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Rapids trio of Acosta, Bassett and Trusty vying for USMNT World Cup roster

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Yanks gear up for 2022 push to earn CONCACAF berth for Qatar’s World Cup

Photo by John Babiak

Gregg Berhalter has called up a trio of Colorado Rapids to the first U.S. National Men’s Team (USMNT) camp of 2022.

Midfielders Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett and 17 others were called up on Jan. 6 to join the ‘Preparation Camp’. Defender Austin Trusty was added to the camp roster two days later.

The exclusively domestic-based roster aims to generate ‘match preparedness’ ahead of a follow-on camp that is scheduled to be held in Columbus, Ohio later this month. The Yanks will resume Final Round competitive play against El Salvador in MLS Lower dot com Field on Jan 27. The senior team will then travel to the northeast and tackle undefeated Team Canada in Hamilton, Ontario on Jan. 30. They will return stateside a day later to prepare for their finale against Honduras in Minnesota on Feb. 2.

The team’s roster for the World Cup Qualifying camp in Columbus will include both domestic and European-based players. According to U.S.Soccer Communications, that roster will be finalized at the end of the Arizona training camp.

Team USA currently sits in second place in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying table. Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Mexico and the United States are representing CONCACAF as the eight teams in the Final Round of qualifying for the World Cup. The round-robin style, home-and-away format octagonal tournament has been condensed to a seven-month timeframe, versus the normal 18 months period. The top three teams will qualify for the FIFA World Cup play, while the fourth-place team will advance to an intercontinental playoff. Only six qualifiers remain on the Yanks schedule

“I know if we continue with this points-per game [rate], we’ll qualify for the World Cup. For us it’s about closing this out. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” said Gregg Berhalter during a recent press conference. “I think one important lesson we learned from the September qualifying window is taking one game at a time. Things change very quickly. We’re just over halfway there and after this window we’ll be 78 percent of the way there, so we’re getting closer. For us it’s about being steady, taking one game at a time and preparing to win that next game.”

The Grand Canyon State camp commenced last week and is scheduled to conclude on Jan. 21. Three closed-door scrimmages will be played. The team will face host club USL Championship-side Phoenix Rising, followed by Grand Canyon University and then. Sporting Kansas City.

“Our focus for the next two weeks is to prepare the domestic-based players to be included in the World Cup qualifying training camp,” Berhalter said. “This upcoming window presents an opportunity to move closer to our ultimate goal of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.”

On Monday, the gaffer spoke with members of the media and shared his near-term vision and objectives.

The important thing here is to understand why we did the December camp and why we had these guys playing,” said Berhalter.

Rapids’ Cole Bassett scored the game-winning goal in December’s 1-nil victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Some of the European guys, Brenden Aaronson for example hasn’t played in a month. He was off December 12. A guy like Walker Zimmerman, his last game was December 18 and now he’s back on January 7. There wasn’t that much time off for these guys. We’re going to use the next two weeks to evaluate where these guys are.”

The resulting performances and data camp will afford the USMNT’s coaching staff a good picture of their readiness to compete in the upcoming high-intensity international competition.

“We’ll get them up to close to 90 minutes in the last scrimmage, then we’re going to be able to tell. The most important thing is that we can put a team on the field that competes at a high level because we know that’s what World Cup qualifying games are about. We’ll make the best possible decision that we can, to get the group that can do that on the field, added Berhalter.”

For the Rapids’ threesome, the camp will offer them another opportunity to showcase their respective talents to the USMNT coaching group. Acosta should be a shoo-in to continue to Columbus, Ohio, while the determined Bassett and Trusty will need to impress.

Bassett made his debut with the senior team against Bosnia and helped Yanks close out the 2021 season with a record-setting 17th victory in Carson, California. Trusty has been in and out of camps during the past two years. He is looking to catch a flight to Columbus and earn his very first cap with the national team. He will need to buckle down and outplay the likes of George Bello (Atlanta United) DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution,) Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), and Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman.

Acosta has been a fixture in the midfield ever since his made-for-a-tv-movie comeback to the graces of the USMNT program. After a nearly two-year absence, Acosta made his USMNT return during last year’s December camp and went on to amass a team-leading 20 appearances in 2021, tying Landon Donovan for the most caps in a calendar year since 2002. A total of 10 players on the roster have appeared during the team’s eight World Cup qualifying. Acosta has played in seven. He has 45 caps under his belt, three assists, and two goals.

JANUARY TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION (Club/Country; Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 13/0)

DEFENDERS (7): George Bello (Atlanta United; 6/0), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution; 0/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 1/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 15/3), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 23/2)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 45/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 1/1), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montréal; 6/1), Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution; 33/8), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 30/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 16/0)

FORWARDS (4): Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 42/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 5/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 40/10), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 66/14)