GLENDALE, Arizona (AP) — Gregg Berhalter ushered in a new era for the US men’s national team with an attacking style and a new captain.
A lopsided win was a great way to get started, even in a match involving mostly second- and third-stringers.
Berhalter became the third US coach in the modern era to start with a win, Djordje Mihailovic and Christian Ramirez scored in their national team debuts and the Americans beat Panama 3-0 on Sunday night in an exhibition.
“It’s nice to put in the work after an extended period of time and get a reward for that,” Berhalter said. “The guys should be proud of themselves.”
Berhalter made a surprise pick as captain, choosing 26-year-old defender Aaron Long in his third international appearance rather than 31-year-old midfielder Michael Bradley in his 143rd.
“Leadership comes naturally to me,” Long said. “I am one of the older guys in camp and stepped up that way. It just try to go about my business the same way, change nothing.”
Berhalter made the decision during training camp.
“We see his leadership qualities. Every exercise we do he’s competitive, he’s driving guys, he’s pushing guys, and we like that. We like his demeanor,” he said.
“I don’t think it was a knock against anyone else that they weren’t captain, I think I would look at it more as a positive that Aaron was captain because of what he’s been doing these last couple of weeks.”
Having been removed as captain once as a player without explanation, Berhalter made sure to speak with Bradley.
“I told him that he’ll still be a leader when he’s on the field by his performance. The armband is maybe just authority, but you can lead through your actions,” Berhalter said.