CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Nick Lima has the kind of attributes Gregg Berhalter seeks in an outside back, and now he's working to convince the new US men's national team coach that he deserves to be in the mix as the US begin to work in earnest toward 2022.
The 24-year-old San Jose Earthquakes standout knows that he could fit into Berhalter's system, it's just a matter of mastering the details and convincing the coaching staff that he clearly belongs.
That's what he's aiming to do at the annual January camp – continuing at Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center into next week before treks to play Panama in Glendale, Arizona, and Costa Rica in the Quakes' Avaya Stadium – to kick off a vitally important 2019 campaign.
“His system requires outside backs to be attacking, aggressive,” Lima told MLSsoccer.com of Berhalter after Monday's training session. “We've got to think in his system. It's very tactical, and it's very important to stay in tune and work with your lines together. For all the outside backs, I think that's key.”
A Bay Area product who starred at Cal before bursting into prominence with an impressive rookie year for the Earthquakes in 2017, Lima can play either fullback spot and has demonstrated agility and durability, a strong work ethic and a keen soccer mind in two challenging seasons in San Jose.
“When you talk about a determined player, when you talk about an aggressive guy on the field, he's certainly that,” Berhalter said. “Really a hard-working, versatile player. … right back. Likes to push forward. Serves a very good ball. He's done very well in camp.”
Lima took part in last year's January camp, too, but saw no game action. He wants more this time, and beyond. To do so means contributing to the greater whole, which Berhalter emphasizes.
“I think no matter where you are on the field, you have to step in, you have to fit the role,” Lima said. “You kind of have to mold to it. It's good, because there's different players, different positions, and it allows you to be creative but also do what you need to do. You're working together, and it requires everyone to be on the same page, to open up gaps and go forward and win games.”
He's also looking to become a leader as the Earthquakes, with Argentine manager Matias Almeyda taking charge after guiding Chivas de Guadalajara to Liga MX and Concacaf Champions League titles, look to reinvent themselves following a disastrous 4-21-9 season in 2018.
Almeyda, who played in two World Cups for Argentina and with big clubs in Spain, Italy and at home, is installing a new culture. Three South American players, including budding Peruvian star Marcos Lopez, have been brought aboard so far, and the castoffs include once-prized acquisitions Jahmir Hyka and Yeferson Quintana.
“You can't look back and dwell on the past – that's how you lose in the present,” said Lima, who was on the field for all but 11 minutes of the campaign. “But at the same time, you have learn from it. Now we know what it's like [to lose repeatedly], we have that feeling, and we get angry, and we go forward, and then we learn under this new coach, new system, new players, new ideas, new staff.
“[We need to] get to know the players – I think we're going to have a few new ones – and get to know the coach. It's going to take the organization to buy in to change it around, but as we've seen in MLS many times, one year can change a lot in a club.”