HENDERSON, Nev. — United States men’s national team forward Ricardo Pepi said Saturday he was ready to move on with newly appointed United States coach Gregg Berhalter and get over the coach’s decision not to take him to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to take away
When asked specifically about Berhalter’s reappointment, Pepi said: “I think it’s great. It’s good for the team. It’s great for me and like I said everything that happened is in the past.”
Pepi was one of several US players excluded from the World Cup, to a group that included Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen. After Berhalter’s reinstatement was officially announced on Friday, Berhalter said he hadn’t spoken to either Pepi or Steffen since the World Cup, but would do so in the coming months. In the meantime, Berhalter said that should be the focus of the players facing Canada in Sunday’s Concacaf Nations League final.
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“Now we have good new opportunities and the new chance is to play a final tomorrow,” Pepi continued. “I think that’s what we need to focus on.”
At Berhalter’s unveiling on Friday, the US executive said there were “a number of people you’d like to speak to.” While most of the attention in this regard has focused on Gio Reyna, the player who has been at the center of a public row and an investigation into Berhalter’s past, both Pepi and Steffen are among the players who need to rebuild their respective relationships with the US coach.
Steffen told ESPN of Berhalter earlier this year, “He and I have a long history and I thought it was a little bit different than it was. I learned that too, and it was a hard pill to swallow.”
“Ideally, you agree with everyone,” Berhalter said Friday, “and all we do is be great together and for that the relationships have to be good. Players need to focus on what we are doing and there will certainly be time for that in the coming months.”
After scoring in Thursday’s 3-0 semi-final win over Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League, Pepi will look to perform well in Sunday’s final against Canada. The Reds have been a rising force in the Concacaf in recent years and are aiming to lift their first trophy since the 2000 Gold Cup. Canada also picked up four points from the USA in the World Cup qualifiers and took first place in the overall standings.
As USA seek their second straight Nations League win, Pepi is concerned about the threat Canada poses.
“I feel like we’re not underestimating Canada in any way,” he said. “We know we want to win the tournament. We want to win the cup. We want to make it. So I think it’s important that we compete with the same intensity and hunger as we did in Mexico.”
Berhalter is not expected to take charge of the US team again until the Concacaf Gold Cup ends in July, and interim coach BJ Callaghan will remain in charge until then.