It’s time for the first US men’s national team matchweek of 2021, and Gregg Berhalter addressed a wide range of topics in a Monday afternoon media availability.
The coach recently named his roster for Sunday’s friendly vs. Trinidad and Tobago (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMas, TUDN) as January camp shifted from Bradenton, Florida to Orlando. Yet it was a recent departure that drew one of Berhalter’s more expansive answers, as he reacted to the official announcement of Jordan Morris being loaned to Swansea City.
“We have a good relationship with the coaching staff at Swansea, and we had long conversations about what they want to achieve this year, and how they're going to use Jordan. And I think that he's going to be in good hands,” said Berhalter.
He also made sure to applaud the Seattle Sounders’ sanction and support of the USMNT winger’s new adventure. Morris, in addition to winning two MLS Cups, has 35 goals and 20 assists in 105 league matches.
“This is a player that played a long time in Seattle. And when you see how Seattle handled it, I think it's an example to a lot of clubs in MLS of how to handle a player that's been loyal to your club and kind of repay some of that loyalty,” Berhalter said. “So they did a great job of sending him on loan and giving him this opportunity now, that Jordan was striving for.”
Currently second in the English Championship standings, the Welsh side are in prime position for a Premier League return and hope Morris can help push them over the top. It’s a timely new stage, and a steep learning curve, for his first stint overseas.
“Now for Jordan, this is an opportunity now to help his team potentially get promoted,” said his national team coach, “and that's a great achievement in soccer – the automatic promotion is one thing, and then the playoff game is the most expensive game in the world, right? So this will be a great challenge for Jordan, great challenge for the club of Swansea to see if they can get to the Premier League this year.”
“For Jozy it's been a great camp, he's been participating really well. He's been pushing hard,” said Berhalter of the veteran striker. “We had to hold back a little bit in this last week, but we're building him back up this week. And you see that he has the experience, he has the maturity. I think it's nice to have veterans around because they can talk to the younger players, but they also know what the national team is about. They know the history of the national team and that's important. So Jozy has been good.”
With Chelsea dismissing manager Frank Lampard on Monday, USMNT star Christian Pulisic is reportedly set for a reunion with his former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel in London. Berhalter acknowledged that could eventually reap knock-on benefits in terms of Pulisic finding and maintaining top levels over a hectic 2021.
“For Christian I think the benefit is – if Tuchel is the coach – that he knows him very well. And that's always important,” he noted. “So he's coming in with a real good understanding of what Christian can do and his skill set.”
Sunday’s match at Exploria Stadium could feature as many as four USMNT players from home club Orlando City SC. Berhalter hinted that Daryl Dike, Benji Michel, Chris Mueller and Andres Perea are all in contention for minutes despite their limited time with the program.
“With Andres, he performed really well throughout the entire camp, very stable in the defensive midfield position, able to really improve his body shape receiving balls, able to play forward. We think he did a really good job,” he said. “With Chris and Benji and Daryl, there's attacking threats – with speed with Benji, I think the timing of his runs with Chris, and then with strength and good ability in the penalty box with Daryl. So I think they all made an impact and we're looking forward to seeing them perform against Trinidad.”
The coach also confirmed that USMNT staff are working to finalize two friendlies in Europe during the March international window and could add two more on either side of the Concacaf Nations League semifinals and final in June.