USMNT boss Berhalter opens camp with press conference

Gregg Berhalter
Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images
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Gregg Berhalter’s first press conference of this United States men’s national team camp featured some unusual material, even for the year 2020.

Instead of simply discussing the MLS-heavy roster he called up for a Dec. 9 friendly with El Salvador in Florida, the USMNT coach had to discuss the withdrawal of a player due to a positive COVID-19 test.

[ USMNT: Perea replaces Amaya after positive COVID-19 test ]

FC Cincinnati midfielder and Mexican-American dual national Frankie Amaya will not get his first cap next week after testing positive for the coronavirus. U.S. Soccer says no other players have tested positive and that Amaya was not in contact with other USMNT players or staffers prior to or after testing.

“This is one of those really unfortunate things,” Berhalter said. “He gets his first national team call-up and he’s unable to participate. Our heart goes out to him. It’s an up-close example of one of the downfalls, disadvantages, and casualties of COVID. I know all the players are thinking about him.”

He had plenty of praise for Amaya the player.

“It wasn’t a case of trying to give a young player an opportunity, it was watching him over a year,” Berhalter said. “He’s really good in tight spaces, is good in the tackle. He’s eligible for a number of our age groups and it’s interesting to get him in and start working with him. We don’t know what January’s going to look like.”

The Yanks called up Colombian-American dual national Andres Perea to fill Amaya’s place on the roster.

The good news for Amaya is that Berhalter is hoping for another January camp and friendly, which has traditionally been for MLS players. The coach just cannot quite tell when and where that camp can be on account of, you know, the global pandemic.

Berhalter also discussed a number of the players and story lines with the assembled media, including:

Eight dual nationals on the roster

“When you look at Andres Perea, Efrain Alvarez, we know Daryl Dike has played for Nigeria. Ayo Akinola has Canada and Nigeria interest. David Ochoa has been contacted by Mexico. … It’s common in today’s day and age to have players with multi-passports and it’s something that we deal with.”

On Brenden Aaronson moving from Philadelphia Union to Red Bull Salzburg

“When I think back to January until now, he’s had a fantastic season of improving his performance almost weekly. What we’re looking for him now is to validate it on the field. It’s going to be a tight game and this is where he can be very effective.”

Why he called up Paul Arriola, who only played 21 MLS minutes at the end of a nearly season-long injury 

“With Paul, this is a guy that we were uncomfortable taking this much time off after surgery. To not make the playoffs, they were done at the end of October and to have that much time off wasn’t good for his progression.”

Why Walker Zimmerman won MLS Defender of the Year

“Walker is a great teammate. He benefited from the way Nashville played. He’s very good in duels, things that are right in his skill set.”

How a big, physical player like Daryl Dike can change the way the USMNT plays, and on Orlando’s two other call-ups (Perea and Chris Mueller)

“We’d use the forward in a different way if he’s on the field. He made it very difficult for the New England center backs to play.”

“We liked Chris’ season being goal dangerous. It’s a case of his being rewarded for what he did on the field. Daryl showed us a lot of potential. He’s an example of that and so is Andres. He’s a very interesting player in the league.”

The USMNT plays El Salvador at 7:30 pm ET Dec. 9.

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