USMNT: Gregg Berhalter issues striker warning for pre-World Cup window
As the US men’s national team’s No. 9 debate rages on, head coach Gregg Berhalter has acknowledged there will be some “very disappointed” strikers once their September camp roster is announced.
In a teaser clip from his sit-down interview with Extratime’s Andrew Wiebe – the full episode will be available next week – the USMNT boss ruled out the possibility of calling up six strikers for the program’s final training camp ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November.
While declining to confirm any names, he highlighted the following contenders as being in the mix: Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Jordan Pefok (Union Berlin), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor), Josh Sargent (Norwich City) and Brandon Vazquez (FC Cincinnati).
“No, we’re not bringing six strikers. No chance. We have 180 minutes of game time,” Berhalter said, with only Europe-based friendlies against Japan (Sept. 23) and Saudi Arabia (Sept. 27) remaining before Group B play gets underway.
How many strikers will the USMNT bring to September camp?
Countries can bring up to 26 players to the World Cup in Qatar instead of the typical 23, possibly allowing another striker to earn a spot. But even then, three or four strikers is likely the maximum, especially when weighing the wingers Berhalter typically calls in.
Not everybody will end up happy, the former Columbus Crew head coach said, when decision time arrives. That won’t necessarily be the end verdict on their international career, though.
“There’s gonna be very difficult decisions that are made, there’s gonna be very disappointed guys,” he added. “And the only thing I can say is that it’s not the end. I remember Steve Sampson called me and told me that I was going to be an alternate for the 1998 team. I thought my whole world was ending, and then I ended up in two more World Cups. It’s not the end.”
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Of the six potential strikers highlighted, Vazquez is the only one without any previous senior international experience, although his 16g/4a output during a breakout 2022 season with FC Cincinnati could lead to a first-time call-up. Pepi and Ferreira were leaned upon during Concacaf Octagonal qualifying, as were Pefok and Sargent to varying degrees, while Wright’s made a late push following his form in Turkey’s Super Lig.
All told, Berhalter stressed the USMNT’s last gathering period before the World Cup is a huge factor as well.
“This trip in particular, it’s about who’s there right now because you don’t have time,” Berhalter said. “There’s not a month where you can get a guy fit, play three games and get him in form. That’s not what it’s about.”
Stay tuned for Wiebe’s full interview with Berhalter, which you can catch on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher and the podcatcher of your choice.