From the moment he was named as U.S. national team head coach, Gregg Berhalter has made it clear he plans in implementing a possession-based system that will require his teams to not only play at a high technical level, but also be able to handle the challenge of trying to play a ball-controlling style against elite competition as the USMNT moves into international competition.
Through three matches, Berhalter's U.S. team has responded well to the new system, securing three shutout victories. But neither Panama or Costa Rica or more recently Ecuador has truly tested the Americans in a way that would be called extremely challenging. Berhalter is banking on Chile being able to provide that next level of difficulty on Tuesday night when the sides meet at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Led by Arturo Vidal, Chile is a veteran side known for its high-pressing style, which has remained a staple of the South American side long after Marcelo Bielsa planted the seeds a decade ago that helped transform Chile into a force and multiple-time Copa America champion. Though Chile has hit a downward slope in its trajectory, including missing out on the 2018 World Cup, the USMNT will still be facing an opponent that should provide its toughest test to date in 2019.
Where last week's opponent, Ecuador, was content to sit back and work to hit the Americans on the counter, Chile will be expected to try and pressure the United States all over the field, providing an excellent challenge to the U.S. team's possession-based system.
"I think we're going to see high pressing. I think we're going to see a lot of physicality, a lot of duels. This is going to be a great challenge for this group," Berhalter said on Monday." I'm really excited about this game because I think it gives us the opportunity to have to play through some intense pressure.
“We want to be able to play through pressure,” Berhalter said. “We know there’s going to be times where it’s going to be difficult. We want to set up to give them problems and then it’s just about the right moments that we’re able to play through them and get opportunities. I think that’s the key."
"Chile's going to be a really good team for us, a really good team to measure ourselves against the world," U.S. midfielder Cristian Roldan said. "They're not doing too well at the moment, but Chile has quality players and they put guys forward, so it's going to be a tough challenge but in the end it's going to make us stronger."
Berhalter will be making several lineup changes from the squad that defeated Ecuador last week, with Ethan Horvath set to start in goal, and Nick Lima, DeAndre Yedlin and Roldan among the players who could get nods to start against Chile. The new-look lineup will be looking to create more chances than the Americans created against Ecuador, which will be a challenge against a Chile side that will be looking to rebound after a 3-1 loss to Mexico on Friday.
"They like to high press so that can kind of work in our favor," Horvath said of Chile. "If we move the ball quickly and break lines and switch the play I think we can be dangerous."
Christian Pulisic will lead the U.S. attack, but will be partnered with a new group in central midfield after Weston McKennie was forced out by an ankle injury suffered against Ecuador. Roldan or Sebastian Lletget should slot into the dual number 10 role McKennie played last Thursday, while Michael Bradley is expected to slide into the lineup in place of Wil Trapp.
Defensively, the USMNT could feature an entirely new back four, with Matt Miazga expected to start, and Daniel Lovitz an option at left back. Aaron Long is coming off a very strong performance and could earn another start unless Berhalter decides to give veteran Omar Gonzalez a starting nod.