How the USMNT is preparing for the World Cup

Al-Rayyan, Qatar – Preparations for the World Cup squad are always complicated. In some cases, they can make or break a competition. In the year He was widely hailed as the key to their last trophy in Germany’s refuge in Brazil in 2014. In contrast, the United States men’s national team

The truth is that every competition has its own characteristics, be it the host country, the venues, the training base or the opponents. The US staff, led by USSF Administrative Director Tom King, is well aware of this fact. But the 2022 World Cup will be like no other, and not just because it will be the first to be held in the Middle East.

The November start of the competition means it falls in the middle of the European club season. That has created all kinds of obstacles and wrinkles in terms of preparation, and this is especially true for America.

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Normally, the US would have an extended training camp with about three friendly matches to prepare and adjust things. Then there was the relatively early arrival to the host country to practice. Not so this time. Players with European clubs have played until the end of this week. Most MLS players had to contend with the national team as their season lasted a month or more.

For US manager Greg Berhelter, it’s been a tough test on his players’ form and fitness levels. Every week, he would take a microscope to the players’ performances and pray that they would get through unscathed. He also held a camp specifically for MLS players to maintain their fitness. Seven of those made the final 26-man roster, though game intelligence — or lack thereof — will be an issue.

Now the roster has been named and a short presentation has been added as the team is in Qatar. The U.S. will play Wales on Monday, the second day of the tournament, giving Berhelter’s team more than a week to settle in and make their final preparations. Compare that to the extended camp and 14 days at home that Berhalter spent playing in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. But the American manager liked the idea of ​​this short runway.

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“Everybody wants him to go,” Berhalter told ESPN in an exclusive interview. “We’ve been waiting for this for a while, and with a small team, we just want to go to work. In the World Cup qualifiers, we used to make quick changes. This will have a little more leadership. And we’ll be ready to go.”

There is also the question of how much the short playoffs will affect the team’s tactical preparations. As the squad assembled for the September international window, Berhalter spoke of how he was more focused on the finer details, such as the team’s shape, when the opposition broke pressure and switched fields, rather than focusing on the fundamentals.

“What we missed was the guys were there for three and a half months,” Berhalter said. “They’ve worked with their clubs all pre-season learning different things, and our basic pressure wasn’t even right. The second set of guys were coming into camp with different backgrounds in the build-up part of the game.”

Berhelter added that he doesn’t think the six weeks between camps — at least for European troops — will be a problem in Qatar.

“They were just with us. [in September]So I think this is a very good thing,” he said of the team’s tactical preparations. Play against Wales.

There has been some discussion about why the United States did not line up for a friendly between getting players into camp and playing their first game against Wales. Berhelter said there wasn’t enough time for the friendly as some players were confirmed not to arrive until last Sunday night. The manager said the most reasonable time to play a game would be Thursday, but that leaves just three recovery days until the Wales game. There is also the risk of injury, which has plagued the US to varying degrees during the process.

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“I’m not sure about the teams playing in the game. [second] World Cup day, that makes sense,” he said.

One area that helps with short lead times is scouting. At World Cups filled with pre-tournament friendlies, the adrenaline rush was almost a scouting rush. Not so this time.

“That gives you a big lead time,” Berhalter said. “The work is basically done by scouts. I think that’s really important.”

Much has been made of Qatar’s climate. The reason why the race was postponed was the intense summer heat. Temperatures should be in the 70s when the U.S. Games begin at 10 a.m. local time. At the time of day, adjusting players’ bodies to play becomes a more difficult matter.

“We have to change these people’s schedules, and we have a plan for that,” Berhalter said. “We’ve been talking to experts in that field and how to do it. We’re going to have a different awakening day throughout the tournament, and this is part of it.”

The US has no excuses for base camp and training facilities. The United States Soccer Federation has visited Qatar nine times, scouting every location, before settling on the five-star Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel on Doha’s shores in the man-made The Pearl Qatar. In October 2019, he submitted his application within seconds of the admission opening and USSF left nothing to chance. The hotel has a private beach and 10 restaurants.

“The hotel, as soon as we walk in the doors, all the staff are waving flags, our rooms are great,” said midfielder Kellyn Acosta. “Our chefs have done an exceptional job. We have the players’ lounge, we have everything we need. It’s been great. We have TVs, ping pong tables, PS5s, putting greens, the whole nine yards, pretty much everything.”

Privacy has also been reflected in the US team’s choice of training facility, with the US set to use Qatari club Al Garafa’s facility. The site has the usual facilities such as locker rooms, coaches office and cafeteria.

“We didn’t want to share a training ground with anyone else. [team]”There will be a lot of teams sharing the practice field,” Berhelter said. We think the stadium space we have is good for independent trainings, filming.

Not all of the team’s preparations are football-centric. The run-up to the pageant drew attention to labor and human rights by including the LGBTQIA+ community in the celebrations, amid dire working conditions in the country. To this end, the USSF has been educating its players on the issue as well as participating in on-ground programs. These include inviting staff to their own training sessions where they receive training from American players and staff at the training ground. The USSF plans to display rainbow flags and messages of solidarity at its pre-night parties in Qatar.

The USSF has worked extensively with the US Embassy in Qatar, the High Commission, FIFA, the American Chamber of Commerce and various Qatari government agencies to ensure that everyone is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all US citizens to attend. World Cup. The USSF is also supporting the creation of a compensation fund proposed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UEFA Working Group to provide migrant workers and their families with such a safety net for unpaid wages, injuries or other damages.

“We were planning. [the players] On this for about a year and a half now,” Berhalter said. “We had presentations from people who lived there. We have a weekly newsletter that we send out about that. So I think it’s very important for them to be informed about it, and that’s why we’ve been preparing it.

For America, the hope is that all these events will pay off in a race to remember.

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