Berhalter optimistic US will train in Qatar before World Cup
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Having canceled a training camp in Qatar that was to have started this week, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter is optimistic his team will train in Doha at some point before that nation hosts the 2022 World Cup.
The American men planned to train at the Aspire Academy from Jan. 5-25, but the U.S. Soccer Federation called off the trip Friday, a day after a U.S. military air strike killed a top Iranian military commander. Players, most from Major League Soccer teams, instead reported to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, where the team held a two-hour workout on Tuesday.
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“Some things happen that are out of our control,” Berhalter said after the training session. “With the turmoil in that region right now, we wanted to move venues.”
The United States has previously held the overseas camps, including in advance of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“It’s a great venue, great training facility over there,” Berhalter said. “There’s probably 10 European clubs there now as we speak. So, I think we’ll have an opportunity to get back there.”
“When you look back at the World Cup’s that we’ve played in, we generally go beforehand and get the guys used to the environment,” Berhalter added. “We think it’s a great tool to get the guys accustomed to the environment because it is different there.”
Berhalter told his team this week that it must overcome the unexpected.
“We talk all the time about dealing with adversity, and so this is just a chance,” defender Walker Zimmerman said. “Our schedule got shuffled around. Now we’re here and we’re excited.”
No players had arrived in Qatar when the decision to cancel the camp was made. Three staff members already were there: managing director of administration Tom King, team administrator Sam Zapatka and equipment manager Kyle Robertson. Zapatka and Robertson were each on the ground for just 16 hours.
The U.S. is preparing for a CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Honduras in June and begins World Cup qualifying in September.
“Things change pretty quickly,” forward Jordan Morris said. “We have no control over that. so we just deal with the situation and come here and get ready for a really important year. I think everyone is ready to get 2020 going.”
The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, ending a streak of seven straight appearances in soccer’s showcase. Berhalter was hired in December 2018. He led the team to 11 wins, five losses and two draws in his first year, including a 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
Berhalter called 2020 an “absolutely massive year for the team - and we’re looking forward to it.”
“I wouldn’t call it pressure, I’d call it a responsibility,” Berhalter said. “The players, the coaching staff, the whole organization feels a responsibility to the nation, to our fans to get back in the World Cup.”