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How the USMNT is preparing for the World Cup

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AL-RAYYAN, Qatar — Preparing a team for the World Cup is always complicated. In some cases, it can make the difference between winning or losing a tournament. The German retreat in Brazil in 2014 was widely praised as being key to the final title. Conversely, the US Men’s National Team’s 1998 decision to retreat to a secluded chalet is often cited as one of several factors that contributed to the team’s miserable time in France. It has been issued.

In reality, every tournament has its own characteristics: host country, venue, training base, opponents, etc. US staff, led by USSF Director Tom King, are well aware of this truth. But the 2022 World Cup will be unique, and not just because it will be held in the Middle East for the first time.

The tournament starting in November means it falls in the middle of the European club season.It has created all sorts of obstacles and wrinkles in terms of preparation, and it is especially true in the United States

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga and more (US)

Typically, the United States holds lengthy training camps with about three friendly matches for preparation and fine-tuning. After that, I arrived relatively early in my host country to acclimate. Not this time. Players belonging to European clubs were playing until last weekend. Most MLS players on the national team have had to contend with the fact that the season is over a month away.

It was a tricky run-up for US manager Greg Verhalter in terms of form and fitness for his players. Every week he held a microscope to watch his players perform and hope they made it through unscathed. He also held special camps to keep MLS players fit, and in the end, he had seven of his 26-man roster on, but the sharpness (or lack thereof) of the game was not. will be a problem.

A short preparation period is complicated now that the roster is named and the team is in Qatar. The United States will face Wales on Monday, his second day of the tournament, so Burhalter’s team will take him just over a week to settle down and make final preparations. Compare the extended camp and his 14-day stay in the country when Burhalter played at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. But US managers love the idea of ​​this short runway.

“Everyone would want to do it,” Burhalter told ESPN in an exclusive interview. In World Cup Qualifiers we were used to quick turnarounds, this one has a little more lead-in, and we are ready to go.”

There is the question of how much a short run-up affects a team’s tactical readiness. When the group convened for the international window in September, Verhalter said that instead of focusing on the basics, the focus was on the finer details, such as the team’s shape when opponents broke pressure and switched fields. I realized that I was being held back too much.

“What we missed was that they were three and a half months apart,” says Berhalter. “They had just done a whole pre-season where they were learning different things at the club and the basic pressure wasn’t right. Participating in the camp…”

Verhalter added that he did not think the six weeks between camps would be a problem in Qatar, at least for the European delegation.

“They were with us [in September], so I think it’s really good,” he said of the team’s tactical preparation. “

There has been some debate as to why the US camped players and didn’t play a friendly while playing the first match against Wales. The coach said the most sensible time to play the game would be Thursday, but he could not wait until the Welsh game. He’ll only have three more days to recover.

“I just don’t know which team is playing. [second] On World Cup day, it makes sense,” he said.

One area where short lead times are useful is scouting. Past World Cups, which were jam-packed with pre-tournament friendlys, have almost been an adrenaline rush for scouts. Not this time.

“This gives us longer lead times,” says Berhalter. “The job is basically reconnaissance. I think that’s actually beneficial.”

Much has been said about Qatar’s weather. Due to the intense summer heat, the competition was moved to the fall. The US game kicks off at 10pm local time, so temperatures should be in the 70s. Adapting a player’s body to play at that time of day becomes a trickier problem.

“We have to reschedule them and we have a plan for that,” Berhalter said. I’m going to have another wake up day, and that’s just part of it.”

There is no excuse for the United States when it comes to base camps and training facilities. USA Soccer has visited Qatar nine times and scouted all available locations. Then, on the man-made island of Zapal off the coast of Doha, he made his home at the luxurious five-star Marsa Maraz Her Kempinski Hotel in Qatar. base. It was no coincidence, as the USSF submitted the application within seconds of the portal opening in October 2019. The hotel has a private beach and his 10 restaurants.

“When I walked into the hotel door, all the staff were waving their flags. The rooms are great,” said midfielder Kerrin Acosta. “Our chef has done a great job. We have a lounge for the players, we have everything we need. It’s great. TV, ping pong table, PS5, putting. He’s on the green, about 9 yards. ”

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LAFC’s Kerrin Acosta explains how the USMNT looks to hold off Gareth Bale and Wales in Qatar’s World Cup.

Privacy was also a consideration in the selection of the US team’s training base, with the US ready to use the facilities of Qatar Club Al-Gharafa. The site has the usual facilities such as locker rooms, coach’s office and cafeteria.

“I didn’t want to share the training ground with other people. [team]”There will be a lot of teams that will have to share a training ground. I think the stadium location we have is good for isolated training and filming.”

Not all of the team’s preparation is focused on football. Heading into the tournament, we saw a focus on workers and human rights. Working conditions in this country were sometimes harsh, and the celebration included his LGBTQIA+ community. To that end, the USSF has been educating athletes on the issue as well as working on field programs. These include inviting workers to their own training sessions where they receive coaching from U.S. players and staff at training sites. The USSF plans to display Rainbow his flag and a message of inclusion at an eve party in Qatar.

The USSF works extensively with the U.S. Embassy in Qatar, the Supreme Committee, FIFA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and various Qatari government agencies to create a safe and welcoming environment for all U.S. citizens who plan to attend. We are making sure that everyone is committed to providing. World Cup. The USSF also created a compensation fund proposed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UEFA Working Group to provide a safety net against unpaid wages, injuries, and other harm to migrant workers and their families in need. is supporting

“We have been preparing [the players] “We’ve been talking about it for a year and a half,” Berhalter said. “We’ve had presentations from people who lived there. We believe it is very important to provide information to the

For the United States, all of this preparation is expected to pay off with a memorable performance in the competition.

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