Establishing team culture a primary target for Berhalter's first USMNT camp

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Sarah Stier
The new U.S. head coach says his first camp will be about team building as his side prepares for a busy 2019 schedule.

U.S. national team head coach Gregg Berhalter is looking to develop a culture within the team in his first camp in charge.   

The former Columbus Crew boss was named as the full-time coach for the USMNT in early December, replacing interim coach Dave Sarachan.   

Sarachan spent over a year in charge after the USA’s failed bid at a 2018 World Cup spot, and Berhalter has now been tasked with rebuilding the program ahead of the next qualifying cycle.   

The USMNT will return to competitive action in 2019 for the first time since falling to Trinidad and Tobago in September of 2017 as they prepare for the Gold Cup in the summer, with the Concacaf Nations League to follow soon after.   

Berhalter, who called in 28 players for his first camp, all from Major League Soccer, is looking to use the winter camp to build a solid foundation for the team heading into a busy year.   

“In the first meeting with our players [Sunday] night, we very clearly laid out the objectives of this training camp: team building, team culture, style of play and competing,” he told reporters after Monday’s session.   

The January camp has long been a proving ground of sorts for USMNT hopefuls, but Berhalter has taken some steps to help with the team-building process. Having moved the camp to Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, California, Berhalter has the players staying in dorms for the first three weeks and hopes it will help the players bond.    

“The important thing is just explaining the purpose,” Berhalter said. “It’s not like we don’t have a reason behind why we’re doing this. We mixed up the roommates on purpose. The guys are getting to know other people. Some of them are bunking four in a room and that’s all part of it.  

“I think the most important thing we can focus on right now is building the group cohesion and our style of play. There’s no better place to do it than here.”  

The coach was also impressed with the early returns from camp, saying his players were better than expected during their first training sessions.   

“Thinking about how the guys have had extended periods off, I was really impressed,” he said of his first session in charge. “Impressed with the execution, because I wasn’t expecting that much based on the fact they were off for a while. But the mindset was good, the effort was excellent. But also, I think the execution was pretty good.”  

Berhalter’s first game in charge will take place at the end of the month, with the USA hosting Panama in Glendale, Arizona on January 27 before taking on Costa Rica in San Jose, California on February 2. 

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