USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter sees Tyler Adams ‘primarily as a central midfielder’

Tyler Adams will get a chance to line up in his preferred central midfield role with the U.S. men's national team, coach Gregg Berhalter said. (Boris Streubel/Getty)
Tyler Adams will get a chance to line up in his preferred central midfield role with the U.S. men’s national team, coach Gregg Berhalter said. (Boris Streubel/Getty)

The Tyler Adams-at-right-back experiment seems to be over for U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter. At least for now.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters ahead of this weekend’s year-opening USMNT friendly match against regional rival Costa Rica — a match for which Berhalter will be without the services of Adams, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and most of the the other key Americans who play for European clubs — Berhalter said that he sees the 20-year-old lining up in his preferred spot in the heart of the midfield when the full-strength team convenes in March for a pair of exhibitions at Wales and the Netherlands.

“As you know we’ve played him at right back before,” Berhalter said of Adams, who manned the corner in his lone international appearance last year before missing the second half of 2019 with groin and foot injuries. “I think he’s a good fit there because of his speed, his dynamic, his ability to process the ball and move forward with the ball and attack with speed.”

Adams is no stranger to those fullback duties. He spent time on the defensive flank with the New York Red Bulls early in his career. He’s played there in two of this three appearances this season for German Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig, including Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.

“We see him primarily as a central midfielder. We always have seen him as central midfielder,” Berhalter said. “But we know that when we need to be flexible he can play [right back] as well.”

The plan to use Adams on the back line was born at least partly out of necessity. This time last year, there were few serviceable backups behind English Premier League veteran DeAndre Yedlin, who has often been deployed in a more advanced wingback role with Newcastle United. But the absence of both Adams and Yedlin for last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup opened the door for FC Dallas speedster Reggie Cannon, who took full advantage of the opportunity to establish himself as a regular.

Meantime, there’s now a gaping hole in defensive midfield with aging destroyer Michael Bradley, 31, sidelined for the next four months following ankle surgery.

“We think right now the right back position is filled with depth,” Berhalter added, “and [Adams] will be more suited to our system in central midfield.”

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