In an alternative universe without corruption, the 2022 World Cup kicked off on Thursday in front of 90,000 party-goers in Los Angeles. American football officials dreamed of this, however, and this is the fourth most popular sporting event on the planet in the second week of June.
But in a Qatar-disrupted universe, the U.S. men’s team entered a 20,000-seat stadium on Friday night. He won 170th place on a small Caribbean island in the world in a game not shown on English cable television. His two best players, given the night, raised their feet and relaxed.
Thus, Austin (Texas) sent the USMNT to a World Cup that feels like a eon. This was the team’s last game on American soil before the world show, but it ended without a drama or post-game ceremony, before midnight ET a little eye on the sports world looking at the NBA. The U.S. will travel to El Salvador this weekend to take a break for the summer holidays. It will meet again in Europe in September, shortly. And then, in November, 24 hours after the players play against their clubs, they will meet in Doha with seven days to go before the World Cup.
So this is a three-week, four-week city tour in May and June, the USMNT is closest to the pre-World Cup training camp. Cincinnatin Media Day was watered down, and a big promotional shoot in Austin. There were team relationships (video games and birthday dinners and golf) and the place on the World Cup list was at stake.
However, several players were missing: some injured, others at rest. There was no screening of World Cup opponents. And “we didn’t have a lot of training days,” admitted coach Gregg Berhalter. “We’re learning the most from these guys in matches” – and yet two of the four matches are against very lower opponents who won’t come close to repeating the challenges that lie ahead in Qatar.
It all coincides with the strangest and most contradictory World Cup submission the USMNT has ever had.
Unannounced pre-World Cup camp
The reason for all the odds is that in 2010, a small peninsular emirate with a triple-digit summer temperature won the right to host this World Cup. Qatar initially promised space-age cooling technology that would ward off deadly heat and allow the tournament to be held in the regular June-July window. But in 2015, FIFA, which even labeled Qatar a “high-risk” before the U.S. bid, took its banner event to the winter.
Thus, he confused the 2022 football universe.
During the twentieth century, sport developed a rhythm. The players developed four-year habits. They would end their European club seasons in mid-May, then reunite with their national teams and prepare for the biggest matches of their lives. They would train in solitude, punching opponents ’tactics and pointing out cases where they are on the lists or in the starting 11. He would make a bunch of patriotic fans later for the World Cup. The cameras would follow every step.
But here in Cincinnati, on the last Sunday in May, the media was invited to a training session, there was no camera, and only one journalist. When USMNT players returned to the downtown hotel the next day, there were only two autograph applicants. Two days later, in a stadium with a capacity of 26,000, thousands of seats were vacated for a friendly against Morocco.
It didn’t feel like a typical submission series, with players and coaches agreeing. “I don’t think we’re there yet in terms of congestion,” Berhalter said that week. “I think training as a team is important to us, but I don’t think the world is saying ‘the World Cup is just around the corner.'”
Qatar World Cup oddities
Berhatler, however, had another set of concerns. He hopes the horror will eventually “go up”. Whether or not to do so, he will have to choose a World Cup national team in the five months leading up to the decision with a one-week and first-hand test with two matches. The United States will play El Salvador on Tuesday. He will play two friendlies in Europe in September. And that will be it.
Implementation of the team play plan is likely to begin in September, but will end abruptly. MLS players will meet at a state mini-camp in early November, but there may be only six or seven on the final list. The rest of the USMNT, with the widest possible view of the tunnel, will fight for European clubs until eight days before the start of the World Cup.
So Berhalter said the majority of the assessment will be done there.
As an obsessive footballer with details, Berhalter would like a lively and uninterrupted training block. He planned to gather his entire team in Dubai before Qatar, he said, until the US drew a match on the opening day of the World Cup, which made the schedule too tight. He was able to use these weeks of June, but his first team played 23 consecutive games against rivals in North and Central America; and CONCACAF, the regional football government, fired two more this month; The USMNT had to enter a third and fourth match against opponents of the caliber of the World Cup.
“We’ll never have enough time on the field, and that’s a shame,” Berhalter said in April. “But that’s it.”
“We need to be really effective in these weeks of June,” he continued. But many players arrived exhausted physically and mentally after the nine-month club season worsened by World Cup qualifiers worsening. The coach understood the need to relieve stress. “We need to keep in mind how we’re pushing and how we’re occupying their time,” Berhalter said. Some, especially Ricardo Pepi, left him on this June list altogether.
For many of them, a critical part of World Cup preparation will be outside of the upcoming European season. “It’s really important,” Tyler Adams said earlier this spring, “that you are able to re-enter, recover your body, your mind, have a good mental rest, and get started. [2022-23] good season. ‘
It’s also important for Adams and a regular number of regulars at the USMNT to really get on the field.
Adams, Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen, Antonee Robinson, Sergiño Dest, Yunus Musah and Pepi were not regulars at their clubs as the 2021-22 season dropped. Matt Turner will join Arsenal as a backup. Brenden Aaronson has moved to Leeds and will have to fight for his place. Weston McKennie, Chris Richards, Gio Reyna and others have been injured and have no guaranteed place when they return to their respective teams, wherever they return.
In the set of US players, and even in the starting 11, the future of the club is uncertain. This uncertainty is an unavoidable feature of professional football, but it is at an unusually high rate in this USMNT, and is exacerbated by a mid-season World Cup. Some players, like Adams, don’t be playing regularly for the national team, Berhalter said, is part of the transfer market calculation.
“Things are changing fast in football,” Berhalter said this spring. The main indicator of the shape of the World Cup will be the shape of the clubs. “Boys can get in good shape, and all of a sudden they make their case [on the roster]”.
Berhalter will visit some of them during the fall, but will spend his first World Cup as a head coach at home in north Chicago. It will analyze their games and the data from those games through the screens. He will have 10 more days with the list of 23 or 26 players before he joins FIFA on November 14 – a week before he plays against USMNT Wales.
“When we get to Qatar, it’s basically preparing for a game, and that’s where you go,” Berhalter said.
“It’s less than ideal preparation, in terms of the time we’ll have,” he admitted after qualifying this morning. “But all teams will do the same. So we will be able to deal with it, just like everyone else. ”