The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team (USMNT) arrived in Cincinnati Thursday evening to begin training for its final tune-up match ahead of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The is the team's first-ever match in Cincinnati.
The U.S. plays Venezuela Sunday at 2 p.m. in a nationally televised match. Some 22,000 tickets had been sold as of Friday morning.
The team will train in Nippert Stadium on Friday and Saturday on freshly laid sod. Head Coach Gregg Berhalter told media on a conference call Thursday that he wasn't concerned about the condition of the turf. He's previously said he expects U.S. Soccer will make sure the temporary playing surface is up to snuff.
Sunday's match is Berhalter's last chance to evaluate his 23-man roster in match play before the upcoming tournament. He says he'll be evaluating his players based on three goals.
"We need to continue to build our fitness," he says, pointing to Wednesday night's friendly match which saw the USA fall to Jamaica 0-1. "One thing that was glaring from the match [Wednesday] is that we're not at full fitness."
He attributes the lack of fitness to European-based players whose seasons ended around a month ago.
"We [also] want to get guys on the field who may not have been on the field previously and see how they can perform and give them an understanding of what we're looking to do," he says. "And we want to compete. Those three things [are] what we'll be looking for in the game."
Players were surprised Friday morning by a special visitor. Sam, the Cincinnati Zoo's bald eagle, performed a ceremonial flight to welcome the team. They were also joined by their friends and family members who will be in Cincinnati for the weekend. The players will be apart from their families for the next month during the Gold Cup.
The Gold Cup features 16 teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean competing to be Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) champions. The tournament begins June 15. The USMNT's first match is June 18 against Guyana in St. Paul, Minn.
Five FC Cincinnati players have been tapped to represent their respective countries in the Gold Cup. They are: Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell of Jamaica; Allan Cruz and Kendall Waston of Costa Rica; and Emery Welshman of Guyana.
A History Of USA v. Venezuela
U.S. Soccer states:
Having first met at the 1993 Copa América, this will be the sixth contest between the United States and Venezuela, with the USA posting an unbeaten 3-0-2 mark in the series. Christian Pulisic had the goal while Tim Howard earned Budweiser Man of the Match honors in the last meeting, a 1-1 draw on June 3, 2017, in Sandy, Utah.