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Berhalter focusing on progress, building for 2022 after Panama win

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The U.S. Men’s National Team’s Gregg Berhalter era got off to a positive start on Sunday thanks to a 3-0 win over Panama, but the new head coach wants everyone to be certain that Sunday’s result wasn’t about the win, but about the progress of building the team from the ground up and getting them back to the World Cup in 2022.

Nobody is going to be fooled into thinking that a win against Panama’s second choice team without the USMNT’s top choice players is going to demonstrate that the program has turned a corner. However, calling it a small first step isn’t an exaggeration. Making that first step or two is what this entire January Camp is about, and Berhalter hasn’t been shy about that with his players, reporters, fans, or anyone else.

“What we needed to see was progress,” Berhalter told reporters after training on Tuesday. “We talked before the game, we said you’re not going to see a finished product in this game but you should be able to see ideas, you should be able to see the beginning and that’s all we’ve asked from the players the whole time.”

The USMNT is able to use this unique window to allow Berhalter to settle in with his new job and develop a style of play, even with players with little or no international experience. It’s an opportunity not a lot of countries have. There isn’t a designated international window this month and no club is obligated to release its players to the USMNT or any other country. While this means the best players are often still with their clubs, Berhalter is choosing to view this as a chance to work with a group of players working towards building that national team.

“You talk about a short time frame but we’re actually lucky to have this one month period,” he said. “Other countries aren’t getting this month to train with a group. The guys have been so open. The guys have progressed virtually every day. We’ve gotten better and that’s been good to see.”

Players improving in January can do more than just strengthen depth. A strong performance could put pressure on an established player and eventually lead to competitive minutes for someone who never would have seen any playing time before. Nick Lima’s performance against Panama could be a great example. One slip up from DeAndre Yedlin at right back could mean Lima gets some time when the Gold Cup or Concacaf Nations League roll around.

The same can be said for Corey Baird or Djordje Mihailovic, who each had excellent performances in Glendale.

Berhalter considers any selection headaches that can arise from a strong January a positive thing, not a daunting task to be sorted out. If someone like Lima or Baird continues to show promise, that’s exciting to him and a sign that the him and his staff are doing their jobs.

“I think the word is exciting. When you look at some of the quality, both domestically and abroad, it’s exciting to imagine where this group can go in four years time.”

And that four years time is the key. Nothing that happens in January of 2019 will matter if the USMNT fails to qualify for the World Cup in 2022. Berhalter still has time to build towards that goal and this month is just the first stop along that journey. It’s an important stop, but the final goal is always in the forefront.

“I feel like we do have time. I think there’s checkpoints along the way that we want to measure ourselves against. But the ultimate goal for this group is 2022.”

Comments

  1. For the most part I agree with everything Berhalter said, or was quoted as saying. While most of us play down the importance of “Camp Cup Cake” there is some value to these meaningless games. Especially for the introduction of new coachs & young players. It’s a lower pressure environment where coaches can test new idea’s for training or formations….it can also be used to take a close look at a large number of unproven players to see what diamonds in the rough may be out there.

    While the 2022 WC is the ultimate goal, here are still some short term goals that are very important.
    1) Winning this summers Gold Cup secures our place in the 2021 Confederations Cup. This is a huge advantage to get a test run at venues and get a feel for logistics. It also gives you a chance to play some high level competition, earn extra ranking points, and potentially test out some new players.
    2) While not Berhalter’s primary roll….he should be preparing a short list of coaches and players for the U-23 Olympic Qualification Tournament. The Olympics isn’t important to the world powers, it is for very important for young US players to get experience. A strong performance with the U-23 team can secure European Transfers and prep players for the next level…The Sr. National Team. Look back at the last 2 Olympic failures clearly shows that Making the Olympics is very important to feeding the Sr. US Team (almost none of the past 2 cycle players are a part of the current Sr. Team).

    If the January Camps are used correctly they can give the US Team and Staff a major leg forward every year. I’ve often thought it could be very informative to call a double camp comprised of 2 teams to train together and have an open door Scrimmage at the end to support a charity. Call in an age eligible U-23 squad and have them compete with an all ages group (great way to give some US players their send-off game).

    Reply
    • Thank god people here are finally starting to realize that the Gold Cup this summer *actually means something*. Much as I love and respect guys like Jonnyrazor, he’s out there talking about how we should be fielding non-senior pros like Luca De La Torre etc and leaving our best players to do situps at meaningless late-June camps in Europe. WINNING THIS TOURNAMENT MATTERS! Qualifacation for the Confederations Cup is A HUGE DEAL!!!!
      Unless we want to be an unseeded team in a (potentially) 48 team WC (ie a death sentence for unseeded teams), we need to make sure we are the BEST TEAM IN CONCACAF BY ANY STANDARD!

      Reply

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