Entering Tuesday’s friendly, much of the focus was on the U.S. Men’s National Team’s young European-based stars, and for good reason. The roster was littered with talented young prospects plying their trade at noteworthy European clubs.
But, when the final whistle sounded on Tuesday night, it was a trio of MLS regulars that stood out as the biggest key to victory.
The midfield trio of Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams and Marky Delgado shined on Tuesday night, dominating the match in the game’s most important sector. Facing a veteran Paraguay midfield headlined by Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron, the U.S. midfield was far superior, leading the charge in an impressive team-wide performance.
Each played a pivotal role in the midfield three. Trapp played the organizer, communicating and offering leadership. Delgado and Adams, meanwhile, had freedom to play their game. Delgado was able to move the ball both long and short while Adams used his engine and workrate to pop up all over the field.
“Both those guys are easy to play with,” Adams said. “Their angles on and off the ball and how clean they are with the ball, wanting to play forward at all times. Me just trying to find the right pockets, and even playing a deeper role for the most part tonight sitting next to Wil and having the one run out of the midfield that was pretty dangerous. They’re easy to play with.”
“We knew we wanted to come after them and be positive with our mentality and I thought we did that,” Trapp said. “Tyler’s going to get after the ball, Marky’s smart and good in pockets and I hold a little bit more. I think the complements were certainly there and they created the goal so that was a wonderful thing to see as well.
That chemistry was apparent during the game’s pivotal moment, one which saw Delgado and Adams connect. Shortly before halftime, Delgado found Adams with a perfectly hit long ball following a surging run from the New York Red Bulls midfielder. Adams proceeded to round the goalkeeper and earn a penalty kick, one converted by forward Bobby Wood.
“Marky is a good passer,” interim boss Dave Sarachan said. “He’s a connector and he’s got good feet. Tyler has an incredible engine. His feet were good, not great, but he still got out of trouble. The combination of a good passer and a guy who can run could be deadly. We felt Paraguay may play a high line and we talked about breaking that line from a deeper role. Tyler timing his run was excellent and he did that. They each utilized their strength on that goal.”
“I know Tyler has a lot of speed,” Delgado added. “Being in camp with him in January the kid’s fitness level is definitely up there and I expected him to get to that ball and he did well getting there.”
The moment provided a bit of flash during what was mostly a workmanlike performance. Trapp was arguably the star, earning honors as SBI USMNT Man of the Match, but Adams and Delgado were just as tireless when it came to workrate and pressure.
Named captain for the second time after previously assuming the role during January camp, Trapp says the honor isn’t one he’s used to quite yet as he looks to battle for a consistent place.
“First of all, he’s a terrific leader,” Sarachan said of Trapp. “He was our captain and he made sure we were organized. He talked, he communicated, he played out of pressure. He was able to pick his spots in terms of playing long and short. I just thought, overall, with and without the ball, he was very steady tonight.”
“I think that’s one of the things I try to bring to the team,” Trapp added. “We had a guy like Marky, it’s his first start, Tyler who is just growing in confidence with every game it seems like, whether it’s with the Red Bulls or the national team. For me it’s easy, it’s just about organizing those guys and putting them in good positions to help us win the game.”
Having earned the win, the trio now look poised for more as the midfield competition heats up. There are a number of other contenders for midfield minutes, including players like Weston McKennie and Cristian Roldan, while Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, Kellyn Acosta and Danny Williams still very much feature into the midfield picture.
Over time, that picture will sort itself out but, for now, the trio were glad to build chemistry in a rock solid performance.
“I feel like we did really well,” Delgado said. “The communication was there. From Day 1, we struggled a bit, but over the week being the competitive players we are, we built a chemistry coming into the game.”
“I feel comfortable here,” Adams added. “Gaining that confidence throughout the week is important, but again playing with guys like Marky and Wil they make it easy on you. Wil gains confidence throughout the game and he gives you a confidence as well. It’s easy for me. I feel like I fit right in.”