Condensed Preparation Time for All Nations
Given that the host country, Qatar, has blistering hot summer temperatures, FIFA elected to have the World Cup take place in November and December. While this decision was made with player safety in mind, it nonetheless presents unique challenges to players and coaches around the world that are in the middle of club seasons.
Instead of the usual month-long lead-up that teams have had in the past to prepare for the tournament, this year they only have one week. This means that coach Gregg Berhalter will host training camp, try to unite the team into a cohesive unit, and make the final roster selections in record time.
Addressing the challenges of making final preparations for the World Cup, while many players continue club play, Berhalter says he will be in contact with the clubs so he knows the status of his players.
Berhalter explained, “understanding what their training load is, sometimes supplementing their training load if they’re not playing games and to really understand where the player is from a fitness standpoint.”
Final Friendly Matches Before the Games Really Matter
The Stars and Stripes take on Japan in an international friendly match on September 23 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Just a few days later, the U.S. will play Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain on September 27, then take a break before meeting in Qatar one week before the World Cup.
In the two September friendlies, Coach Berhalter will take a look at players on the cusp of making the final roster and experiment with different lineup combinations. Since the USMNT released its roster for these matches just a week ago, several players have had to withdraw due to injuries. Center backs Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards, along with midfielder Yunus Musah, join goalkeeper Zack Steffen, midfielder Cristian Roldan, and striker Timothy Weah that were also left off the roster with various ailments.
These omissions present opportunities for recently called-up midfielder Johnny Cardoso, and defenders Mark McKenzie and Erik Palmer-Brown to make the statement that they should make the final 26-man roster for Qatar.
What Will it Take for the U.S. to Have a Successful World Cup?
The USMNT will look to lean on the team’s leaders, both veterans, and youngsters alike, and the camaraderie they have built since Gregg Berhalter became head coach shortly after the team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Good results against Japan and Saudi Arabia will go a long way in spreading optimism among the team and their fans.
Chelsea FC attacking midfielder, Christian Pulisic, is arguably the best player on the squad, and much of the potential success of the U.S. arguably rests on his performance. Despite not logging full-time minutes in the Premier League this season, Pulisic is ready to rise up to the challenge and prove to the world he is one of the best, no matter the pressure. In addition to Pulisic, the team will hope to capitalize on the recent leaps in development by Jesús Ferreira and the outstanding play of Ricardo Pepi.
The U.S. was drawn into Group B and will open its World Cup play on November 21 versus Wales. For fans that have been waiting 8 years to see the U.S. on the world’s biggest stage, late November can’t come soon enough. The USMNT knows the pressure is on, as anything less than advancing to the knockout stage will be considered a disappointment for the number 14 ranked team in the world.