Berhalter Breaks Down USMNT 2022 World Cup Roster Selections

Berhalter Breaks Down USMNT

NEW YORK – With the USMNT unveiling its official roster selections for the 2022 FIFA World Cup just last night, head coach Gregg Berhalter sat down with the media to discuss his decisions on the 26 names heading to Qatar.

Berhalter Breaks Down USMNT Roster Selections

Steffen Misses Out

One of the biggest surprises on the day was Berhalter’s omission of goalkeeper Zack Steffen who started 6 of a possible 14 World Cup Qualifiers for the USMNT including a 2-0 shutout of Mexico at TQL Stadium and later a 0-0 draw in Mexico City.

For Berhalter, this decision was a difficult one but ultimately made with the knowledge that the three keepers he has selected are players that provide a level of stability to the roster.

“[Zack and I] go way back and Zack’s been there for me a bunch of times, to tell him he’s not going to be a part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking,” Berhalter said. 

“I think it’s more about who we do have and the comfort level with the guys that are on the roster, we felt really comfortable with Matt [Turner], Ethan [Horvath], and Sean [Johnson] and that’s the decision we decided to go with,” he later added.

Ream and Wright’s “Suprise” Inclusions

Furthermore, while some projected him as a potential call-in with this U.S. group, others were confused by the inclusion of the 35-year-old Fulham captain Tim Ream who hasn’t been on the field for the USMNT since Day 1 of Qualifying.

When asked about the decision, Berhalter put his rationale for selecting Ream very simply.

“Have you watched any Fulham games lately,” Berhalter asked. “Then you know why we brought him in.”

To elaborate, Berhalter talked about Ream’s addition despite not appearing in as many World Cup Qualifying matches as others named on the roster.

“If a guy doesn’t get into a camp, it doesn’t mean he’s never going to be in a camp again it’s about what he’s doing on the field, and in Tim’s case he was in the Premier League three years ago and he struggled,” Berhalter said. “He went to the [EFL] Championship and started performing better and got promoted. Now he’s in the Premier League and he’s a top performer for his team and it’s really hard to ignore stuff like that.”

Following the discussion on Ream, Berhalter was asked about the introduction of Haji Wright who’s caught fire for Antalyaspor in the Turkish Süper Lig sitting second in the golden boot race with nine goals. 

However, this will be just Wright’s second call-up with the national team having never seen the field during Qualifying and only finding playing time in the June friendlies with Morocco and Uruguay.

Specifically for Berhalter and his staff, the decision to bring Wright was a question of Wright vs Jordan Pefork who has three goals and three assists with Union Berlin this Bundesliga season.

“When we were looking at this as coaches we were evaluating Haji [Wright] versus Jordan Pefork and that’s what it came down to,” Berhalter said. “In this particular case, we felt like Haji [Wright] is in great goalscoring form, they’re both physical strikers, but Haji has the pace, he’s got the ability to go one-on-one and he’s got good finishing with his head, and both feet.” 

To lodge a comparison of Wright with fans and media, Berhalter also mentioned the quality that the Turkish Süper Lig presents and how some of the world’s top players aren’t even finding the success Wright has had since his arrival in Antalya.

“[Wright’s] performing really well in the Turkish League, let’s not forget that [Michy Batshuayi] the starting striker for Belgium plays in the Turkish League and has five goals and [Wright] has nine goals,” Berhalter said. “This is not an easy league to score goals in and [Wright’s] doing a good job.”

Controversy Among the Forwards Group

In further debate on the grouping of forwards selected – which has sparked controversy among fans and media due to several strikers in the USMNT player pool recently finding form at the club level – Berhalter addressed his decision to call both Jesús Ferreira and Josh Sargent.

“Jesús [Ferreira] is a guy we that we see has a very good overall understand of our game model and has the ability to bring other players into the game as well, he’s clever with his movement in and around the penalty box and a really good ability to press the opponent,” Berhalter said. “Josh [Sargent],  he does a lot of things well and he’s also competing against these guys from England and Wales every single week, who will have familiarity with the opponent which we think is valuable.”

Injuries Impact Arriola’s Chances

One of those names to controversially miss the roster was that of Paul Arriola who has been a piece of the USMNT Starting XI or bench for 9 out of the 14 qualifiers despite battling injuries before the very first camp in September 2021.

According to Berhalter, opting to leave the FC Dallas winger home came purely down to poor timing and the health of those called up ahead of him.

“For one reason or another we haven’t had our wingers fit and available and now as we lead up to the World Cup every one of those players is fit and available and it just made that [Arriola] was the odd man out,” Berhalter said. “Jordan [Morris] over these last four years had two ACL’s [injured], Tim Weah’s had some extensive injury time, Gio Reyna’s had extensive injury time, Christian [Pulisic] has been injured for a while, and now everybody’s back.”

While it’s seemingly been a slew of tough decisions and phone calls for Berhalter over the past few days, the head coach frequently preached confidence in his choices and the importance of chemistry within his team heading into Qatar in the hopes of a nation getting behind this squad.

“These are the decisions that we made as a staff and like I’ve said, we move forward and now it’s all about who do we have in camp and how are we going to be successful,” Berhalter said.

“We were thoughtful about [chemistry] and put a lot of time and effort into who are our team guys and how this team is going to be cohesive and remain cohesive throughout the tournament,” he would later add.

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