fox sports insider
DOHA, Qatar – The World Cup officially begins on Sunday, but the United States men’s team has already distinguished itself by being the last team in the tournament to declare its captain.
Head coach Greg Berhalter officially announced strong midfielder Tyler Adams as his captain at a news conference on Sunday afternoon, nearly 30 hours before Monday’s opening clash against Wales (2 p.m. ET on Fox and the Fox Sports app).
Berhalter took an innovative approach by giving responsibility for role selection to his 26-man group of players – albeit a completely hands-off one. One player, one vote. Tally gets the most respect.
Kind of weird, isn’t it? However, for the special characteristics of this American team, the second youngest in the tournament, it actually makes perfect sense.
Certainly, Adams is probably the player Berhalter would have chosen if he had been forced to hand over the armband when the team was announced on November 9. role, and enjoys the kind of belligerent action that often proves decisive in World Cup openers.
However, delaying the announcement avoided carrying an additional burden for a player like Adams, or Christian Pulisic, or Weston McKennie, more than eight years in the build-up to the United States’ first World Cup match.
In any case, the rise of one player above the rest in a lone leadership position would not be an accurate reflection of the way Berhalter’s men co-exist.
“This team — we’re such a group and have such great chemistry,” McKennie told reporters Saturday night. “Every single player on this team has a responsibility, every player on this team can hold each other accountable. There isn’t one person you think of when you have a question. The leader can be, and can be called above.
“None of us knowing who the captain is is fine with us. We’re not the kind of people who say, ‘Oh, I want to be the captain.’ He who has, has. The mission is still the same, the goal is still the same.
Let’s be clear, not having a recognized captain until hours before your first game at the World Cup is highly irregular and would be virtually unimaginable for any other national team. But the game is not one size fits all. Soccer definitely isn’t. And Berhalter isn’t afraid to differ.
This could prove to be a masterstroke. Sometimes the pressure of captaincy can spoil a player’s style. Pulisic has said in the past that it doesn’t matter to him whether he has a job or not, and for a player of the Chelsea winger’s temperament, not having to think about another factor is a good thing.
We’ll find out later, but it’s reasonable to imagine that being chosen by her teammates must have been an empowering experience for Adams.
For many teams, there is a clear and obvious choice, and there is no need to deviate from it.
If you’re like Wales, and Gareth Bale, an international superstar of better caliber than his colleagues and also older than virtually all of them, there’s only one path to take. It would have been a great disgrace if Bell had not been the captain of Wales. He is the player all others gravitate towards, follow example, and go to for advice or have an inside grip as well as being a five-time Champions League winner during his nine years at Real Madrid.
England’s Harry Kane, who will be the Americans’ second opponent, is another no-brainer, guaranteed his place in the team and with the traits of a natural leader. Iran’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh has spent nearly a decade playing in Europe, and at a press conference this week was confident enough to scold the English media for highlighting Iran’s political troubles.
But none of the members of the USA squad have a clear and distinct edge in terms of experience. DeAndre Yedlin is the only player left over from the 2014 group that reached the last 16 in Brazil. Pulisic is called Captain America by the British media, but it is a nickname of convenience more than anything.
Adams will likely do a fine job, but the moment could be enhanced by being handed the captaincy right before gameday as opposed to playing an anchor-like role through the prelude to the tournament.
He will be supported by a core leadership group that bears some resemblance to the positional captains employed on NFL teams. Senior leaders include defenders Walker Zimmerman, Adams, Pulisic and goaltenders Sean Johnson and Matt Turner.
“He has the heart of a lion,” defender Aaron Long said of Adams. “I think he shows that everywhere he goes. He’s an important, important part of this team in terms of what he brings on the field and what he brings off the field. He’s an amazing person and an amazing player.” ”
Feels like a leader. Seems like an asset. Seems like a captain, however or whenever he was selected.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for Fox Sports and author of the Fox Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX And Subscribe to the Daily NewsletterR.
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