Unorthodox Tyler Adams captaincy makes sense for USMNT

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 name its captain.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter officially announced tenacious midfielder Tyler Adams as his skipper at a press conference on Sunday afternoon, about 30 hours before Monday’s opening clash against Wales (2 pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

Berhalter took an innovative, if entirely free, approach in handing over the responsibility of selecting the role to his 26-member playing group. One player, one vote. The highest number gets the honor.

Kind of weird, isn’t it? However, due to the particular characteristics of this American team, the second youngest in the tournament, it makes perfect sense.

Of course, Adams is probably the player Berhalter would have picked, had he been forced to hand over the armband when the roster was announced on Nov. 9. The 23-year-old from Leeds United of the English Premier League will not be surprised by the role, and relishes the kind of combative action that so often proves decisive in the first World Cups.

However, delaying the announcement prevented a player, such as Adams, Christian Pulisic or Weston McKennie, from having to take on an extra load in the build-up to the USA’s first World Cup game in more than eight years.

In any case, having one player elevated above the rest in a singular leadership position would not be an accurate reflection of the way Berhalter’s men live together.

“This team we’re a group and we have such good chemistry,” McKennie told reporters Saturday night. “Every player on this team has a responsibility, every player on this team can hold each other accountable. There’s no one person you think of when you have a question. Anyone can be a leader at any time and be called upon. about .

“None of us know who the captain is, that’s fine with us. We’re not the type of guys who say, ‘Oh, I want to be captain.’ remains the same.”

Let’s be clear, not having a recognized captain until hours before the first game in a World Cup is very irregular and would be practically unthinkable for any other national team. But sport is not one size fits all. Football certainly isn’t. And Berhalter is not afraid to be different.

It might be a masterstroke. Sometimes the pressures of captaincy can limit a player’s style. Pulisic has said in the past that he doesn’t care if he has the job or not, and for a stylish player like the Chelsea winger, one more factor to think about isn’t necessarily a good thing.

We’ll find out later, but it’s reasonable to imagine that being chosen by his peers would be 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 are like Wales, and you have Gareth Bale, an international superstar who is more capable than his peers and also bigger than virtually everyone, there is only one route to take. If Bale wasn’t the Wales captain, it would be a considerable snub. He is the player everyone else gravitates towards, follows suit and comes to for advice or with any internal grievance, 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 obvious one, guaranteed his place in the team and with the traits of a natural leader. Iran’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh has spent almost a decade playing in Europe and was confident enough to berate the English media for bringing up Iran’s political problems at a press conference this week.

But no member of the American team has a clear and distinct advantage in terms of experience. DeAndre Yedlin is the only player remaining from the 2014 group that reached the round of 16 in Brazil. Pulisic is nicknamed Captain America by the British media, but that’s a nickname of convenience more than anything else.

Adams will likely do a good job, but the timing could be improved if he was given the captaincy right before match day, rather than carrying the role as an anchor through the preamble to the tournament.

He will be supported by a core leadership group that has some similarities to the position captains employed on NFL teams. Key leaders include defender Walker Zimmerman, Adams, Pulisic and goalkeepers Sean Johnson and Matt Turner.

“He’s got the heart of a lion,” linebacker Aaron Long said of Adams. “I think it shows everywhere. He’s a key, key piece of this team because of what he brings on the field and what he brings off the field. He’s an amazing guy and a great player.”

He looks like a leader. Sounds like an asset. He looks like a captain, but or whenever he was selected.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX i subscribe to the daily newsletterr.

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