The Gregg Berhalter era is underway for the United States men’s national team.
U.S. Soccer named Berhalter head coach on Dec. 2, and he called in 28 players for his first camp, a month-long session at the Chula Vista Elite Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Among those called in was Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, a promising sign for the 23-year-old entering his fifth professional season. He has five caps to his name after debuting for the USMNT against Martinique in July 2017 during the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“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 buy into something some of us have never seen before,” Roldan said from U.S. camp. “Systematically, it’s been fantastic and hopefully we can continue in this fashion. The progression from Day 1 has been great and hopefully it’s a start to a really good cycle.”
Berhalter takes over for interim manager Dave Sarachan, who had run the team for the past year after Bruce Arena stepped down following the United States’ failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Berhalter joins from Columbus Crew SC and is widely considered one of the most promising soccer minds in the U.S.
“[Berhalter] simplifies the game,” said Roldan. “We worked on one little piece for a couple hours, and then you see it the next day, you see it in film and then you see it in the game. He systematically does that on purpose so he can simplify the game for us and make it easy and make it so we know our jobs ahead of time…The attention to detail is fantastic: sudden movements 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.”
Roldan burst onto the international scene in 2017 after establishing his place as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in Major League Soccer. He is blessed with an incredible motor and innate tackling ability and continues to be an invaluable asset everywhere on the pitch for Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer.
Given the massive amounts of turnover as the U.S. looks ahead to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Roldan has a tremendous opportunity to lock down a consistent spot in Berhalter’s midfield. He’ll get his his first two opportunities to do so when the U.S. host Panama on Jan. 27 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and Costa Rica on Feb. 2 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
“It’s a brand new start,” said Roldan. “Whether it’s Michael Bradley coming into camp or myself, to a guy like Zack Steffen who got to see Berhalter every day [while with Crew SC], it’s a whole new phase of the national team. You have to showcase what you’ve got. These games and these practices here are times where we can do so. For the 28 guys who are here, it’s that time to really step up because this is your time to shine.”