The U.S. men's national team's first camp
under Gregg Berhalter will begin on Jan. 6 in Chula Vista, California, with 28 players. On Thursday, Berhalter released the names of 27 players -- he said the 28th will be a central midfielder
or winger -- and explained what he expects out of the camp and what went into his decisions.
"I think we can use this opportunity to start the process and set the tone for what this group is going to be like," he said in a media conference call on Thursday. "Again, we’re talking about three things: building a culture within this team, instilling a style of play and competing in everything we do."
Berhalter, who was speaking from France as he continued his meetings with European-based players and their clubs, said the decision on players for the January camp shouldn't be taken as a definitive verdict on MLS players overlooked.
“One thing I’ll remind everyone of is that this camp is a slice in time," he said. "It doesn’t represent permanent positions – there are guys not called into camp that I think were deserving of call-ups. I made some calls to guys not included in the camp to explain the reason why and explain that we’re going to keep monitoring all players. Opportunities will be given to other guys that were not included in this camp. With that, we’re excited and ready to move forward.”
One of the few veterans called up was Toronto FC's Michael Bradley, who leads all active players with 142 caps but only two since the USA lost to Trinidad & Tobago, 2-1, in October 2017.
“We talked early on in the press conference when I was hired about the value of veterans being in and I truly believe that," Berhalter said. "This is an
opportunity for Michael to show it, so we’re excited to see him and how he works through this training camp, meeting the team and also contributing to what we’re trying to do on the
Players not in camp include include Jozy Altidore, Bradley's teammate on the 2010 and 2014 World Cup teams and at TFC, and Brad Guzan and Darlington Nagbe from MLS champion Atlanta United.
“Every situation with clubs is different," said Berhalter, "and we’re cognizant of their needs and player needs. Brad is an example of a guy who has played long into the MLS season and he needs rest. They’re going to have a new coach, Champions League games coming up, and I thought it was important for him to get rest at this time. The same thing goes for Darlington. He’s a guy that was injured for a large portion of the season and we feel like it would be more beneficial for him to first get some rest, get a good, solid preseason with his club and build up his strength so he can have another good MLS season. Regarding Jozy, he’ll be in camp, just to come around and the environment for one or two days. He’s still injured and won’t be able to participate in training, so we’re obviously not going to include him in the full camp.”
Berhalter said he has met about a dozen players and talked with at least another dozen.
“The conversations have been great," he said. "I’ve got a lot of respect for all these guys and how they’ve been pushing through and achieving things in their careers. It’s great to get out and talk to some of the MLS guys, meet some of the European guys face-to-face at their clubs and explain what we’re trying to do and then listen -- listen to their needs, some of their experiences and things they think can improve. I’ve had great interactions so far with the guys and it’s been interesting to talk about the style of play and the culture we want to create. I feel like there’s been some really good responses to that.”
Among the players he met was Christian Pulisic, who is at Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund.
“It’s the first time I’ve really sat down and talked with him and heard his feelings on soccer and ideas about the game," Berhalter said. "It was a very productive conversation. He’s doing a fantastic job at Dortmund, but at the moment it hasn’t been going the best for him. I think that’s when guys can really show their qualities and how they endure through those times -- we talked about that. Overall, I had really positive meetings with everyone.”