Miami, Nov 14, 2019 (AFP) - United States coach Gregg Berhalter believes increased intensity can help his struggling team bounce back against Canada in their crucial CONCACAF Nations League clash in Florida on Friday.
Berhalter's side take on the Canadians at Orlando's Exploria Stadium needing a victory to give them any chance of being able to progress into the final four of the inaugural tournament.
The must-win clash comes one month after Canada stunned the US 2-0 in Toronto, their first victory over the Americans since 1985.
That result left Canada on the brink of qualification from Group A, while simultaneously triggering more soul-searching across US soccer, still trying to rebuild after its shock failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Berhalter's preparations this week have been hit by injuries to Chelsea star Christian Pulisic and veteran midfielder Michael Bradley, depriving the US of vital creativity and experience.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Berhalter blamed a lack of intensity for last month's loss to Canada -- something he has sought to rectify this week.
"One of our observations after the game in Toronto is that when we're playing these games away from home, the opponent is playing these games like it's the biggest game of their lives," Berhalter said.
"Canada hadn't beaten us in 34 years and was playing like that. For us to be successful at away venues we need to match that intensity, or exceed that intensity. And that's been a consistent message in this camp."
Berhalter said the fact so many of his squad had not played a competitive away game before had also been a factor in the defeat.
"You think it would go without saying that we know that," Berhalter said. "But when you think about seven guys playing in their first away game for the first time, a coaching staff coaching their first away game, these are some of the things that come along.
"We know that we're better prepared now. You see it right off the bat in this training camp. The intensity level has increased every day."
While an inability to reach the last four of the Nations League would be another massive embarrassment for US soccer, Berhalter rejected suggestions his squad could be paralysed by a fear of failure.
"Not at all," he said. "It's a group that's developing. I think it's a resilient, brave group. From day one the players have been focused on every single thing we've asked of them. And for me that mindset is amazing.
"We're embracing (the pressure). When you look at the history of US soccer we've been in situations like this before. This is what builds the team, this is what makes the team strong. We need events like this to help the team grow."
Berhalter acknowledged however that the absence of Pulisic was a blow, revealing that the US would probably seek to compensate for the skilful forward's absence with a more physical approach.
"We don't have a like for like replacement for Christian Pulisic," Berhalter said. "We'll have to compensate with other skills. What we do have is speed and physicality. I think that will be a key component of the game."