With the first week and a half of the USMNT’s annual January camp in the books, Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan commended on the new culture and tactical system of new manager Gregg Berhalter. The camp is Berhalter’s first opportunity to gather national team players since being named the head coach in December.
“The first week has been fantastic in terms of our tactics and the energy the guys have brought into the camp, the willingness to learn a new system, to do something that some of us have never seen before,” Roldan said Monday. “Systematically, it’s been fantastic and hopefully we can continue in this fashion. The progression from day one has been great and hopefully it’s a start to a really good cycle.”
Roldan has five caps for the national team. With the camp occurring outside usual international dates, all 28 players called in play in MLS. The 23-year-old said Berhalter’s methodical approach is a good fit for him.
“He simplifies the game,” Roldan said. “We worked on one little piece for a couple hours and then you see the next day, you see it in film and then you see it in the game. He systematically does that on purpose so that he can simplify the game for us. Make it easy, make it so that we know our jobs ahead of time. It’s been great and I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot more information in the next couple weeks.
“The attention to detail is fantastic. Sudden movements that he wants to see. How far up the field he wants you to be. How far away from a defender he wants you to be. Defensively, it’s a totally different formation, different tactical system, but it’s incredible. The attention to detail has been fantastic. I’m really looking forward to when it gets complicated, because that’s when it gets juicy.”
Berhalter decided on a change of location for the camp, away from its traditional location at the StubHub Center and down the road to the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. The new manager chose the facility, saying it would provide a more concentrated environment as the team adopts its new system.
Roldan said the atmosphere is helping with team chemistry.
“The bonding aspect of the team has been great from the get go,” Roldan said. “Some of the guys knew of each other already, but being in Chula Vista at the Olympic training center, being in these rooms, having to socialize with crossword puzzles. On the field, making it a game where points matter, all those little details add up and create a bond and a culture within a team. Coach Berhalter and the rest of the staff have done a great job with that. Within the games, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to help the guy next to you.”
Berhalter’s squad faces major expectations in the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup in June after the national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Of the 28 players called in to camp, only six have more than 10 caps for the national team.
Roldan said the players are eager to compete for a spot on the Gold Cup roster.
“It’s a brand-new start,” Roldan said. “Whether it’s Michael Bradley coming into camp here, myself, a guy like Zack Steffen who got to see Berhalter every day (in Columbus), it’s a whole new change, a whole new phase of the national team. You have to showcase what you’ve got. These games coming up, these practices here are time when we can do that. For these 28 guys here, it’s that time to really step up because this is your real time to shine.”
The USMNT will play its first matches under Berhalter at the end of the month, taking on Panama Jan. 27 in Glendale, Ariz. The team will play Costa Rica one week later in San Jose, Calif. on Feb. 2.