On Wednesday, U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter named a 26-player roster for USA-Mexico, presented by AT&T, on Sept 6 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. and USA-Uruguay on Sept. 10 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Ussoccer.com sat down with the USMNT head coach for insight on his selections for the last camp prior to beginning play in the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League.
ussoccer.com: Give us your overall thoughts on the roster and the factors that had you land on this group of players.
GB: “The starting point is we’re able to maintain a core group of main players from the Gold Cup and continue progressing with that group, and then the next thing is bringing some new players into the fold that we feel have the potential to make an impact with this team.
“Every time you have call ups, you’re always going to have guys that you’d like to bring in but aren’t able to for one reason or another. That’s just part of it. That’s one thing I’ve learned as the National Team head coach, those are things you have to deal with and it’s outside of your control. Like I said, it’s a number of players from the Gold Cup, and also a good opportunity to reward players who have been playing well in their leagues.”
ussoccer.com: With a number of players in the pool who are also eligible for the 2020 Summer Olympics, how are you working with U-23 MNT head coach Jason Kreis to decide the players that are going to each camp?
GB: “It’s a collaborative process. As we’re making these rosters, we’re continuously talking to each other and figuring out where we’re going to put certain players and what the priorities are. When we’re looking at both of these camps, we want to put players in a position to keep progressing their careers and keep developing.
“When we feel one player needs a little more push, maybe he’ll join the full National Team. If we feel he needs more confidence for his age, maybe we’ll keep him for the U-23 group. It is a thoughtful process and we’re completely behind Jason in this quest to qualify for the Olympics.”
ussoccer.com: With Christian Pulisic listed as a forward for this camp, is there a better chance we’ll see him further up the field?
GB: “I think Christian has a unique skill set. He’s a great attacking player and we want to put him in position to affect the game. We’re open to where we’re using him. We’ve used him centrally and on the wing before. All those things keep adding up to the fact that we want him affecting the game in a positive way.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve recalled two National Team veterans in goalkeeper Brad Guzan and midfielder Alfredo Morales. Could you speak about what they’ve done to return to the team?
GB: “Brad is a guy that I have a ton of respect for – respect for his career, but more importantly, respect for what type of guy he is. He’s a guy that we tried to get involved in January Camp and Atlanta had some Champions League games that took precedent there, but we’re excited to bring him back. I’ve said all along that it’s important for us to maintain the heritage of the U.S. Men’s National Team by having experienced players that have been through World Cup Qualifying or World Cups.
“Alfredo is a case where he’s done such a good job with Fortuna Düsseldorf, not only through the first two Bundesliga games, but we’ve seen reports from preseason where he’s been an outstanding player. It’s nice to give a guy a reward like that – an opportunity again because of how he’s performing at his club.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve named three USMNT first timers in Ajax defender Sergiño Dest, FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal and Atlanta United FC defender Miles Robinson. Why was this the right time to bring them into the fold?
GB: “In terms of Sergiño and Paxton, those were two players that were heavily involved in the U-20 World Cup. It’s nice to bring players through our system, see how they’ve done in major competition and then get a good look with the full national team. I think they’re both ready. They’ve both been getting first team minutes and are ready for this next challenge.”
“Miles is a guy who we’ve been really impressed with watching league play. He’s been dynamic in the back, is a real physical presence and has been working on breaking lines with his passing. When you evaluate it and look where Atlanta has gone as a team, he’s a big part of why Atlanta has turned things around and are now in first place in the Eastern Conference.”
ussoccer.com: These are the team’s last two matches before going into the inaugural Concacaf Nations League. What is your message to the group going in?
GB: “These are two good games. Playing against Mexico is always a special game and doing it in New York is going to be a fantastic atmosphere. It’s something we’re looking forward to. For us, it’s an easy message because all we’re looking for is progress from the last game, which was also against Mexico.
“When you talk about Uruguay, it is a team with huge experience, great veteran players, a challenging, physical and veteran group. For us, it’s going to be about how are we going to compete against this team? What’s the mindset of the players? Can we perform at a high level to give Uruguay problems? That’s what we’re looking for and asking of the players.”