Gregg Berhalter: 'The culture of the team is strong'

An attraction of the USA's friendly against Costa Rica on Saturday: You can count on witnessing national team debuts. Twelve members of the USA’s 22-man are uncapped.

Teenagers Ulysses Llanez, Julian Araujo and Bryang Kayo

The game comes one year after Gregg Berhalter's first game at the U.S. helm. Two losses to archival Mexico and the first loss to Canada in 34 years kept the hangover of failing to reach the 2018 World Cup going. Enthusiasm for the team, one senses, is lower than one can recall. Its last two home games of 2019 drew crowds 13,000 each. What is there to get excited about?

At least Berhalter is delivering a chance on Sunday for fans to see a new generation of players and rate their potential. Nine players he brought in can't buy a beer legally in the USA.

Forty-two field players -- also including many young ones -- saw action for the USA in its 18 games last year, a period Berhalter said brought the team to "a good spot right now.”

"One thing for sure is we have a very good understanding of the player pool," Berhalter said in Monday's conference. "Understanding the group, we’ve looked at a lot of players over the last year, seeing a lot of them in camp. It’s been a great process. We feel like the group has made strides and is more mature. When we integrate young players into it, it’s a seamless transition because the culture of the team is strong.”

Those young players include four who played on the Tab Ramos-coached team that beat France en route to the 2019 U-20 World Cup quarterfinals -- Julian Araujo, Mark McKenzieBrandon Servania and Ulysses Llanez. Bryang Kayo played in the 2019 U-17 World Cup. The 19-year-old Jesus Ferreira  has played 36 MLS games, but Berhalter said that although the Colombia-born forward who came through the FC Dallas Academy has gotten his U.S. citizenship, it's undetermined whether his FIFA paperwork would will be ready in time for Saturday's game.

During the conference call, Berhalter addressed the status of his some of his more experienced young players who aren't in camp, and then commented on the USA new men's GM.

Christian Pulisic, 21, has missed five Chelsea games with a tendon injury since playing on New Year’s Day. Then days ago, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard predicted a February return for Pulisic.

Berhalter said: “We’re always concerned when a player gets injured, no matter who it is. We’re constantly getting the medical reports and looking through the information. One thing about Christian is he’s adapting to the Premier League.

“He played a lot of games in a short period of time over Christmas. The injury didn’t appear to be that significant. He’s working through that rehab and he should be back training soon. He’s a young player, playing at an extremely competitive level and it takes a physical toll on your body, and him coming to terms with that is something that is normal for the process of adapting.”

Josh Sargent, 19, has returned to action after recovering from a hamstring injury, but his club, Werder Bremen, is in the Bundesliga relegation zone. Berhalter said he spoke with Sargent on Sunday.

“We reviewed his game on the weekend," Berhalter said of the 3-0 home loss to Hoffenheim. "The team is going through a dip of form, they’re in the relegation zone right now. But this is what happens in pro sports, this is what happens at a high level. Things are difficult. It’s a daily job where you need to make the most of each day, it’s a grind.

"With Josh in particular, I see it as some of the team function in how they’re creating chances and looking to make the most of their players, it’s been difficult at times. They haven’t been creating a lot of chances, that’s difficult for a striker at times. For him, it’s hanging in there and continuing to do the things that got him to that level. Continuing to think about his movement off the ball, how he’s moving in the penalty box and when he gets the opportunities, it’s making the most of them.”

Zack Steffen, the 24-year-old goalkeeper, has been sidelined at Fortuna Duesseldorf with a knee injury.

“It’s something we’re working together with the medical staff to figure out how we can help in any way,” said Berhalter. “It’s a priority of ours to have him back on the field and I know that the club wants him back on the field so we’re working through those things now.”

Berhalter on the new USMNT general manager, Brian McBride:

"We think he’s going to be able to bridge the communication with the national team programs and the clubs. That's going to be very helpful. And the vertical integration, ensuring that the methodology, that the culture, that the experience the players have is similar throughout all of the men's national team program."

U.S. Roster:
Sean Johnson, 30 (New York City FC; 8/0)
Bill Hamid, 29 (D.C. United; 6/0)
Matt Turner, 25 (New England Revolution; 0/0)

*Julian Araujo, 18 (LA Galaxy; 0/0)
*Reggie Cannon, 21 (FC Dallas; 10/0)
Chase Gasper, 24 (Minnesota United; 0/0)
*Justen Glad, 22 (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)
Aaron Long, 27 (NY Red Bulls; 16/3)
*Mark McKenzie, 20 (Philadelphia Union; 0/0)
*Sam Vines, 20 (Colorado Rapids; 0/0)
Walker Zimmerman, 26 (LAFC; 11/2)

*Brenden Aaronson, 19 (Philadelphia Union; 0/0)
*Christian Cappis, 20 (Hobro/DEN; 0/0)
*Bryang Kayo, 17 (Unattached; 0/0)
Sebastian Lletget, 27 (LA Galaxy; 13/2)
*Brandon Servania, 20 (FC Dallas; 0/0)
*Jackson Yueill, 22 (San Jose Earthquakes; 6/0)

Paul Arriola, 32 (D.C. United; 32/5)
*Jesus Ferreira, 19 (FC Dallas; 0/0)
*Jonathan Lewis, 22 (Colorado Rapids; 5/0)
*Ulysses Llanez, 18 (Wolfsburg/GER; 0/0)
Gyasi Zardes, 28 (Columbus Crew; 55/12)
*Eligible for U.S. U-23 national team.

6 comments about "Gregg Berhalter: 'The culture of the team is strong'".
  1. Bob Ashpole, January 28, 2020 at 6:31 a.m.

    "Strong culture." Is that like saying they have a "great personality"?

    Qualification is only a few dates away. I don't have a warm and fuzzy feeling about this effort.

  2. John Polis replied, January 28, 2020 at 11:19 a.m.

    Agree. A "strong culture" amid a team full of kids is nice, but that's about it. Who are the veterans who are going to knit our national team together? 

  3. beautiful game, January 28, 2020 at 2:21 p.m.

    Coach B sounds more like a politician on capitol hill than a soccer coach. He says he sees a lot of players in camp, but what is he actually seeing?

  4. Wooden Ships, January 28, 2020 at 4:20 p.m.

    John, for this camp, he's named a leadership council comprised of 4 or 5 players that are older. You do have to have a team atmosphere, call it culture if you want. I felt the player leadership was poor during our last World Cup cycle. IMO it's been disingenuous and soft coming out of South Africa. I like the wide net Greg is throwing and we will see how this younger generation gets on. This is the Olympic based group primarily and a more technical Ticos side will be a good barometer. I'm hoping to watch the game. But, we are really looking at what might be when we host again. Getting to Qatar is the main goal now. Getting out of group would be almost a surprise.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, January 28, 2020 at 5:24 p.m.

    WS, I just double checked the FIFA calendar and there is only 4 match days left before qualifying starts: 2 in March and 2 in June. That isn't much time if GB intends to "teach" them his system.

    What GB said implies that this is his selection minus a few injuries (a keeper and 2 forwards).

    I am going to assume the leadership area gets covered. I wish them lots of luck.


  6. Wooden Ships replied, January 28, 2020 at 9:01 p.m.

    I agree Bob, but most of the starters aren't here for this. I hope he's relaxed somewhat on his doctrine of play, concede some player off script allowance. I too wish them well. 

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