Berhalter to assess injured players ‘case-by-case’ before WC

US men’s national coach Gregg Berhalter said he will analyze the status of his injured players “on a case-by-case basis” before naming his squad for the World Cup, which begins later this month.

The 26-man squad for Qatar will be named on Wednesday and Berhalter told ESPN that his player pool has numbered around 32 “over the past few months”.

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But his calculations were complicated by a series of injuries. Celta Vigo midfielder Luca de la Torre is out until just before the start of the tournament with a hamstring injury.

Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie’s status is slightly better but a quad injury will sideline him for another 10 days. Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner has missed the Gunners’ last three games, while Crystal Palace defender Chris Richards has not played since August 27 with a leg injury.

“Ideally, we want fit guys who play 90 minutes a week,” Berhalter said last week. “There is less lead time to get the guys fit so we have to decide it on a case by case basis.

“You have five subs [per game], so there are some positions where if you come on regularly you can say, ‘Okay, maybe it’s not that big of a deal that the guy isn’t 100% fit because you can get them out anyway.’ So there are a number of things you need to consider.”

Berhalter is aware that a player who may be injured with his club team cannot be influenced by him. Because of this, his approach is to plan for all eventualities.

“As a coach you take it easy,” he said. “You know sometimes one position will be hot and then the others will be pulled down.

“And then there will be changes where another position gets hot and then one pulls down. It’s not something that gets us out of shape. We play a team game. We want to win together and that’s why we constantly think about every position in the same way.”

The US is completing a so-called “fitness camp” for MLS players whose teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. Of the players expected to go to Qatar, only LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta will take part in Saturday’s MLS Cup final.

Berhalter pointed out that with the USA U-20 team taking part in the camp, there are some tactical aspects for the senior team members to work on.

“We line them up every day like our opponents in training,” said Berhalter of the U-20s. “We’re able to work through that and see what those looks look like. We have individual programs for the guys that identify things and strengths that they have.

“We want to continue to reinforce these and then work on some weaknesses that we have seen. This is a very productive camp.”

The central defender’s position is one of the biggest concerns ahead of the tournament. Richards’ admission looks more doubtful by the day, while Miles Robinson has been absent for a long time and tore his Achilles tendon in May.

Nonetheless, Berhalter expressed confidence in assembling a group of centre-backs who will get the job done at the World Cup.

“It’s far from ideal, but now it’s about who’s next, isn’t it? Who do we have next in the player pool?” he said.

“Some of the guys we’re working with right now, Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman, we’re getting to work with them for about two weeks now, which would be a good time.

“People who were injured in the last camp, like Cameron Carter-Vickers, are back on the field now. That helps. Mark McKenzie plays in Belgium every week. Eric Palmer-Brown plays in France every week. And Tim Ream plays every week in the Premier League. It’s a good thing, so I feel pretty comfortable that with this group we can get four centre-backs who can help us win games.”

The USA begin their World Cup campaign against Wales on November 21, before taking on England (November 25) and Iran (November 29) in Group B.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/united-states-usa/story/4791111/usmnt-coach-berhalter-to-assess-injured-players-on-case-by-case-basis-before-world-cup Berhalter to assess injured players ‘case-by-case’ before WC

Emma Bowman

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