Berhalter discusses the March roster and the big picture vision
March 12, 2019
CONTINUITY FROM JANUARY
One of the most important factors that Berhalter discussed was the need for continuity with January camp and the need to build off of what was done in that camp.
“As you see from the composition of the roster, we were very careful in balancing guys that will be in for the first time under this coaching staff and guys that have already spent time with us,” Berhalter said. “We did that purposefully that with this short preparation window, it is important to have some consistency in what we've been doing.”
“It's really too early to tell what the actually Gold Cup roster will be like,” he later added.
EMPHASIS ON BALANCE
Berhalter also said that he wanted to build his roster which blended experience and age. He mentioned that is why Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream were brought back into the team.
He also said that it was certainly possible for the 2022 roster could include a few players in their mid-30’s.
WEAH AND SARGENT
Tim Weah and Josh Sargent were left off the roster and Berhalter said they would go with the U.S. U-23 team for the upcoming international window.
Weah and Sargent have seen their minutes decrease over the past month and are still in the process of becoming first-team players.
Berhalter stressed that the U-20 World Cup for either player is difficult because their release is up to their respective clubs. But the U-23 team is also in action and it would provide Weah and Sargent an opportunity to play international games where the could start and lead the squad.
“When we looked at players that were U-23 eligible and weren’t necessarily going to be in our starting group, we had to weigh is it more beneficial for them to try to play full international games at a level where they can gain confidence and potentially bring that back to their club and then get a boost in performance with their clubs?” Berhalter discussed.
“I spoke to Josh and Tim and they're young players with a lot of potential,” he continued. “I would say this that we're looking at this from the big picture standpoint. The big picture is Tim and Josh have an opportunity playing at a U-23 level to gain experience. I see them very much part of the group moving forward. This is a way for them to keep playing on the field.”
“When you have players that U-23 eligible these games can provide the opportunity to compete in the international level.”
POSITION AND FORMATION
Berhalter said that the team played with two No. 10’s in the last camp and will do so in the upcoming camp.
He acknowledges that a lot of the key young players in Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Christian Pulisic are versatile and admitted he was excited about the possibilities (“When I think about the versatility, it gives the coach more ideas, more flexibility.”)
Regarding Tyler Adams, he said he will look at him at both central midfield and the right back position which tucks in during the attack.
“I think he can play the right back, tucked-in naturally,” Berhalter said. “When you look at his skillset, he's slanted to the right at lot with Red Bull also, especially when playing out to the build-up to get the ball. But I also think he can play central midfield. For us it is going to be about bringing him into camp and looking at him in one of those positions.”
Regarding Weston and Christian he also sees versatility in how they play on both sides of the ball.
Here is how I have started thinking of the roles in Berhalter's system. It is helpful to remember these roles before assigning names to them. pic.twitter.com/Y9vJEnEDtG— Susaeta (@_Susaeta) March 12, 2019
“Christian we see as a No. 10 slanted to the left,” Berhalter said. “If I'm thinking about Weston as a No. 10 who then defends as a No. 8, or Christian as a No. 10 who can also move wide or Tyler is a right back who can also come inside or could also attack overlap, or lap - those are the things that are exciting for me.”
“We'll do something in this camp and it won't be set in stone.”
THOUGHTS ON THE CONFERENCE
Berhalter’s approach is quite a bit different from Dave Sarachan’s approach in 2018. Sarachan trotted out a load of young players trying to see what stuck. Berhalter’s approach is geared towards the big picture.
The decision to leave Tim Weah and Josh Sargent made sense. Playing for the U-23 or the U-20 teams is not a slight on the player but rather it gives them a chance to be an impact players at a certain level. Youth national teams can play at a high level and the U-23 level, historically, can yield to a quick transition to the first team.
Weah and Sargent are key prospects but they’re not in the same situation as McKennie, Adams, or Pulisic who have extensive professional experience at a young age. Sargent and Weah are still trying to find consistent minutes. Could they play for the national team right now at a level beyond players like Corey Baird or Gyasi Zardes? Yes. But the opportunity is to keep them playing at a level where they can be key impact players. In a big picture approach, it’s justified.
Regarding the roster selection, Berhalter emphasized continuity. Moving forward, it seems as if changes to the team will come gradually, instead of wholesale changes from roster to roster. There are players who are building up cases for future call-ups and Berhalter said for these players to keep working as this roster was just a reflection of one moment in time.
Part of what Jurgen Klinsmann’s problem was in his final years is that rosters were changing en masse every international window. Bruce Arena never really had any time to build anything. But Berhalter does and with ensuring continuity from roster to roster and having roster spaces open up over time, it ensures that the newcomers will be walking into a more cohesive unit as opposed a jumbled mess.
Berhalter’s first steps resembles the first steps from Bob Bradley in 2007 where he mixed veterans with a newer core. Then a strong U-20 class that year merged with a U-23 team in 2008 to build another core that merged heading into World Cup qualifying and the Confederations Cup.
This is a periodic reminder that the 1990-1994 "Lost Generation" hole in the #USMNT player pool is age 24-29 right now.— Jamie Hill (@_jameshill) March 12, 2019
The roster cannot be as thrilling as you want it to be until this cohort ages out of their 20s.
There is no sugarcoating that this team still needs a lot of work. There was a well-established generational gap with players from the 1990-1994 birth years not developing at the necessary rate into full national team players. These players would now be in the key age ranges of 24-29. This roster is a pretty fair reflection on the state of the program. Although with a good game plan and approach, the team could punch above its weight until the promising younger generation matures.