Top Stories

Young USMNT midfield continues evolution in tie with France


Over the last two weeks, the U.S. Men’s National Team’s young midfield faced three vastly different tests. The Bolivia match presented freedom against an overmatched opponent. Ireland saw the U.S. enter a back-and-forth affair, one with plenty of energy and bustle in the middle of the field. And then there was France, a World Cup contender and a team that put the USMNT on the back foot and into a defensive posture.

Through those three matches, there were missteps and mistakes. There were rocky moments caused by inexperience. But there was also a lot of good for a unit that is continuing to evolve by the game.

The trio of Wil Trapp, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams emerged as the USMNT’s go-to midfield unit throughout the three-game camp, and all three showed well enough to leave an impression going forward.

Facing off with a France midfield loaded with stars in Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi, the U.S. midfield looked overmatched early on. France piled on the pressure, with Pogba in particular proving to be the driving force. Playing three at the back in an effort to defend at all costs, the midfield three were under a lot of pressure to contribute defensively while connecting an often isolated duo of Bobby Wood and Julian Green.

As the match wore on, that happened a bit more. It wasn’t a 50-50 game, not by a long shot. There were certainly teachable moments for each, but the three also passed certain tests designed to challenge them.

In many ways, Adams was the standout, putting in a Man of the Match-worthy performance in the heart of the midfield. As per usual, Adams was all over the field, largely patrolling the right side while generally popping up everywhere else as well. Adams did a magnificent job of stifling the France midfield, making two tackles, three interceptions and a number of key clearances deep in his own half.

With rumors of a move to Europe continuing, Adams more than helped his case. The New York Red Bulls midfielder showed he doesn’t just have the potential to play at this level someday; he has the ability to do it right now.

That’s not to say the other two didn’t have their moments.  Trapp, awarded the captaincy once again, was the most defensive of the three. At times, the Columbus Crew midfielder was a bit too relaxed on the ball, but, by and large, his distribution was solid. Trapp finished the match with only four misplaced passes, even if some of those were rather unforced.  Trapp only completed three passes in the attacking half, but that was by design as the 25-year-old midfielder played the No. 6 role throughout.

McKennie was one of the standouts of the Bolivia and Ireland matches and, of the three, was probably the weakest against France. Despite misplacing only two passes, McKennie wasn’t quite his energetic self when it came to defending. On Saturday, he didn’t register a tackle against a France midfield that was certainly on another level. He was better after the halftime break, but McKennie learned some lessons on how to play out of pressure and how to manage a match where the other team continue to pile it on.

In some ways, it’s easy to forget just how inexperienced the three are. Adams and McKennie are still teenagers. Trapp has just six caps to his name, with none of the previous five coming against an opponent anything like France. There’s still a lot of learning to do and experience to earn for all three.

Still, you saw flashes and you saw a unit that got better as the match wore on. Heading into whatever comes next, the next USMNT manager has a building block in place with a young midfield that passed a number of big tests in the trio of summer friendlies.


  1. With CP 22, McKennie, and Adams, that’s a good nucleus for an outstanding midfield, assuming they continue to develop. Add players like Zardes (I prefer him up top, too, but he has his uses as a winger getting behind defenses) or Green on the wings, plus maybe Parks and Saeif, and you have something. Other possibilities include Hyndman and Gooch plus mjaybe youngsters like Farrell. and Lennon and you have depth, too. It’s too early to celebrate, but the possibilities are there.

  2. Out of the three McKeenie still stands out for me. Considering his age he never looks overmatched physically or with the speed of the game.

    The one attribute vital for a midfielder is constantly take into account where every teammate and opppnent is on the field. So when you receive the ball or go win it, you have an idea what to do next. Hold he ball, make space with a dribble, change the angle with a dribble, make a quick short pass, or the quick switch, or long pass preferably off the shoulder of a centerback. McKeenie has these skills though not completely innate. McKeenie is the most talented midfielder in the player pool right now. He should be the future #6.

    Trapp, has maxed out what he physically can do. Harsh but the speed of the game moves to fast for him and physically he cannot catch up or muscle his way onto the ball or just go get it. When evaluating talent in lot of sports especially defensive positions you see if the individual solves problems with aggression. Not losing your head and doing something outrageous. But when confronted with a difficult situation do you individually battle and win that micro battle and then build on the winning the next one. Until it becomes part of your character and expected you every match. Modric, Silva, and in MLS Chara have that attribute.

    Adams keep surprising me with how he keeps competing and elevating his game. Going into the friendliest i thought this is a dude with no position. I still have my doubts but if Trapp had his motor he could play in Europe. Adams game is all about his relentless motor but against players bigger and as fast you need skill and IQ. He needs to develope his one touch passes and passing in close spaces. Often the quick combo amongst CB, backs and midfielders are what beat pressure and spring counters or lead to possession. Adams does not have this in his game and a reason why he was put at right back for RedBulls.

    McKeenie needs a running mate in the midfield. A real crusher who can hunt down balls, reel in players, calm on the ball, make accurate short and long balls, and most of all run all day and night!

    • Adams played three matches at RB in MLS play plus 2 out of 5 US Open Cup matches. A total of 5 matches out of 50 at RB over the last two seasons. 14 out of 15 total matches this season, the one being at RM. Some of the matches last season were with 3 CBs so I admit whether he was a RM or RB is debatable but he’s played DM exclusively this season.

    • As for Trapp, I also doubt that he is the future of a good midfield. However, what you said about him could also have been said of Beckerman, whom I never thought would amount to much at the international level. Trapp may turn out to be the next Beckerman, you never know.

      • I agree on Trapp – and as much as I loved Beckerman, the only thing that held him up in international competition was his IQ. He was no Mastroeni or Jermaine Jones. We seem to have scores of players like Will Trapp that are fine in MLS and against the lower echelon of CONCACAF teams, but against the higher echelon teams that we need to beat to qualify and then to advance in the WC, he struggles.

  3. Gotta give some credit to Dave Sarachan for bringing in the young guns and getting the hen best out of them. He has overseen the best USMNT performances we’ve had in 2 years, while giving whomever the new manager will be a foundation to build off of. I wish Sarachan the best going forward and hope he’s able to find another head coaching gig in MLS.

  4. Yeah, but the sky is falling, Bruce Arena still won’t take accountability, I’ll never forgive Michael and Jozy, Jonathan Klinsmann still has not had his cell phone taken away and if our current crop of youngsters can’t come out and defeat a top 5 team on their soil right now we’re obviously screwed for the next five cycles.

    Trying to get the usual out of the way in hopes of some meaningful dialogue….

    • ‘a’ for effort, but you’re a week late with your sentiments — our latest match was a positive result, so now our mids are ready for primetime, tim parker is the new bocanegra, and zack steffen is our ‘go-to goalkeeper’. all we have left to figure out is who to start up top, and we’re set!


Leave a Comment