A year ago to the day, Gregg Berhalter roamed the sidelines as US men's national team head coach for the first time. It was a convincing 3-0 win over Panama, kicking off the program's new era in style.
The calendar year has brought the requisite fluctuations that come with a 365-day sample size. The squad played their first competitive matches under Berhalter in the summer, culminating in a hard-fought loss in the Gold Cup final to Mexico. The side also advanced to the inaugural Nations League final championships, though enduring a historic loss to Canada along the way.
“Looking back," Berhalter told reports on a conference call Monday, "it seems like more than a year. But the team is in a good spot right now.”
A number of new players came through the system to make their debuts, headlined by a handful of standouts at the U-20 World Cup like rising stars Sergiño Dest and Paxton Pomykal.
"One thing for sure is we have a very good understanding of the player pool," Berhalter said. "Understanding the group, we’ve looked at a lot of players over the last year, seeing a lot of them in camp. It’s been a great process. We feel like the group has made strides and is more mature. When we integrate young players into it, it’s a seamless transition because the culture of the team is strong.”
Berhalter also points to a strong culture around the program for being able to bring more youth through the squad.
Part of that environment comes from leaders in the locker room that the coaching staff leans on by way of a leadership council, changing from camp to camp. This January sees a number of USMNT regulars under Berhalter in the council, including 21-year-old Reggie Cannon.
“Like every camp, we have a leadership council, a group that comes together to help make decisions and help communicate with the coaching staff," Berhalter explained. "In this particular camp, we have Walker Zimmerman, Cristian Roldan, Aaron Long, Reggie Cannon and Sean Johnson. All of these guys have been around our group, are experienced players in international games and have been really helpful in giving the group a voice, but also in running ideas and making decisions.”
Cannon, by far the youngest member of that group, has earned plenty of respect around the program, winning eight caps in 2019.
“Reggie is a player that has done a great job to increase his status within the team," Berhalter said. "He does that by having the right mindset to work every single day, to want to get better and put everything into his profession. We’ve been working with him for a year now, he’s got a lot of respect from his teammates and coaching staff. He works extremely hard and is focused on getting better. It’s great to see from a young player, how focused he is and how dedicated he is.”