Beware Bale Warns US Coach Berhalter Ahead Of Wales World Cup Opener

United States coach Gregg Berhalter on Wednesday warned his players to beware of Wales captain Gareth Bale as he revealed his 26-man World Cup squad.

The United States will face Wales on November 21 in their Group B opener in Doha, with former Real Madrid star Bale looming large in Berhalter’s thoughts.

Bale provided a timely reminder of his persistent goalscoring threat last Saturday, nodding in an opportunistic header equalizer deep in stoppage time to help set up Los Angeles FC’s MLS Cup victory.

Speaking after revealing his World Cup squad at a ceremony in New York on Wednesday, Berhalter said Bale’s ability to make it to the big occasion was concerning.

“One of the scary things about Gareth Bale is that he can do things like that,” Berhalter said of Bale’s MLS Cup goal, noting the Welshman passed the defender by 6 feet 6 inches from Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott to score.

“He dunked it. He’s got that explosiveness, that free kick and he can serve a ball,” Berhalter said.

“You have to be aware of him at all times and if he doesn’t start the game he comes and he will worry you even more.

“Because you don’t get the chance to tire him out – he comes in fresh. He’s a dangerous player.”

Several selections to Berhalter’s World Cup squad were influenced by the United States playing both Wales and England in Group B with Iran.

Berhalter said England-based players such as Norwich’s Josh Sargent and Fulham’s Tim Ream were chosen because of their familiarity with the physicality of British football.

Sargent, who has scored eight goals in 18 games for Norwich in the English Premier League this season, was part of an attacking contingent that had no room for 19-year-old striker Ricardo Pepi.

Norwich striker Josh Sargent’s familiarity with the physique of English football helped earn a World Cup call-up

NORBERT SCHMIDT

Pepi, who plays in the Netherlands for FC Groningen, impressed in qualifying with three goals against Honduras and Jamaica, and Berhalter admitted dropping the teenager was a tough choice.

“In Ricardo’s case, it was a really tough conversation I had to have with him,” Berhalter said.

“It’s always difficult when a guy helps you get to the World Cup, he scores three goals in the World Cup qualifiers and won’t be part of the programme.”

In the end, however, the 22-year-old Sargent’s experience of English football tipped the odds in his favour.

“Josh is in the Championship, he played in the Premier League last year,” Berhalter said. “We play Wales and England and both teams are packed with players from those leagues.

“We judged Ricardo against Josh, and we felt it was valuable for Josh to play in the competition where two of our three group opponents come from. We felt it added value, the physicality.

“The Dutch league is a big league but it doesn’t have the same physicality as the championship.”

The biggest shock to Berhalter’s squad was the omission of goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

The 27-year-old was long considered Berhalter’s first-choice keeper but was left out in favor of Arsenal reserve keeper Matt Turner, Luton Town’s Ethan Horvath and New York’s Sean Johnson .

Berhalter would not be drawn to the reasons Steffen had been deemed surplus to requirements, instead focusing on the strengths of Horvath, Turner and Johnson.

“With the three goalkeepers we have on the roster, we feel good,” Berhalter said.

“We’ve seen a lot of progress with Matt Turner over the last six months, we know Ethan Horvath has competed at a good level with Luton in the Championship, and Sean Johnson has been a mainstay in that group since day one. So we’re comfortable with that.”

Berhalter said Turner is likely to be the USA’s starting goalie in Qatar.

“We’ll figure that out when we get into camp, but I would say the lean is for Matt to be number one,” the American coach said.

Full staff:

Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG), Sean Johnson (New York City FC)

Defenders: Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach/GER), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls)

Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United / ANG), Kellyn Acosta (Los Angeles FC), Tyler Adams (Leeds United / ANG), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo / ESP), Weston McKennie (Juventus / ITA), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

Forwards: Jesus Ferreira (Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Josh Sargent (Norwich/ENG), Timothy Weah (Lille/FRA), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR)

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