If you’re a US men’s national team watcher who wants to see the #PlayYourKids movement take hold at international level, know this: Gregg Berhalter considers himself one of you.
That was one intriguing segment of the USMNT honcho’s in-depth conversation with the Extratime crew this week, as Berhalter shared insights from his approach to the young players included in his latest roster.
“I’m the same way you guys are – I want these guys to progress so quickly that I can use them,” Berhalter said of the rising crops of talent at his disposal. “I think of Gio Reyna, I wish it was four years later and he was at the top of his game. That’s exciting to me. Paxton [Pomykal], Miles [Robinson], all these guys. But I also realize it’s a process, I realize it takes time and what we’re doing is gathering as much information as possible to find out if they’re absolutely ready.”
The coach warned that some of the touted prospects and young professionals called into the squad will see little to no match action in next week’s friendlies vs. Mexico and Uruguay – but that those who do will have proven that it’s the optimal time and place to do so.
“There’s probably going to be some of those guys that may not play in the games, and you guys are going to be disappointed and it’s going to be how it goes,” he said. “We’d like to get them on the field, some of them will get on the field, some of them will start in the game. For us, again, it’s about picking the right moment and setting a guy up for success.”
Berhalter also gave a few clues about his outlook on next month’s opponents – one a fierce regional rival who defeated the USMNT in their last match, the 2019 Gold Cup final, and the other an elite South American side with world-class experience, organization and individual quality.
“Mexico’s going to be a great game, because that was our last game and for us we can analyze, make adjustments and then see how that works,” he said of the meeting with El Tri at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on Sept. 6 (8:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision). “We’re going to be looking to make them run more, make them run without the ball. I think we didn’t do a good job with that [in the Gold Cup clash].
“[Uruguay] is going to be an interesting exercise to try to break down a very physical, compact 4-4-2 and being able to defend some of the quality that they have.”