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Cristian Roldan, USMNT players praise new coach Gregg Berhalter after 1st week of January camp

There’s still 11 days until the U.S. Men’s National Team takes the field for the first time under new head coach Gregg Berhalter, but the results in training are already promising at the annual January camp. 

The tactical principles instituted by Berhalter, and his staff that was formally announced on Wednesday, have been praised by the majority of players in camp. 

“I think the first week has been fantastic in terms of our tactics and the energy the guys have brought into the camp, the willingness to learn a new system, to buy in to something that some of us have never seen before,” Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “Systematically, it’s been fantastic, and hopefully we can continue in this fashion. The progression from Day 1 has been great and hopefully it’s a start to a really good cycle.” 

The former Columbus Crew manager is implementing his system detail by detail, which simplifies certain parts of the game for the players in camp.

“He simplifies the game,” Roldan said of Berhalter. “We worked on one little piece for a couple hours and then you see it the next day, you see it in film, you see it in the game. He systematically does that on purpose so he can simplify the game for us, make it easy and make sure we know our jobs ahead of time. It’s been great and I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot more information in the next couple weeks.” 

Colorado Rapids right back Keegan Rosenberry said Berhalter’s approach has been “awesome.”

“It’s been really fun for me learning his coaching style and what he wants from his staff and players on a daily basis,” Rosenberry said. “Just from a preparation standpoint, it’s exciting. I think we’re really looking forward to these tests at the end of the month with these games and seeing how these tactics translate because at this point we’re just training against each other.” 

Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who played for Berhalter over the last two seasons in Major League Soccer, added more insight into how the new USMNT head coach operates on a day-to-day basis. 

“He breaks it down simply,” Steffen said. “It’s about scoring goals and keeping the ball. That’s how he broke it down and that’s what his principles are about, and it’s fairly easy to understand. All you have to do is focus and make sure that the execution is there.” 

Not only has Berhalter begun to implement his on-field approach, he’s started to build a culture within the group as it trains at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. 

“I just think it’s team first,” Rosenberry said. “Little things like no cellphones at meals and just wanting guys to interact with each other. I think that builds a team chemistry and camaraderie that translates to the field as well. Everybody wants to work together because they spend so much time together around the camps and at meals and workouts. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know the guys.” 

Said Steffen: “It’s been a lot of fun. There’s a lot of banter, and we’re here for a while, . . . so we’re getting a good sense of camaraderie.” 

With so much team building going on behind the scenes, the players are hopeful that can translate to the field for the Jan. 27 friendly against Panama in Glendale, Ariz., and the Feb. 2 clash with Costa Rica in San Jose. 

“Within the games, it’ll help us because we’re willing to do whatever it takes to help the guy next to you,” Roldan said. 

Between now and the clash with Panama, the USMNT will learn more about each other and what Berhalter wants to do on the field, but the message within the camp has remained the same since it opened a week ago.

“These games coming up, these practices here are times where we can do so and for the 28 guys that are here, it’s time to do so to really step up because this is your real time to shine,” Roldan said. 

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