The two managers went back and forth when discussing each team’s ability to manipulate the match official
Gregg Berhalter called on the referee to take control of Sunday’s Gold Cup final between the U.S. men’s national team and Mexico, prompting El Tri boss Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino to reply by saying that Berhalter should look to his own reactions when it comes to referee control.
Thursday’s Gold Cup semi-final between Mexico and Canada saw several notable clashes between the two teams, including one that saw El Tri’s Luis ‘Chaka’ Rodriguez choke a player after Canada’s Jonathan Osorio also put his hands on the face of one of the Mexico side.
After seeing several physical clashes in his team’s last two games against El Tri, Berhalter urged the referee to keep the game from getting out of hand, prompting Martino’s reply.
What did Berhalter say?
“We’re preparing the guys for a very difficult game, a very competitive combative game,” Berhalter said. “I think it’s worth mentioning that we want it to be a physical game, we want it to be a tough contested game, the same way as Mexico, right? They want the same thing, but we also want to be fair, and that’s the referee’s role in this game: to manage the game in a fair way.
“I’ve seen numerous times with players from Mexico are grabbing a player’s necks and facial areas, and that has no place in the game. We can’t have that and, again, we want our guys to battle, we want both teams to battle, we want it to be physical, but you know that has no place in the game.
“When I saw the semi-final, I didn’t think the referee did a good job of managing that at all and they need to get ahead of that. There can’t be any hands to the neck or to the face.
Martino fires back
When asked about Berhalter’s comments, Martino was quick to fire back by pointing out several incidents in the USMNT’s own win over Qatar.
The game saw the U.S. embrace the dark arts at points as well, including delaying a penalty kick for over two minutes before it was eventually missed.
When the U.S. did score the breakthrough goal in the 1-0 win, Berhalter was seen screaming at the fourth official, which he later apologized for after the game.
“Well, the referee will probably do the best he can,” Martino said, “and the referee of the U.S, vs Qatar game probably also wasn’t able to handle those moments, especially with the coach’s reaction to the U.S. goal against the fourth official.”
Berhalter full of praise for Martino
Despite the pre-final gamesmanship between the two, Berhalter said that he has complete respect for Martino, having battled the Argentine at both club and international level.
Berhalter coached against Martino, who previously managed the likes of Barcelona and Argentina, during his time with the Columbus Crew when the current Mexico boss was in charge of Atlanta United.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Tata Martino. I think he’s a great coach,” Berhalter said. “Great experience and, if I have half the career he’s had as a coach, I’d be happy. He’s a really successful coach and has coached all over the world with some top clubs and countries.
“For us, it’s about how can we hurt them and how can we adapt to what they’re doing and, when they change, how do we adapt with it?”