Berhalter: US takes cold better than El Salvador, Honduras

Dec 2, 2021, 6:03 PM | Updated: Dec 3, 2021, 9:56 am

Gregg Berhalter thinks American players will adjust to a freeze with ease.

The U.S. picked Columbus, Ohio, for its World Cup qualifier against El Salvador on Jan. 27 and St. Paul, Minnesota, for its Feb. 2 match against Honduras, games wrapped around a Jan. 30 meeting with Canada in Hamilton, Ontario.

“We know a large portion of our guys are playing in Europe. They’re playing in cold weather right now,” the U.S. coach said Friday. “They should be able to adapt pretty nicely. … If it’s tough for us, and we have guys playing in Europe in cold weather, what’s it going to be like for Honduras, whose coming from Honduras mid-week, coming from 85-, 90-degree temperatures?”

Wanting to minimize travel and draw a pro-U.S. crowd, Berhalter decided to avoid the Eastern seaboard and Florida. He said of Washington, D.C.: “You can’t play there. It would be a home game for El Salvador.”

January highs in Columbus average 53 degrees Fahrenheit (12 Celsius) and lows average 35 degrees (2), while the average Feb. 2 high in the Twin Cities is 25 (minus-4) and the average low is 9 (minus-13).

“The field is not going to be an issue. The field is going to be soft. The field is going to be smooth,” Berhalter said of Minnesota. “There could be a case where we get severe snow during the game, which could affect it, for sure. And we’re looking at an average snowfall in the month of January. There’s no exact science for this. … In terms of the cold, we’ll be fine. We’ll be able to deal with the cold weather. It is what it is. Even if it gets to temperatiures like that, we’ll be able to perform.”

Berhalter announced his 26-man roster for an exhibition against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Dec. 18 at Carson, California, aimed at keeping out-of-season Major League Soccer players in shape for the qualifiers.

Defender Aaron Long and forward Jordan Morris are back for the first time since major injuries, joined by 12 players who could make international debuts.

Morris, 27, tore his left ACL on Feb. 20 while on loan from Seattle to Swansea, three years after tearing his right ACL. He returned to the field for the Sounders on Nov. 1 and appeared in three club games.

“If we don’t bring him into this camp, he has no chance of playing in qualifiers,” Berhalter said. “Our job now is to work with him in these next four weeks when we’re in camp to get him ready to see if he can make an impact in World Cup qualifiers. We know his talent level. We know what he brings to the team. He gives us a different dimension.”

Long, 29, tore his right Achilles tendon while playing for the New York Red Bulls on May 15. He trained with the U.S. team last month but was not on the roster.

Roma defender Bryan Reynolds, who has played just two minutes in Serie A this season under manager Jose Mourinho, is the only player from a major European club.

Taylor Booth, a 20-year-old forward, is with Bayern Munich II. He has played one match for the senior team, a 12-0 rout of fifth-tier Bremer in the first round of the German Cup on Aug. 25.

Johnny Cardoso is the only other foreign-based player. The 20-year-old midfielder plays for Brazil’s Internacionale, whose season ends Dec. 9.

Goalkeeper Matt Turner, defender Walker Zimmerman, midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Cristian Roldan, and forwards Ricardo Pepi and Gyasi Zardes are among the national team regulars.

As of the start of camp Monday, the roster will average 23 years, 110 days, and include 15 players 20 and younger.

Among those could make their debuts are goalkeepers Gabriel Slonina and John Pulskamp, defenders Justin Che, Jonathan Gomez, Kobi Henry, Brooks Lennon, Kevin Paredes and Austin Trusty, midfielder Cole Bassett and forwards Taylor Booth, Caden Clark and Cade Cowell.

Gomez, an 18-year-old eligible to play for the U.S. and Mexico, is transferring next month from second-tier Louisville to Spain’s Real Sociedad.

Orlando forward Daryl Dike was omitted to give him time to recover from a year in which he was loaned to Barnsley, and Atlanta defender Miles Robinson was given rest. Montreal midfielder Djordje Mihailovic was left off to allow him to train with Bologna.

Former Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez is completing paperwork in order to join Berhalter’s staff. Nico Estévez left the U.S. team this week to replace Gonzalez as Dallas coach.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: John Pulskamp (Kansas City), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago), Matt Turner (New England)

Defenders: George Bello (Atlanta), Justin Che (Dallas), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville), Kobi Henry (Orange County), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Kevin Paredes (D.C.), Bryan Reynolds (Roma, Italy), Auston Trusty (Colorado), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Cole Bassett (Colorado), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional, Brazil), Cristian Roldan (Seattle), Jackson Yueill (San Jose)

Forwards: Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II, Germany), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls), Cade Cowell (San Jose), Jesús Ferreira (Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle), Ricardo Pepi (Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

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Berhalter: US takes cold better than El Salvador, Honduras