Ber­hal­ter op­ti­mistic US will train in Qatar

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By MARK DIDTLER

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.

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 twohour work­out on Tues­day.

“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 ac­cus­tom 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.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

LEAD­ING THE WAY United States head coach Gregg Ber­hal­ter shouts instructio­ns to his team dur­ing an in­ter­na­tional friendly soc­cer match against Mex­ico on Sept. 6.

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