U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter praised newcomer Ricardo Pepi after he scored twice against Jamaica to earn the American side the victory, adding “we’re all excited.”
The FC Dallas star recently declared his loyalty to the United States after being called up by both the American side and the Mexican team due to his dual-nationality. He finally made his debut on 8 September during the 4-1 victory against Honduras, where he scored the second goal of the match.
“We’re all excited,” Berhalter told the media. “For us, we’re just sitting there and we’re on the train. He’s an 18-year-old who gets an opportunity, takes advantage.
“What you see and I think what I really like is that he has this instinct, and it’s really hard to teach that to players. It’s not easy to come back and he knew eyes were on him and the word I’d use is professional. I thought he had an excellent performance.”
Pepi now has three goals in two appearances for the national team, propelling his way to becoming a starter and key figure for Berhalter. Despite the hype train surrounding him, the striker admitted now is not the time to be overwhelmed with the situation.
“It’s a moment of being able to stay calm and stay humble,” Pepi said. “I talk to my family about a lot of things going on and they told me to stay humble. … I work to be able to be on the squad. To represent my country, I made a big decision and said I was going to do my best.”
The USMNT is now the leader of the Concacaf table with eight points in four matches, overcoming North American rivals Mexico and Canada on goal difference.
“When you look at this game, and it’s only one game of a three-game window, it was excellent intensity,” Berhalter added. “The trap is going to be us thinking we’re great and us thinking we’ve qualified for the World Cup. And if we do that we’ll get our asses kicked in Panama on Sunday.”
USMNT travels to Panama next for Sunday’s qualifier before heading back home to face Costa Rica at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio.