FRISCO, Tx. — FC Dallas right back Reggie Cannon was the last player called up by United States men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. He was an injury replacement for RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams, who had a groin injury.
After not starting the first two games in the group stage, Cannon was in the XI against Panama as part of a rotated squad. Following an impressive performance, Cannon started two more matches — the 3-1 semifinal victory against Jamaica and the 1-0 loss in the final to rival Mexico. From the 23rd man to one of the team’s vital players, Cannon wants to build off his Gold Cup performance and make himself a staple for the senior national team.
“I got a call from Gregg when I was at my house and he told me that he thought that I really stood out at Gold Cup from a lot of perspectives,” Cannon told Pro Soccer USA after training last week. “Obviously, coming in being the second, third right back in the camp, the last man in the camp, there weren’t really high expectations of me on his part, but he called me in because he believed in me and he thought that I could play at that level. Now, it seems that when I push myself, I can play to that level.”
The 2019 MLS season has had some highs and lows for Cannon, including a benching in Dallas’ 2-1 win over Seattle June 1. The Gold Cup has instilled confidence in the right back, who has stepped it up going forward, providing an attacking element not seen before.
Berhalter was complimentary of FC Dallas’ work with Cannon in a conference call with reporters, saying he has seen a lot of growth in Cannon this season. As a right back in Berhalter’s system, the player must feel comfortable being in possession of the ball in the middle of the park, something Cannon has worked on this season.
“You can definitely see the development all the way through January camp,” Cannon said. “Think about it. I played zero minutes in friendlies in January camp and came and started in Gold Cup. Gregg gave me a lot of things to work on: being more comfortable in the middle of the field because that’s the way Gregg likes to play, liking to have his fullbacks come in sometimes.
“His tactics fluctuate, so he wanted me to fit that role. I quite wasn’t ready January camp, but come Gold Cup I came as a surprise. Gregg is now pushing me at FC Dallas; he’s telling [USMNT assistant coach Nico Estevez] to tell me what to do and what I can be more dangerous on, going over film. Gregg has seen a lot of development over these past six months in me and I really want to continue that and really want to help FC Dallas push for that playoff spot.”
While focused on improving, Cannon has taken a valuable lesson from previous camps — having fun. He’s excited to see his teammate and close friend Paxton Pomykal in the red, white, and blue and Ajax fullback Sergino Dest debut. Being serious will have its time, but Cannon wants to have fun and absorb everything the coaching staff tells him to improve.
“I just want to go in there and do my thing and have fun, learn, grow, adapt to whatever role Gregg places me in the camp,” Cannon said. “I think that’s the morale of the story: you have to always be on your toes. That was the morale from Gold Cup, to be always ready. I went there and had fun— I think that was the most important thing.
“When you’re having fun, you learn and grow. You learn to play the game better. That’s something at camp I learned. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of stress, but you need to just go and have fun and learn, so you can bring whatever you learned from FC Dallas and benefit. I think Gregg overall has given me tools that I can add to my game, but I think this camp is going to be a big growing step for me.”
A player that always wants to have a chip on his shoulder, Cannon has had some recent success. He knows his job isn’t even close to being done yet and each day strives to push himself to improve.
“You always have to find little ways, little goals that you can set because if you don’t, you’ll start to get complacent and you’ll start to play at half speeds and start to find yourself in spots that you don’t really want to be in,” Cannon said.
“Obviously with national team, I have that pushing me, but that call may not always come. You have to find other ways to challenge yourself and help in those moments.”