Home Sports Berhalter says USA will be ‘aggressive’ in World Cup opener against Wales

Berhalter says USA will be ‘aggressive’ in World Cup opener against Wales

United States coach Gregg Berhalter named Tyler Adams as the team’s captain for the World Cup on Sunday afternoon, one day before the Americans face off with Wales in their opening match of the tournament.

The 23-year-old Leeds United midfielder, the last of the 32 skippers announced for this year’s competition, will become the youngest player to wear the captain’s armband for a US team at the World Cup since Walter Bahr in 1950.

Adams has captained the Americans nine times in his 32 international appearances, including seven of his 12 caps during World Cup qualifying. He is one of 14 different players to have worn the armband in the 56 matches since Berhalter assumed managerial duties in December 2018, but was elected to marshal the team in Qatar by a players’ vote held in September.

“We think he has great leadership capabilities and he leads by his actions and his words.” Berhalter said at a press conference on Sunday. “Tyler’s a guy that’s just mature beyond his years, and you notice it from the minute you start talking to him. He’s a guy that teammates know exactly what they’re going to get from him. They know that he’s going to go out on the field and compete.”

Adams, who has thrived in the Premier League this year after three promising seasons with RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, will become the youngest skipper at this year’s tournament by some distance.

“It’s a huge honor for me,” said Adams. “It’s a very young team but a lot of credit to my teammates because anyone throughout our leadership council can wear that armband and represent us with pride and represent us in the right way.”

Berhalter, while refusing to tip his hand, indicated that his team selection was “pretty much done” for Monday’s Group B opener at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, a renovated 44,000-seat venue roughly 10 miles west of Doha. After describing Wales as an “underrated” team with a wealth of difference-making players and experience in international competitions, he also intimated that his choices will reflect a proactive desire to play for the result, aware that only eight of 73 teams that lost their opening match at the previous six World Cups have gone on to reach the knockout stage.

“We’re looking at the game in its entirety and thinking about how we can be successful,” Berhalter said. “We want to be an aggressive team in this game. We want to be able to hurt them, but we also know that they have strengths and they have threats and we want to be able to take them away.

“So when picking a lineup, we’ve focused on guys that we think can execute it from the onset, but also keeping in mind that our [substitutions] are going to be really important in this game and throughout the World Cup. We know that it’s not just the 11 on the field, we’re going to need the solutions to come into the field and help this group get the win.”

Beyond Monday’s match, Berhalter also was asked about his reaction to Gianni Infantino’s headline-grabbing diatribe on Saturday, in which the Fifa president accused the tournament’s Western detractors of hypocrisy.

“You know, he’s obviously the president of Fifa and he expresses his opinions as he sees fit,” Berhalter said. “We’re here to play soccer. We’re here to represent the United States. And we don’t necessarily represent the views of Infantino. That’s just the way it goes. He has the right to express that, and we have the right to have our opinions.”

Shortly before the Americans went through one final training session on Sunday night at their Al-Gharrafa Stadium headquarters, the US Soccer Federation revealed that US president Joe Biden called the team on Friday to wish them good luck ahead of the tournament.

“I know you’re the underdogs, but I’ll tell you what, man: you’ve got some of the best players in the world on your team, you’re representing this country and I know you’re going to play your hearts out,” Biden said in a video of the call shared by US Soccer. “So let’s go shock ‘em all. Keep trusting in one another, play as hard as you can, for you and your families and your teammates. The whole country’s rooting for you.”

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