Berhalter’s USMNT roster reflects Rina’s injury challenges

When Greg Berhalter talked about his first roster since being reappointed as head coach of the US men’s national team in June, a few facts collided. There was much that was familiar, not the least of which was seeing him officially take charge for the second time in a World Cup.

Familiar faces were there, with Christian Pulisic, Weston McKinney and Younes Musa in the picture ahead of next week’s friendlies against Uzbekistan and Oman. In all, the squad includes 12 veteran World Cup players, as well as the 16 players who participated in winning the CONCACAF Nations League in June.

But this familiarity was not enough to outweigh the extent of the change. Some of that is emotional, and some depends on the players available.

Berhalter’s task to repair the relationship with Gio Reyna – who is still working his way back to full fitness after suffering a broken leg in June and was not on the roster – remains hanging on the programme. Berhalter said he had already apologized to the team for the circumstances that led him to speak at the January leadership summit about a player he was about to be kicked out of the World Cup, who was quickly identified as Reina.

“It wasn’t about the names at all,” Berhalter told reporters on Wednesday. “It was about an example of our strong team culture, and I felt if he hurt one player it was worth apologizing to the whole group, and that’s what I did.”

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, More (USA)

This connection did not extend to Rina, at least in a meaningful way. Berhalter demurred by describing that Reina was not responsive, just that when it came to a prolonged first-time sit-down with a player, the timing and environment had to be right.

“It’s about understanding the sensitivity around the issues, and understanding the right time in the right way,” Berhalter said. “I think again, for us, we’re committed to every player in that group of players, and for us, it’s about how do we maximize the engagement with them, and target it in a way that gets the most out of ‘every player’. So, for that matter, it’s just a matter of thinking a little bit more, a little bit more sensitive to the past, and I look forward to having conversations with him.”

Reclaiming Reina is critical for the United States, as is determining what role it will have. The American attack looked more dynamic in the CONCACAF Nations League, with Reyna taking on a central attacking role, rather than a winger. However, Berhalter was quick to praise the “tremendous engine” that is present when Tyler Adams, McKinney and Moses are all in midfield.

Something has to give up, and how Berhalter solves this specific tactical dilemma is one of the biggest issues. Reina’s absence is by no means the only significant one, with seven other players missing due to injury or illness. Adams is in a similar position to Reina, returning from injury, although at least last week Reina started training with Borussia Dortmund. Adams, who signed for Bournemouth last week, is a long way off.

Josh Sargent has been given the bad luck award for this window, after injuring his ankle while scoring Norwich City’s 4-0 win last weekend against Huddersfield.

There have also been changes in titles for some of the key players in the team. Timothy Weah alongside McKinney at Juventus. Folarin Balogun plays for Monaco, while Musa and Pulisic both arrived at Milan.

The change of scenery seems to have benefited Pulisic the most. He scored two goals in Milan’s first two matches. Even better, there is a joy and confidence in his game that was so often lacking during his final season at Chelsea.

“He feels valued in his environment,” Berhalter said of Pulisic. “These are two essential ingredients to perform well, to be trusted and to feel valued.”

With Balogun’s move to Monaco complete, it remains to be seen how that will play out. Monaco are currently leading the Ligue 1 table and are the league’s top scorers, so the competition will be tough.

Besides moving Reina into the middle, adding Balogun seems the most sure way to move the US attack forward. He was announced in the final of the European Nations League, where he scored against Canada. Now it is up to Berhalter to continue his fusion.

“It is our duty to work on what (Balogun) can bring us because we know he has a huge amount of talent,” Berhalter said. “I’ve already spoken to him about what he thinks are the best combinations of skills for him, and how best to engage him and activate him. (He’s) a very dynamic player who runs behind the line, and good in the penalty area, so all those things are good.” The things we know will help our group succeed.

“We are very open to working with players, building on their strengths and incorporating them into what we do.”

As always, the said absences opened up opportunities for others. Arguably the biggest beneficiary of Lionel Messi’s arrival in South Florida is Inter Miami’s Benjamin Karimachi, with a goal and four assists. But Berhalter insists he’s had his eye on the Miami native for much longer than that, first noticing him at pre-World Cup camp when the USA were training alongside the U-20 team. Karimachi holds both US and Argentine citizenship, making him another dual citizenship target for Berhalter.

“He immediately caught my eye with his tenacity and ruthlessness,” said Berhalter. “He’s a kid who was playing out of position in that camp, playing winger, sometimes striker, but he never gave up. He never gave up. He kept running. I mean, he was ridiculously managing himself. And he really showed me what he’s got.” The mentality was like that, and I was really affected by that.”

The big surprise was the call-up of Palermo left-back Christopher Lund, a former Denmark youth international who is now on a one-off transfer with FIFA to represent the USMNT. Berhalter said Lund had been on the United States’ radar for the past two years, but the World Cup came a little early. Now Berhalter believes Lund is ready to make a good impression.

“We think (Lund) can fill the void we had at left-back in terms of our depth,” Berhalter said. “You know, it’s something we’ve fought for for a while. Anthony Robinson has been the obvious starter, and he’s a great player. But no one’s really finished second, and we’re seeing what he can do and if he’ll do it.” This place can be challenged.”

It is odds like these that make this point in the World Cup cycle particularly interesting, even though there is competition. Such odds are what makes this point in the World Cup cycle particularly interesting. The likes of Joe Scully and Luca de la Torre will do everything they can to maintain their spots in the American depth chart. Up-and-coming talents such as New England Revolution’s Noel Buck and Real Salt Lake’s Diego Luna will use Kerimachi’s call-up as further motivation.

It seems that the push and pull between continuity and change will continue.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button