FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas right back Reggie Cannon returned to the team after missing the first few weeks of the preseason while at training camp with the United States men’s national team.
Much like his situation at the club level with new head coach Luchi Gonzalez, Cannon had to adjust to a new coach with the national team in Gregg Berhalter. The camp took place in Chula Vista, Calif., and culminated in two friendlies, a 3-0 victory over Panama in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a 2-0 win versus Costa Rica at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium.
“It was interesting playing with a coach like that,” Cannon told ProSoccerUSA. “He’s a very tactical-sided coach and he has a certain way about going about things. He wants the fullbacks to come inside and play that center-mid role and it’s something I quite haven’t adapted to much yet. . . . It’s good to get that adaptation in and I’ve learned a lot in that camp.”
Berhalter is a change of pace for many players with his heavy emphasis on tactics. Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget said to MLSSoccer.com that many players “have never been coached like this, to so much detail.”
“We spent a lot of training doing tactical stuff,” Cannon said. “It’s good coming back to FC Dallas, where Luchi has that more grit side that Oscar had. It’s even with Luchi; It’s all about grit and effort, but it’s also about having that tactical balance to be able to disrupt the team and be comfortable where you play. Gregg was more on the side of, obviously valuing effort, but tactics is where the majority of his premise sits. Gregg is a great coach, it’s just going to take a lot longer to adapt to that position.”
One of Berhalter’s wrinkles included Cannon’s position at right back. In possession, the team shifted into a back three, with San Jose Earthquakes right back Nick Lima moving centrally into the midfield. It was a unique role for Cannon, who has played more outside and up and down the pitch as an attacking fullback. Cannon learned from watching Lima, who started both matches.
“No chance,” Cannon said when asked if he’s played a role like that prior. “It’s just something I have to get more comfortable in the inside of the park. It’s just something that is gonna take time to adapt to and for me, a lot longer than a month.
“Watching Nick play, it was a good experience to see someone who could do that job very well. . . . to get that experience and see what I can do better and what I can do on the field and Gregg giving me some critique on what to do.”
Gonzalez does not know Berhalter personally, but said he thinks U.S. Soccer made a great hire. His interest lies in seeing if Berhalter will adjust his tactics to fit the skillsets of the European players who were not in the camp, including that adjustment at right back.
“Reggie certainly has that ability to do that, if needed,” Gonzalez said. “When Yedlin is in the mix, is he gonna be asked to be an inside with the senior team? If the guys from Europe are in the mix, is Gregg is going to be playing that way? I don’t know. I imagine he’d want Yedlin to be getting up the line and getting up the field into the attacking third because that’s what one of his strengths are.
“I think Gregg is going to be smart about knowing what players he has in a camp, in a moment, in a game, and getting the best out of them in the lineup and formation. Club is a little different, where you have a lot more opportunities to train concepts, rather than just have camps every two months. That’s a big challenge for Gregg, . . . but his way has to be adaptable based on him getting a different crop of players every time from different leagues, different styles.”
Gonzalez thought the experience was valuable for Cannon, even if he did not play in the two matches the team had. He believes the opportunities with the national team are learning experiences. Cannon returned to FCD training on Monday.
“Sometimes I feel like these players can have an experience like that and come back and relax, and maybe they need a few days to refocus in terms of the club dynamic,” Gonzalez said. “But Reggie from day 1 — he literally flew in Sunday, we were texting that night and he was really excited to get back with the group and train. That shows you a lot about him and Monday,[Tuesday] and Wednesday, he’s been very engaged, he’s been very exciting, with a big smile on his face and enjoying being back with his club teammates.”
Cannon enjoyed the challenge at the national team level and hopes to bring that edge with FC Dallas as the MLS season creeps closer and closer.
“It’s always great finding a challenge because it motivates me to get better and be comfortable playing a certain position that I may not be comfortable with,” Cannon said. “It’s good to add things like that to my game, and I think Gregg really challenged me in the camp to play that inside role. And, obviously, with FC Dallas, Luchi, he’s telling everyone that our spots are not guaranteed. Regardless if I’m on the national team or not, I still got competition.”