USMNT boss Berhalter explains decision to start Zardes over Pepi against Canada

Zardes Canada USMNT 2022Getty

U.S. men's national team boss Gregg Berhalter said it was an "easy decision" to start Gyasi Zardes over Ricardo Pepi against Canada on Sunday.

The U.S. suffered a 2-0 loss to their northern neighbors, who capitalized on limited chances with goals from Cyle Larin and Sam Adekugbe to take a huge step towards a spot at the World Cup.

The U.S., meanwhile, struggled to generate chances and, more importantly, goals as they fell to a defeat.

What happened?

After starting Jesus Ferreira at striker in the 1-0 win over El Salvador on Thursday, Berhalter went with another surprise starter up top on Sunday by turning to the veteran Zardes.

As a result, Pepi, who many see as the USMNT's striker of the future, was relegated to the bench before entering as a substitute in the 69th minute.

The U.S. dominated possession with 64 percent and fired 13 shots to Canada's eight but, ultimately, were unable to break down the hosts.

"We know that generally we create chances for our striker with our game model," Berhalter said, "and we believe that we have quality guys that can finish them off. Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do, but I'm confident that the group was going to get it right.

"We have another opportunity on Wednesday to work on that but to me its not an issue. I think we look at the whole team. We look at the whole team of how we're moving the ball and how we're getting into dangerous areas."

The decision at striker

Berhalter went on to explain the decision to start Zardes, whom he felt gave the U.S. the best chance to create a goal on a narrow, turf field in frigid Hamilton, Ontario.

"That was an easy one," he said. "We knew what the game was going to look like. We knew it was a very narrow field, a small field. We know it's going to be a very physical game and we thought that Gyasi would give us that physicality.

"From looking at his performance, I think he did that. I don't think we got him enough service in the box to get him dangerous."

He continued: "We'll pick the best striker that we think can get the job done in that particular game, so it will be a gameplan-specific striker now.

"Ricardo is a player that just went over to Germany, he's just breaking in there, and I'm sure he's going to have a long run with the national team and it's just about getting him confidence and getting him game time at the highest level and I think he'll eventually do that.

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"With Jesus and Gyasi, they're not in season yet so it's hard to really see the form that they're in to say, 'Okay, this is the guy who's going to be leading the line for three games in a row'.

"So part of it is gameplan-specific and part of it is the form of our strikers."

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