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USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter: ‘Great feeling’ opening camp with full player pool

U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter said it feels great to be working with the full pool of American players ahead of the Gold Cup. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. — New U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter is trying to get a large group of players on the same page in a short period of time.

The USMNT takes on Ecuador on Thursday in a friendly at Orlando City Stadium. This camp is Berhalter’s first opportunity to work with some talented players who compete for clubs outside of MLS. The team had its first training session of March camp Monday at Omni ChampionsGate. 

“Thankfully, we’ve been able to reach the guys outside of camp,” Berhalter said. “We’ve met with all the players a number of times. So, they’re here for the first time together, but there’s a familiarity in that we’ve already seen them and were talking to them.”

While a smile, Berhalter said he’s had a lot of contact with the players who are playing abroad. He said it’s a “great feeling” to see his full player pool in camp and that now he’s trying to “set the stage” for the 2019 Gold Cup.

“They’re probably sick of me by now,” Berhalter said. “Just thinking about our limited time, specifically in this camp with a small runway until the first game, you know, trying to get them up to speed. I realize that video and conversations and one thing is one thing and actually doing it is another. We’re trying to get ahead of the game a little bit.”

As of Monday, 21 of the 24 players called into camp have reported. Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, Tim Ream and Michael Bradley were the only ones missing from Monday’s training session.

“I think the philosophy will remain consistent,” Berhalter said. “What we’re trying to do with the ball, how we want to disorganize the opponent, using the ball to create goal-scoring opportunities, that’s going to be who we are. How we set up and our structure may change based on personnel.

Berhalter said he’s spoken to more than 40 players and that his player pool is based on performance, not locking himself into a specific number regarding the amount of players he’s keeping an eye on for the national team. 

“I’m a firm believer in taking the strengths of the players and making the most out of them. What you saw last camp may not be exactly what you see this camp based on who we have in camp and based on the strengths of our players.”

Berhalter’s already spoken about how he plans to use some of his stars. For instance, he mentioned wanting to use Christian Pulisic as a No. 10, slanted to the left. On Monday, he added typical midfielder Tyler Adams will be a right back in this camp. He said that means typical right back DeAndre Yedlin will be further up the pitch in a wing position.

After the friendly against Ecuador, the USMNT travels to Houston to play Chile.

“We’ll probably see some changes,” he said about consistency in his lineup for the two matches. “I think we will, but there’s also a side where want to give guys game time and want to evaluate players. But we’ll see. We’ll see. I think we’ll probably make some changes.”

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