USMNT’s Berhalter, Adams on Reyna, Pulisic, COVID-19 and more

Photo by Alex Nicodim/MB Media/Getty Images

The USMNT is excited to be back together after a year of off-field turmoil around the world and internal growth in its young team.

The Yanks’ young corps of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams had immense on-field success with major European clubs while a bevy of young talents like Giovanni Reyna went from prospects to regular players.

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Adams and head coach Gregg Berhalter met with the media on Monday as the team assembled for friendlies against Wales and Panama, and discussing a number of interesting topics including the team’s first matches since the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread protests against racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

On the emergence of Borussia Dortmund teen Giovanni Reyna

Giovanni Reyna’s young exploits in the Bundesliga are almost unparalleled for a USMNT player and may even be a tad overlooked given the success of Christian Pulisic.

“(It’s big) adding someone of Gio’s quality, representing Dortmund at a high level,” Adams said of his Bundesliga rival. “He’s very comfortable on the ball. You can give him the ball in tight areas on the field, and he can beat people one-on-one and he’s really showing off his end product.”

Reyna will turn 17 on Friday, the day after the Yanks play Wales and the teenager presumably gets his first cap.

That would put Gio 111 caps behind his father, USMNT legend and current Austin FC technical director Claudio Reyna. Berhalter was asked if he’s noted any similaries between the father and son.

“Gio and his dad have a very similar grace to them,” he said. “Gio and Claudio move around the field in a really fluid way. They are both competitive. You can see his competitive fire in these games we’ve been watching from Dortmund.”

Giovanni Reyna
Ki-Jana Hoever  of the Netherlands challenges Giovanni Reyna during the 2019 U-17 World Cup in Brazil. (Photo by Martin Rose – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

On Adams’ role with the USMNT

Adams, 21, has grown immeasurably in experience since the last USMNT match in March, doubling his senior appearances with Leipzig to 36 while scoring a decisive goal in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal win over Atletico Madrid.

Once viewed as a possible right back in Berhalter’s possession system, both player and manager see a more versatile role for a player viewed by many as a center midfielder.

“The conversations have been really good, whether throughout COVID or when I was dealing with an injury almost a year ago now, he’s really helped me through a lot of different things,” Adams said. “We’ve talked football and as I’ve established myself in Leipzig as a No.6, it’s opened his eyes. He has a similar style to the way Julian Nagelsmann plays.”

That doesn’t mean Adams is locked into any position, Berhalter says.

“He’s a very intelligent, dynamic player,” Berhalter said. “He’s got a lot of poise for a player his age. Me and Tyler have had a ton of conversations over the past few years. I have no doubt that he has the ability (to be a No. 6) but he gives you flexibility. He can play wide, he can play in a higher position.”

Tyler Adams goal
Tyler Adams celebrates with teammates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal (Photo by Lluis Gene/Getty Images)

On Christian Pulisic’s attendance at camp

Both men were asked about Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, who is listed as “day-to-day” with an injury but still joined the national team for camp.

Berhalter cited the leadership and example shown by Pulisic in meeting up with the program in Wales, especially with such a young group of players.

“We’re looking for them to share the experiences with the guys,” Berhalter said. “We want to give them the experience of being on the national team. The culture starts with the players and the culture lives with the players. We’re looking at this a long-term view. Some of these players in this camp we may not see for a while.”

Adams sees Pulisic’s attendance as a show of belief in the team and coaches.

“It shows that what we’re doing is working, creating an environment that players want to come into,” Adams said. “It shows what a quality teammate he is.”
Christian Pulisic
Christian Pulisic of Chelsea v Crystal Palace (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Other notes from Berhalter

On the injury to Josh Sargent opening up an even bigger chance for new call-ups at center forward: “[Weah, Soto, and Gioccahini] are all candidates to play there. Nicholas can do it. Timmy can do it. He’s played there for his club at times. There’s also a possibility of a false nine but overall it’s not going to change what we do much.”

On choosing to play despite the increasing COVID-19 numbers: “It was complicated. We do have one U.S. (based) player in camp and we purposely didn’t bring (more of) them due to the Major League Soccer Playoffs. I can understand concerns and what I can say is that every precaution is being taken. We’re in a very secure bubble. The players are in pods to not have interaction with other players. Our medical team was amazing. I can understand concerns and at least from our side of it, the players are in good hands. I believe we need to push through in a safe way. It’s about getting some control back. It’s about getting international soccer back and we need to be on the field.”

A warning against judging the young call-ups as a shot against veterans: “In theory choices are getting harder to make but now it’s about doing it on the field and young players taking their chances. It’s easy to discount established players but until you can do it on the field, you’re not taking their place. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. There are 10 players in camp in the full national team for the first time and it’s going to take development.”