Q&A: Gregg Berhalter Discusses December Camp Roster
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter addressed the media following Monday’s training session in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. where the team is preparing for its end-of-year friendly
against El Salvador on Wednesday, December 9 at Inter Miami CF Stadium.
Here’s a selection of his responses from Monday:
On Frankie Amaya testing positive for COVID-19 upon arrival into camp and what he did to deserve a USMNT call-up:
Gregg Berhalter: “This morning we got the unfortunate news that Frankie Amaya tested positive for COVID, and unfortunately he's no longer taking part in the camp. This is one of these really unfortunate things that a player gets his first National Team call-up and then finds out he's not able to participate. So, our heart goes out to him and his family, and we wish them all well. It's one of these things that the whole world is going through right now. And this is just an up-close example in our lives of one of the downfalls and disadvantages of COVID. We wish him a speedy recovery and our heart goes out to him. I know all the players are thinking about it.”
“What I'd say about Frankie is it wasn't a case of just trying to get a young player an opportunity. It was a case of watching him throughout the whole year and seeing how he was very good in tight spaces. he's very good with his body shape for a slight player, for a small player, he competes in every game. He really looks to tackle, very aggressive defending. So for us, how do we fit a guy who's very secure on the ball and who can win tackles into what we do? For us, it was a really interesting opportunity to look at him. He's eligible for a number of our age groups and it'd be interesting to get him in as quickly as possible and start working with him.”
On the dual national players and the factors that are going on in the conversations of trying to persuade them to commit to the U.S. guys long-term?
GB: “When you look at Andrés Perea, who just got called in and has spent time with the Colombia [youth] National Team, you get Efrain Alvarez, he played for the Mexican [youth] National Team. We know that Daryl Dike is able to play for Nigeria. Ayo Akinola, Canada is interested in, so is Nigeria as well. There's Julian Araujo, who's been tied to Mexico, David Ochoa, who's been contacted by Mexico. Frankie Amaya was able to play for another country. So the point is that it's prominent in today's day and age to have players with multiple passports. It's not an uncommon thing and it's something that we deal with.
“To answer your specific part of the question is guys that have already participated for other countries and what I'd say is they're still young players. They still have the world in front of them and all we want to do is bring them into our environment and show them what our environment's about. Then it's going to be up to them to make a decision in the end where they end up committing to. We'll be fine with whatever decision they make, but I think it's important that players are able to see what we do and how we work.
“In times like this, I think it's smart of a player to see what's out there and to see what's available. We're talking about really young players and both of them have a history with the United States, but they have cultural ties to other countries. To me, this isn't an unusual process and all we're looking to do is to create a good environment for players that they want to play in.”
On the Inter Miami facilities and his impressions:
GB: “I was blown away by this facility, absolutely blown away by the training ground, by the stadium... to think that's a temporary stadium, I can't believe it. It's unbelievable. The design, the branding, the coloring, the architecture, everything is fantastic. It's a really great place to train. I can envision this being a spot where we come before we have to bounce off to the Caribbean or Central America at times, so really happy with that.”
On the return of veterans Paul Arriola and Kellyn Acosta to National Team camp:
GB: “Paul has been a fixture in this team since we took over. It was unfortunate that he had this injury, and with this injury we were thinking he was going to miss the first six games of World Cup qualifying. And now with everything that's happened in the world, it's fortunate that he didn't. Now we want to get him back into the fold as soon as possible.”
‘Kellyn is an example of a guy who was in the initial January Camp that we had and then took a while to get back into it. You give him credit for all the hard work he's put in and the strong season that he had at Colorado to earn himself another chance, another opportunity to prove himself at the National Team level.”
On the competition at center back, and what he’s seen in the development of players like Mark McKenzie and Walker Zimmerman in how they really took it to another level this year?
GB: “I agree, I think the center back position is pretty open and we wanted diversity in the pool in this camp. We have two experienced guys in Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long, then you have inexperience with Mark McKenzie, who had a fantastic season, and Mauricio Pineda, who had a very solid season and is Olympic-eligible as well. For us, it’s really looking to see who’s going to take advantage of this opportunity, who can have a good performance in this camp and really try to stake their claim to be the starter on the team.”