three direct berths.
Canada, who are unbeaten in CONCACAF’s final round of qualifiers, are first in the group with 16 points while Mexico and Panama each have 14 points. Mexico hold third place on goal difference.
Berhalter, who was named head coach in December 2018 after the national team failed to qualify for that year’s World Cup, said his current squad are both a healthy and confident bunch but expects an aggressive match against El Salvador.
“We can do all the talking we want now but it will be about tomorrow at game time and showing it on the field,” Berhalter said. “We are in good shape, we are ready to go and now it’s about performing.”
U.S. forward Christian Pulisic said that while he refuses to look beyond the El Salvador match he is more than well aware at what is at stake over the next window.
“We are in a good position and by the end of this window we could be in a great position and that’s our focus,” said Pulisic.
“Right now it’s just about getting us prepared for that last window. It’s not looking ‘oh, can we qualify as soon as possible’ it’s just getting ourselves in the right spot.”
The USMNT will wrap up the international window with games at Canada on Sunday before returning home to play Honduras on Feb. 2 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)