US head coach Gregg Berhalter was explicit about the reason for tacking this friendly onto the back end of the Nations League final four: he wanted to mimic the new World Cup qualifying cadence, one in which the US have multiple three-game windows.
Past FIFA international dates have only been two games. Thanks to the global pandemic that has had to change, as the field for the final round of qualifying has been expanded — the old Hexagonal is now an Octagonal. At the same time, while the field’s expanded the calendar has shrunk. There is simply less time to get these games in, and that’s how you get three-game international dates.
That, more or less, is the sole reason this friendly existed.
The players got it. Even if they couldn’t replicate the intensity level of the Nations League games this was not a stroll in the park. To bring it back to the lede: winning is a habit, and the things you do in order to win are good habits to build.
“I want to win all three of these games, because in qualifying that means nine points and it puts you in a very good position,” Tyler Adams told USsoccer.com, and that’s basically it right there. Build good habits, do so within the structure of what World Cup qualifying is going to feel like in terms of the travel and time between games, and collect points.
Let’s hope it translates in September.