For his first camp as national team coach, Gregg Berhalter has taken his team farther south, to the Chula Vista Elite Athlete
Training Center, in an isolated area with other Olympic sports facilities about 10 miles from the Mexican border, where he had trained with the national team as a player in 1998.
“When you get to train with this type of weather," he said after the team's first practice, "you have the mountains in the background, you look at the field, it’s perfect. It’s a great environment to foster one of our main objectives of the camp, and that’s team-building. We’re here, we’re going to be together here, it’s an intensive period but it’s a focused period. I think we’re really going to get quality time together as a team.”
Monday was Berhalter's first day with the team after spending the last five years as the head coach and sporting director of the Columbus Crew.
“I’m extremely humbled to have this position," he said. "I never started coaching saying I want to be the national team coach or that's my ultimate goal. You just work hard. And every day you try to do your best and you try to develop your ideas, try to teach your ideas that can be executed on the field."
Only 15 of the 28 players in camp have been capped and most of the other players were only brought into the team after it failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
“It was very important to tell the players how they’re going to be evaluated in this camp," said Berhalter. "It’s not only going to be what happens on the field, it’s how they fit in culturally to what we’re doing. We want them to get to know each other, we want them to enjoy this camp, enjoy this time they have together, we want them to play soccer."
Berhalter and his staff is charting everything the players do with the help of assistants with tablets and an over-head drone.
"We had a competition in training," he said. "We're going to continue to chart the competition in training and take results of who's winning these games. Competing is a very big part of our business. But so is building the style of play, and then team cohesion. So we laid out the objectives, but we also talked bigger picture about what we want to be, and who we want to be as a group, and what our mission is."
Berhalter, who recently attended a soccer analytics conference in Barcelona, said he is going to expand what data the team collects.
"What we're going to try to do is form better relationships with the clubs," he said, "so we can get data from the clubs and bring it into our programs and have a bigger picture of the athletes. From our own side of analytics, we see guys on the sidelines tracking every single thing they do with tablets. From a broader perspective, we think analytics can help us with another general picture of what our opponent is trying to do from a data standpoint. Then we analyze it from our eyes and from the video and kind of merge these two to get a good picture of the opponent."