DOHA, Qatar — Tyler Adams smiled on Sunday night when asked about his earliest days with the USA national soccer team.
It was 2018, and this system was sputtering through an odd period of stasis. The World Cup was going down that yr in Russia, however the American team, having imploded spectacularly within the qualifying rounds, was not in it. The squad lacked a full-time coach and, in Adams’s mind, a general purpose.
“We had no identity, no game plan,” Adams said. “It was almost similar to you were going to national team camp for fun.”
Then Gregg Berhalter arrived. Hired at the tip of 2018, he was given a blank canvas and a transparent mandate: to position the team to compete again on the largest stage within the near future and for years to come back. The roster was being almost completely overhauled. There was space and time to form an identity, to unroll a game plan.
On Monday, a United States soccer team remade in Berhalter’s image will play its opening match on the World Cup — its first game within the tournament since 2014 — and all of the planning and theorizing and charactering-building of the past 4 years will finally be put to the test.
“We’re pleased with how this group has been rebuilt,” Berhalter said after his team had assembled in Doha last week. “We’re pleased with the core of this team. We predict the core of this team has a ton of potential. And we’re just excited to get the tournament began.”
The matchup against Wales has been a protracted time coming, and Berhalter, a former defender who played with clubs within the Netherlands, Germany, England and the USA, has seemed impatient at times over the past week for it to reach.
A veteran of two World Cups as a player, Berhalter, 49, was asked what wisdom he could impart to his players to organize them for the intensity of this tournament. His response: not much.
“We will say anything we wish, and I can provide them any kind of experience I’ve had,” he said. “But I do know this group, and so they’re not likely going to know until the whistle blows against Wales.”
A Transient Guide to the 2022 World Cup
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What’s the World Cup? The quadrennial event pits the perfect national soccer teams against one another for the title of world champion. Here’s a primer to the 2022 men’s tournament:
Where is it being held? This yr’s host is Qatar, which in 2010 beat the USA and Japan to win the suitable to carry the tournament. Whether that was an honest competition stays in dispute.
When is it? The tournament opened on Nov. 20, when Qatar played Ecuador. Over the 2 weeks that follow, 4 games shall be played on most days. The tournament ends with the ultimate on Dec. 18.
Is a winter World Cup normal? No. The World Cup normally takes place in July. But in 2015, FIFA concluded that the summer temperatures in Qatar may need unpleasant consequences for fans and players and agreed to maneuver the tournament to the relatively bearable months of November and December.
What number of teams are competing? Thirty-two. Qatar qualified routinely because the host, and after years of matches, the opposite 31 teams earned the suitable to come back and play. Meet the teams here.
How does the tournament work? The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of 4. Within the opening stage, each team plays all the opposite teams in its group once. The highest two finishers in each group advance to the round of 16. After that, the World Cup is a straight knockout tournament.
How can I watch the World Cup within the U.S.? The tournament shall be broadcast on Fox and FS1 in English, and on Telemundo in Spanish. You possibly can livestream it on Peacock, or on streaming services that carry Fox and FS1. Here’s find out how to watch every match.
When will the games happen? Qatar is five hours ahead of London, eight hours ahead of Latest York and 11 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Meaning there shall be predawn kickoffs on the East Coast of the USA for some games, and midafternoon starts for 10 p.m. games in Qatar.
Got more questions? We’ve got more answers here.
There is maybe not too far more to say at this point, he knows, because he has had the players’ undivided attention since 2018. He already has drilled into them his soccer ethos and various motivational mantras, including a near constant urging to “change the best way the world sees U.S. Soccer.”
Berhalter took over this system as an evangelist for possession-based soccer, a type of play he employed with considerable success as coach of the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer. Over time, in acknowledgment of a player group that’s young, athletic and still developing its skills, he has shifted stylistically to more of a pressing and relentlessly forward-moving approach.
The colourful outlines of his own character have filled in, too. He has used the sideline as a runway for a powerful personal collection of rare and expensive sneakers. His propensity for flinging all manners of basketball-style bounce passes to his players during games has turn into a web inside joke amongst U.S. fans. During interactions with players and members of the news media, he has undercut the professorial earnestness common in international soccer coaches with flashes of amiably dry humor.
On a FaceTime call this month with Weston McKennie, a midfielder who plays with Juventus in Italy’s top league, Berhalter slipped on an Italian accent to deliver the news that McKennie had made the World Cup team.
“Ciao, McKennie!” Berhalter said in a moment that was captured on camera and shared within the team’s promotional campaign for the tournament.
DeAndre Yedlin, 29, who’s the one player on the team with any experience within the tournament after playing within the 2014 World Cup, summarized the effectiveness of Berhalter’s coaching style in two points.
The primary was an almost exhaustive approach to maximizing performance — employing data, sports science, psychology and various other modern tools — and entrusting the players to just accept and digest those reams of data.
“He’s so detailed, and you realize how he wants every little thing done,” Yedlin said in an interview months before the World Cup.
The second was his approachability. He’s a so-called players’ coach, procuring buy-in from players for his overall project by establishing a level of comfort and trust.
“We will make suggestions — possibly there’s too many meetings, possibly we’d like some time without work within the afternoons, possibly we’d prefer to wear a certain thing — and he’ll have a conversation with us,” Yedlin said. “It’s not, ‘Oh, players, you select.’ It’s not, ‘Hey, coaches or staff, you select.’ It’s, ‘Let’s meet in the center and choose on something that works for all of us.’”
Adams has personified this. On Sunday, he was announced because the team’s captain for the tournament. For the past 4 years, Berhalter used a rotating forged of captains for various games. But before the World Cup, he consulted a gaggle of team leaders in regards to the role, and so they expressed a preference for there to be a single captain for the tournament. A vote of about 35 players was held, and Adams emerged as their selection.
Adams on Sunday praised the work Berhalter had done to mold the team’s identity after taking up for Dave Sarachan, who had served because the team’s interim coach after Bruce Arena resigned within the wake of the 2018 qualifying disaster. Sarachan has been widely praised by the present players and training staff for his regular management of a difficult situation, but that is now unquestionably Berhalter’s team.
“Now you’ve got a coach that is available in and tactically understands the sport higher than almost every coach that I’ve ever had,” Adams said of Berhalter. “And he puts a plan instead of really wanting to develop the players, these young players, giving them the chance and having that belief in them, and that was different than what U.S. Soccer had done prior to now.”
Berhalter’s first task, though, was doing what the USA had all the time come to expect — reaching the World Cup. He and the players did that. Now they may see how far Berhalter’s blueprint can take them.