Berhalter gives player updates as World Cup qualifier window opens in late January

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Even though he’s not in this month’s roster, Long’s gain could come in the team’s final qualifying window in March.

“He looks great,” Berhalter said of Long. “His progress from Cincinnati to December so far has been perfectly aligned. For us, it’s about having fit players, having rhythmic guys available. I’m not sure it will get there, but I hope it will be close. Then he goes back to pre-season with his team and he plays games there at the start of the season and I hope that in March we have different conversations.

Hometown Lennon makes a play for the qualifying list

Atlanta United right-back Brooks Lennon has long been on Berhalter’s radar, but for various reasons he only entered a USMNT camp with the head coach last month. The 24-year-old finally made his senior squad debut in the victory over Bosnia and was one of the few new players from December to be called up for this month’s camp.

While the right-back depth chart is very detailed, Lennon can make a case for inclusion in the squad this month. Even if he doesn’t, there is more scope for players like Lennon to contribute later in the year.

“Brooks did a good job. It was nice to see him at the camp and to work with him. We thought he had played well enough against Bosnia and now is a chance to validate that in this camp. We’re going to play three scrums; it will be good to see how he progresses and see if he can make it into that list of qualifiers.

“One thing I will say is we have 20 guys at camp and if they’re not in the lineup for the January qualifying window it’s not a final decision. We know where these guys are, we know what we need for this window and there will be enough opportunities as the year progresses.

Eligible prospects

With six qualifications to go, the USMNT (4-1-3; 15 pts.) Occupies second place, just one point behind the octagonal leader Canada (4-0-4; 16 pts.). Although in a good position, the United States is only one point ahead of Mexico and Panama (4-2-2 each; 14 pts.), Leaving little room for error in the six last matches.

With two of the three home games remaining in the window to come, Berhalter’s side recognize the huge step that could be taken towards qualifying this month.

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