SOCCER

Berhalter: Young USMNT stars like Busio, Sands and Hoppe seized their opportunity


The U.S. went with a young lineup in Thursday’s win over Martinique and the coach was left impressed by the play of several new faces

Gregg Berhalter was left impressed by several of the U.S. men’s national team’s youngest stars following Thursday’s 6-1 rout of Martinique.

Berhalter opted to start a young squad against an overmatched Martinique team, with the starting XI having an average age of 23 years old and an averages total of five caps per player.

That team, which featured highly-regarded youngsters like Gianluca Busio, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Matthew Hoppe and George Bello, left Berhalter impressed as the U.S. boss feels confident that his young players are ready for the bigger tests to come.

What did Berhalter say?

“It’s a nice feeling when you give guys opportunities and they take advantage of it,” said Berhalter, who went on to congratulate debutants Matthew Hoppe and Donovan Pines for earning their first caps.

“But when I look at them and I looked at some of the other younger guys like Busio, Bello, Sands, Robinson, it was a really young group today and to have that performance in a game that you know we wanted to win and we wanted to improve and we wanted to win convincingly, I think was it shows what type of quality they have.”

He added: “I think [Busio] is doing a great job, along with James Sands and George Bello. These are guys that have really impressed me in camp, some of the younger guys.”

Hoppe: I wanted to show the world I can do this

One of several young standouts, Hoppe shined in his first USMNT appearance, assisting Dary Dike’s game-opening goal.

Hoppe played his way into the USMNT picture after shining at Schalke last season, scoring six goals in the Bundesliga.

And, with his first cap under his belt, the 20-year-old forward is hoping to prove to both his coach and his country that he deserves more.

“I wanted to make my debut with the national team. I wanted to show the country and the world that I can do on an international level,” said Hoppe. who is one of only four European-based players missing parts of their club’s preseason to join up with the Gold Cup squad.

“So that’s why I decided it’d be best for me to stay with the national team right now. We’ve been together for a little over a week, and we’ve been getting closer. We’ve been forming a good bond and I think that it’s going to be a special team that we will witness throughout the whole tournament.”

Berhalter, meanwhile, was left impressed, adding: “I think he did an excellent job, and for Matthew, we had him slated as a winger and today he played as an attacking mid and in the pocket sometimes, sometimes running behind when they were going high.

“It’s not easy to take in all of that information and perform as well as he did. He also showed quality. The pass he gave Daryl is a high-level pass. I think he did well, and we’re also bearing in mind that he is in preseason and hasn’t played a competitive game, has been at home training, and this is the output you get. So, overall pleased with his performance.”

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