American soccer players will be piling up air miles — all in preparation for unprecedented travel.
Jet setters like never before, the No. 20 U.S. plays 13th-ranked Switzerland in an exhibition on Sunday at St. Gallen, then travels about 5,200 miles to face Honduras on Thursday at Denver in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal. The Nations League final against Mexico or Costa Rica follows in Denver on June 6, followed by a friendly against Costa Rica at Sandy, Utah, on June 9.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter designed the schedule to prepare players for the grueling compacted World Cup qualifying schedule that starts in September, which has three matches crammed into FIFA match windows designed for two.
“This should definitely help us out about different situations of all different types of weather and obviously lots of traveling and different time zones,” forward Gio Reyna said Saturday. “So I think we’re all trying to take in as much as we can from the staff here in terms of the tips they have that can help us feel as little jet lag as possible.”
After playing with their clubs on Aug. 28-29, the Europe-based Americans will travel to the U.S. to meet up with their Major League Soccer brethren, then play their opening qualifier Sept. 2, most likely at Trinidad and Tobago. That will be followed by a home game on Sept. 5, probably against Canada, and a road match on Sept. 8 at Honduras.
They’ll be back in Europe for club matches Sept. 11-12, then repeat the trans-Atlantic travel for three qualifiers from Oct. 7-13 and again for two more from Nov. 12-16.
“It’s really tough,” said forward Brendan Aaronson, coming off his first season in Europe with Red Bull Salzburg. “It’s hard on the body because you’re traveling, what, eight hours back to the United States over a flight and then you have to get off a flight and get ready for a game in three days.”
Players trained at altitude this week at Crans-Montana in the Alps, elevation 5,000 feet, to get ready for the game in mile-high Denver, their first competitive match in 1 1/2 years and a look-ahead to the qualifier at Mexico City on March 24.
“You don’t have a lot of turnaround time to recover,” said defender DeAndre Yedlin, who is the senior player on the roster with 62 appearances and could play his first international match since December 2019.
Players are being given FlyKitt nutritional supplements to help mitigate the stress of playing eight time zones apart in a short span.
“We give them the proper nutrition We talk to them about the proper rest that they need and hydration that they need,” Berhalter said.
Aaronson was among nine Americans winning 12 trophies in Europe this season, which culminated Saturday when Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic became the first American to play in and win a Champions League final. Pulisic’s team beat Manchester City, where U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen is the backup,.
Aaronson won the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup, Steffen became the first American to win a Premier League medal and also won the League Cup.
Sergiño Dest won the Copa del Rey with Barcelona, Weston McKennie the Coppa Italia with Juventus, Gio Reyna the German Cup with Borussia Dortmund, and Mark McKenzie the Belgian Cup with Genk.
Tim Weah was a Ligue 1 champion with Little, Ethan Horvath the Belgian first division with Club Brugge, and Jordan Siebatcheu the Swiss Super League with Young Boys.
“Now, it’s just pushing onto the Nations League and winning a trophy with this group of guys,” Aaronson said.
Schalke forward Matthew Hoppe and 17-year-old Bayern Munich youth team defender Justin Che are on the roster for Sunday and could make their debuts.
Midfielder Julian Green could make his first appearance since November 2018.
Switzerland is preparing for the European Championship, where it opens the group stage against Wales on June 12 and also has first-round matches against Italy and Turkey.
“We kind of have to manage our expectations,” defender Reggie Cannon said. “At the end of the day, it is a lot of potential in this group, It hasn’t had much time to work together.”
Notes: Yedlin said he joined Landon Donovan in the ownership group of the San Diego Loyal of the second-tier United Soccer League’s USL Championship after seeing the team forfeited a match against the LA Galaxy II over an alleged ethnic slur directed at one of San Diego’s players and another against the Phoenix Rising over an alleged homophobic slur directed at another of the San Diego players. “It really just opened my eyes that, wow, there’s a professional club out here that will give up a spot potentially in the playoffs to kind of bring awareness to these issues that we have that in my opinion are bigger than sport,” Yedlin said. “And I think they set a great example for the rest of the world, not just for the U.S.”
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