ATLANTA, GEORGIA—The United States men’s national team booked a private training session with Qatari Stars League team Al-Gharafa SC four days before their opening World Cup match against Wales. The necessity to involve an outside squad in preparation is symptomatic of the difficulties with starting the tournament in November. However, specifics on how the training session was structured were not made accessible (other than the fact that it was not designated a scrimmage).

Coach Gregg Berhalter decided against setting up a more formal friendly, as other teams that start later in the tournament have done, since the players had just been together for roughly a week before the first game. Al-Gharafa, one of the 12 teams in Qatar’s domestic league, is currently in the fourth position, and its home field, Thani bin Jassim Stadium, will be used by the Americans as a training facility throughout their tournament run.

It has been a different experience than the run-up to Brazil for DeAndre Yedlin, the team’s lone holdover from their 2014 World Cup appearance. The group practiced collectively in the US for about a month before the World Cup, and they participated in three friendlies there before leaving for the competition.

Coworkers have repeatedly inquired of Yedlin about how Qatar differs from his previous experience from eight years ago.
Yedlin stated, “The answer I’ve given is that you’re playing all the games in one city. “In Brazil, you must fly three or four hours, so you can’t have a base. We had a base hotel, but it didn’t feel like a base. Gregg told us the first thing: “Unpack your things, put your books on the bookshelf, put your clothes in drawers, and get comfortable.” Psychologically, that has a big positive impact on people. Midfielder Tyler Adams remarked on how useful it has been to have Yedlin’s World Cup experience available.
According to Adams, DeAndre is a crucial player because of his perspective and the part he plays on his team.