Gregg Berhalter sets up shop in Chula Vista, near the Mexican border

For years, the U.S. men's national team has begun the year with a January camp at the federation's training headquarters at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

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."

16 comments about "Gregg Berhalter sets up shop in Chula Vista, near the Mexican border".
  1. Wooden Ships, January 8, 2019 at 11:31 p.m.

    Wish them good training and luck. I might add, all the touchy-feely sentiment, analytics, drones, cultural conformity, makes me glad to have not played in this era. Here we go engineering ourselves into competitiveness. 

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, January 9, 2019 at 1:38 a.m.

    I don't mind data. What bothers me is mischaracterizing subjective opinions as objective data. In soccer as in other areas that happens a lot.  

  3. frank schoon replied, January 9, 2019 at 6:52 a.m.

    Ships, precisely. Bottom line, which is beyond the touchie-freely, team building garbage and able to know how to fly a drone,  it still all comes down to can they handle and control a ball under pressure and be able  to know the next move before receiving a ball.

  4. Ginger Peeler replied, January 9, 2019 at 2:03 p.m.

    Some of that reminds me a, little too much, of Steve Sampson. More technical, but definitely touchy-feely. I’ll never forgive him for not starting Preki against Yugoslavia. 

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, January 9, 2019 at 10:44 p.m.

    The military depends heavily on "team building", but it is not "touchy-feely". It is about forming working relations in groups performing, under high stress, tasks that require group effort and cooperation. Sound familiar?

  6. Wooden Ships replied, January 10, 2019 at 12:57 a.m.

    I hear you Bob on the military training, but when we trained for combat there was no creative, artistic, improvisational component. Yes, all training had the, when all goes to shit adaptation, it was still fall back on training. Boldness was often called for. Team building is rather reduntive in training and real world missions. Difficult IMO to equate sport to military operations and haven been in both settings members know the distinction. What I will agree to is that in both each needs to understand the interdependence upon one another to increase the odds of success. I have know tolerance for a brooding personality and he’s brought back in the number one brooder and polarizer. 

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, January 10, 2019 at 1:14 a.m.

    I agree with you WS except for officers, creativity and improvision are desireable traits for solving tactical problems. In soccer everybody is a quarterback making decisions, but as you noted in the military that isn't true.

    My experience has been different. I was never deployed so I am not talking about real world missions overseas. There are many stories of individuals who were both outstanding athletes and outstanding soldiers and sailors. I played on a military soccer team against local college teams, and there was no real comparison, but part of that was the rest of the team was, unlike me, Hispanics and Europeans who grew up playing soccer in other countries. I think that the military discipline and group cohesion was very important. I never remember any teammate yelling or disrespecting anyone. I remember a lot of shouting and arguing by opponents. I think this discipline and teamwork is why employers want to hire vets.

    For 15 years I also coached an adult rec team composed of players from the military community in the Northern VA area. Military athletes are special. 

  8. George Miller, January 9, 2019 at 7:26 a.m.

    Analytics, why didn’t I think of that. Yea thas
    the way forward. Oh and culturally right. WC here we come.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, January 9, 2019 at 10:46 p.m.

    You understood that the reference is to team culture, not a broader meaning?

  10. Frank Copple, January 9, 2019 at 9:31 a.m.

    Why not analytics? All major professional sports use analytics. They’re another tool, which can give the coaches a good view of what the players are doing. TV soccer in other countries is full of statistics during play. And let’s give Greg a chance. 

  11. frank schoon replied, January 9, 2019 at 11:04 a.m.

    Frank (sounds like i'm talking to myself,LOL). The more removed a coach is from having played the game ,the more data driven he is. According to Cruyff, he would not have made Ajax today as a youth if  today's data driven coach would have judged him...In other words, the less you have it in your fingers the more you rely upon data.  As Cruyff states that licensing of coaches regardless with little marginal playing experience  have infected the soccer in a negative due to not having it in their fingers and instead have to look rely on numbers, data. 
    Like van Hanegem, one of Holland's greats only held second to Cruyff in wisdom of the game, says that  he has no idea what these coaches  write down for notes during the game. He further stated, " I don't need a notepad to see what's going on wrong during a game".

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, January 9, 2019 at 10:54 p.m.

    I think Jose Mourinho is the perfect example of letting data overly influence your thinking. He sees that having the ball means that you have a risk of losing the ball. Therefore his strategy is based on having the opponent possess the ball and then counterattacking aggressively when they lose the ball. It is not a situational issue to him. At least that is what I understand from books written about him, including his own. The problem is not counterattacking per se, but rather tactical inflexibility.   

  13. frank schoon replied, January 10, 2019 at 10:04 a.m.

    Bob, I never read any books about him but him being from Portugal, soccer is always defense first, and counter attacking. He is very conservative in his approach to soccer and like you say, has a risk aversion aspect about him.  He is not a creative coach. The only creativeness heis credited for is "parking the bus" in front of the goal, which came about as a DEFENSISVE answer to Guardiola's Barcelona.
    He played the game on a pro-level in Portugal  but not much. He learned the game as an assistant to van Gaal at Barcelona. 
    It seems the players at Man Utd. are so happy for the restraints have come undone and are playing much more offensive as propagated by Solksjear ,the new coach and former attacker of Man Utd.
     More and more data oriented coaching is on the way ,for we have less and less insightful and creative coaches, and therefore most follow the dictates of the Federation Coaching schools whose instructors ,themselves are nothing to write home about.
     Van Hanegem is his book ( I wish it was also written in English for you would enjoy reading it because of its deep insights). But anyway He complained about how soccer is taught and as a result it has become so programmed and predictable. He mentions about players with chips in their shirts providing GPS info but as he sees soccer has not gotten better but worse, overal. He states the "spontaneity' has been taken out of soccer. He mention 'laptop" trainers who have very little affinity with the game itself.. He questions all this stuff, exercise specialists with their equipment who can think they can save the game, itself. They employ dieticians, psychologist and paintball ball sessions and group rowing and climbing trees for teambuilding. He sees guys in warm ups with rubber bands doing stretches and whatnot. Further states he would understand if soccer would be so much better than when he played but it is not. He worries that we're losing the real essentials of the game with all this garbage.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, January 10, 2019 at 1:47 p.m.

    After FIFA changed the Laws to allow coaching from the sidelines, it has been all downhill since then.

  15. frank schoon replied, January 10, 2019 at 3 p.m.

    I don't coaching from the sidelines has any effect on the quality. With all the noise, and during the heat of battle ,I don't know how can even hear the coach. A player like Cruyff telling players what to on the field has in certain situations or flows has a lot better effect

  16. Bob Ashpole, January 10, 2019 at 11:05 p.m.

    Before the change, everyone understood players had to learn to analyse play and make adjustments. Now a lot of coaches think they can do the thinking for the players and tell the players what to do. Substitution rules allow coaches to bench players that make independent decisions.

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