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Tyler Adams experiment at right back yields dividends for USMNT

Mar 21, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Ecuador defender Beder Caicedo (13) dribbles the ball as United States midfielder Tyler Adams (14) defends during first half of an international friendly soccer match at Orlando City Stadium. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Here are three things we learned from the United States1-0 win over Ecuador in an international friendly at Orlando City Stadium Thursday night.

Tyler Adams experiment yields dividends

It was all the rage leading up to the game — Tyler Adams, who stood out as a defensive midfielder for the New York Red Bulls and now RB Leipzig — sliding over to right back.

For anyone who has followed the 20-year-old closely the last few years, it’s no surprise Adams performed admirably.

As he grew into the game, Adams floated more centrally and had the freedom to roam up the field, as well as the engine and wheels to cover his ground quickly when he did.

“Even when I play my natural position, there’s so much to work on,” Adams said after the match. “For me the biggest thing is embracing the role and trying to run with it. I think the guys around me helped me and gave me confidence. Playing next to Aaron Long, who I’ve had behind me in so many games before was a confidence boost for me and I think I still have the ability to go out there, roam and effect the game. In the end, I still think there are things I need to improve on, but it would be good to go back, watch the video and see some things.”

Berhalter was also impressed with what he saw from Adams, who returned to Germany after the game and will not be replaced on the USMNT roster for the match against Chile in Houston Tuesday.

“Regarding Tyler, we saw him in a 4-3-3 in the beginning of the game and we wanted him to play wider, to stretch that line of three,” Berhalter said. “We thought their central midfield would come out and press the wide fullback, so we thought we can create space centrally. As it turned out, as the half went on, we moved him inside and we moved into a 3-2, and then their job was just to access the attacking midfielders.”

Gonzalez returns to FC Dallas

U.S. Soccer announced on Friday that Jesse Gonzalez was returned to FC Dallas after Thursday’s match. The 23-year-old, who was added to the roster when Zack Steffen suffered an injury with the Columbus Crew, will be available for FC Dallas when they meet the Colorado Rapids Saturday at Toyota Stadium.

New York City FC’s Sean Johnson, who kept his third clean sheet in his seventh appearance, and Ethan Horvath are the only goalkeepers on the now 23-man roster.

Meanwhile, midfielder Weston McKennie, who left the match with an ankle injury in the second half, remains with the USMNT and will be further evaluated in Houston.

Captain Ream

Berhalter’s experimentation doesn’t just include formations and lineups, it includes the captain’s armband. He bestowed the honor on veteran Tim Ream against Ecuador after New York Red Bulls center back Aaron Long wore it for January camp friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica.

“It was a huge honor, to be honest with you,” Ream said. “Whenever you can captain any team, that’s special, but to have it be your national team is not something you can really describe. I tried to approach it just as any other match, just keeping myself focused and making sure I do the little things, be in the right spots and make the right decisions. I made a few wrong decisions, but it was special. There’s no two ways about it and something I’ll be able to tell my kids forever.”

Ream, a natural center back, also was part of Berhalter’s tinkering, playing on the left side of a back four. In his first appearance since a 1-1 draw against Portugal in November, 2017, the 31-year-old Fulham defender played the entire 90 minutes and was credited with an assist on Gyasi Zardes’ goal. The call-up was a welcome surprise for Ream, who was unsure if one would come under a new coach and with the program undergoing a youth movement. 

“You’re never not following the program,” Ream said. “You obviously follow along, see who is coming up and is in the squad and what the scores are, but regarding my future, I didn’t know. You never know. It’s a matter of doing well at the club level, and obviously I’m not as young as the rest of these guys any more. If I got the call, then great. If I didn’t, I would understand that. There’s definitely been a transition in the past year and if I wasn’t going to be involved, then so be it. Thankfully Gregg has come in and seen fit to have me part of the team.”

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