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Tyler Adams, a leader ‘by his actions and words,’ named USMNT captain

“I want to represent this team in the right way, represent my family in the right way,” Tyler Adams said Sunday. “And you’re playing for something a lot bigger than yourself.” (Ashley Landis/AP)
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DOHA, Qatar — Since Gregg Berhalter became coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team four years ago, 14 starters have worn the captain’s armband over the 56-game stretch.

As the World Cup neared, though, Berhalter turned to his players to select their on-field leader. They voted for midfielder Tyler Adams, who, at 23, will become the youngest to marshal a U.S. World Cup squad since 1950 and the third youngest in program history.

“We think he has great leadership capabilities, and he leads by his actions and words,” Berhalter said at a news conference Sunday. “Tyler is a guy that’s just mature beyond his years, and you notice it from the minute you start talking to him.”

U.S. men's national team Coach Gregg Berhalter has a talented young squad with experience in top European leagues, but not in international competition. (Video: Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Past U.S. World Cup captains have included Claudio Reyna (2002 and 2006), Carlos Bocanegra (2010) and Clint Dempsey (2014). All were deep into their national team and club careers.

After serving as captain nine times, all in the past 18 months, Adams will lead the team onto the field at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Monday for its Group B opener against Wales.

Absent from the World Cup for 64 years, Wales insists: ‘We are still here’

“It’s a huge honor for me,” said Adams, who is in his first season with Leeds United in England’s Premier League after launching his career with MLS’s New York Red Bulls and starring at Germany’s RB Leipzig. “I want to represent this team in the right way, represent my family in the right way. And you’re playing for something a lot bigger than yourself. You’re playing for all the people in the U.S. that are watching and supporting you.”

Adams is a member of the Leadership Council, a group of players that provides guidance to teammates and bridges the player-coach gap. Christian Pulisic, DeAndre Yedlin and Walker Zimmerman are also among the regulars. In deciding the World Cup captain, Berhalter conducted a vote, starting at the September camp, involving about 35 players in the talent pool.

“He’s a guy that teammates know exactly what they’re going to get from him,” Berhalter said. “They know that he’s going to go out and compete. They know he’s going to be thinking about the game. They know he’s going to be into the details of the game. Not just a competitor, he’s also a strategist. And that helps the group because he calms people down. And he’s a guy that people get behind.”

Graphic: A closer look at the USMNT World Cup roster

On Sunday, after Adams explained how he handles pressure, Berhalter interjected at the news conference: “He doesn’t have a problem with pressure. I remember when he was 18, 17 years old playing against the Red Bulls [when Berhalter was coaching the Columbus Crew]. It was difficult. He was all over the place.”

Adams then added, “and we won!”

World Cup in Qatar

World champions: Argentina has won the World Cup, defeating France in penalty kicks in a thrilling final in Lusail, Qatar, for its first world championship since 1986. Argentina was led by global soccer star Lionel Messi in what is expected to be his final World Cup appearance. France was bidding to become the first repeat champion since Brazil won consecutive trophies in 1958 and 1962.

Today’s WorldView: In the minds of many critics, especially in the West, Qatar’s World Cup will always be a tournament shrouded in controversy. But Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, wants people to take another view.

Perspective: “America is not a men’s soccer laughingstock right now. It’s onto something, and it’s more attuned to what’s working for the rest of the world rather than stubbornly forcing an American sports culture — without the benefit of best-of-the-best talent — into international competition.” Read Jerry Brewer on the U.S. men’s national team’s future.