New U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter announced an intriguing position change after his first training session with the full American player pool Monday, moving Tyler Adams to right back and DeAndre Yedlin to wide midfield.
Yedlin, at 25, is among the veterans retained after the failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup. He has been primarily a right back for the national team and Newcastle in England.
Adams, a 20-year-old who made his debut under interim coach Dave Sarachan in November 2017, has been a central midfielder for the national team, the New York Red Bulls and now RB Leipzig in Germany.
“This is the beginning phases and we want to test it and we want to see how it looks and we want to see how he adapts and what it gives our team overall,” Berhalter said.
Preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June, the Americans play exhibitions against Ecuador on Thursday in Orlando and Chile next week in Houston.
Berhalter was hired in December, the fourth American coach in just over two years, and led the U.S. to wins over Panama and Costa Rica using a roster exclusively from Major League Soccer. Europe-based players joined the team this week.
Berhalter was active during the training session on a wind-swept field adjacent to a hotel golf course, shouting instructions. Two white boards with player positions were on the grass by the touchlines.
“Obviously he’s a tactician and have great faith that obviously he really knows what he’s doing,” Yedlin said. “Just being out here one day with him, there’s a lot of details, especially on the tactical side.”
One of the puzzles Berhalter must solve is how to get the team’s three 20-year-old midfielders on the field at the same time in effective positions: Adams, Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic. Michael Bradley (31) and Wil Trapp (26) seem likely to share time as a holding midfielder in a 4-1-2-3 formation.
“This is the beginning phases and we want to test it and we want to see how it looks,” Berhalter said. “When you’re looking at a profile of Michael Bradley or Will Trapp, a very controlling player, and you have the dynamic guy next to him in Tyler who can come inside and still be influential from that position, we think it’s exciting and we want to take a look at it. It may not work exactly how we have planned and we’ll have to adapt. But I think in theory it’s something worth trying.”
Yedlin’s role will be up and down the right wing.
“He’s not going to be in the back. He’s going to be forward at the top of the penalty box or he’s going to be combining in wide areas. And that’s right in his skill set,” Berhalter said. “We’re not going to ask him to do things he’s not comfortable with. We’ll adapt to him to a certain extent. I’m watching all of his games and what I see with him is a tremendous ability to build momentum from behind with his speed to take advantage of underlaps or interlap situations. He has a good cross.”
Adams earned a starting job in the Bundesliga soon after his arrival in January and fits into Berhalter’s ball-control tactics.
“His capacity is huge. His speed is huge. His quickness is very good,” Berhalter said. “And what I like now that he’s doing at Red Bull is he’s taking the ball and he’s penetrating with the ball and he’s trying to break lines with the ball dribbling, and then as passes open up, as he’s closed down, he’s able to find that pass between the lines. And that’s been a new element to his game.”
Berhalter plans to use Pulisic as an attacking central midfielder, tilted left. McKennie, also with a central role, impressed Berhalter when the coach attended the first leg of Schalke’s Champions League quarterfinal against Manchester City.
“He didn’t lose a header. Every single header he’s going up, he’s winning, against some big, strong guys,” Berhalter said. “And then his ability to run behind the line and get in the penalty box was excellent.”
NOTES: Berhalter said there is no long-term significance to his omitting 34-year-old goalkeeper Brad Guzan, the backup to Tim Howard at the last World Cup. “I called Brad and talked to him and it’s about evaluating other players,” Berhalter said. “Everyone knows what Brad can do.” … Bradley, D Tim Ream and GK Ethan Horvath missed practice while traveling and were due to join training Tuesday. … The U.S. under-23 team is training in Spain this week.