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Tyler Adams embraces role at right back for new USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter

Stuttgart's Alexander Esswein, center left, and Leipzig's Tyler Adams, center right, challenge for the ball during the German Bundesliga soccer match between VfB Stuttgart and RB Leipzig in Stuttgart, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Tyler Adams knows it’ll take more than one game to adjust to what new United States men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter is asking of him.

Adams, typically a central midfielder with Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, will be a right back during the national team’s March friendlies, Berhalter said Monday. It’s a move that drew a flurry of reactions on social media, and it’s one Adams said he’s ready to embrace.

“Any role that I’m given, I’m going to go out there, I’m going to play 100 percent and do what I need to do,” Adams told reporters Tuesday evening. “Growing up and playing different positions is definitely helpful in now trying to adapt to this role.”

The USMNT takes on Ecuador on Thursday at Orlando City Stadium. The team has been training at Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate’s sports field complex in the days leading up to the match, though Adams said he – like all of the players who were overseas before the start of camp – had a lot of contact with Berhalter before arriving in Florida.

“This is the beginning phases,” Berhalter said. “We want to test it. We want to see how it looks. We want to see how he adapts and what he gives our team overall. I think if we have, you know, when you look at a profile of a Michael Bradley or a 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.”

The 20-year-old Adams said Berhalter started preparing him for the role before the start of March camp. 

“We’ve had Skype calls with tactics on the Skype call, which I didn’t even know you can do,” Adams said. “He’s ahead of time in his technology phase. But it’s been good. There’s graphics and stuff like that. The movements and stuff like that so I can try to understand and grasp the role before I come into camp.”

Adams said he’ll still have freedom to influence the game thanks to Berhalter’s system.

“I feel that, obviously there’s different ways you can influence the game from different parts of the field, but, you know, almost having that freedom realm where, in certain areas of the game, when I want to pop into the midfield and I feel that maybe I’m not being as useful as a right back, I have the freedom to do that,” he said. “Gregg has not limited me here. Playing in practice and stuff like that, I’m still playing in the midfield. I’m comfortable in whichever role and he’s just trying to make me feel as possible.

“Again, he’s helped me so much in the little details of trying to figure everything out. I’m understanding it to the best of my ability.”

Adams added, “You know, it won’t take one game. Of course not. I’m going to try to adapt as quickly as possible. Like I said, freedom is the key for me. This role, it doesn’t limit me, I don’t think. I think that defensively, I’ll still be able to pop in around the ball and try to create transition moments, which I think I’m good at.”

The move means DeAndre Yedlin – the USMNT’s usual right back – will move further up the pitch into a wing position, Berhalter said. Yedlin also said he’s ready to embrace his new role and praised Adams.

“You’d think he’s a 30-year-old player, you know, by the way he is,” Yedlin said about Adams. “You’d think he’d been playing for 12 years already. Sometimes it’s me coming to him for advice.

“But yeah, he’s a great player and obviously he’s made a big move and done really well over there in Germany, as well. He’s one of those players that it just always seems like he knows where he needs to be, what he needs to do. I think he’ll, just for that reason, have a very long career because he just seems like such an experienced player at such a young age.”

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