The United States begin the defence of their CONCACAF Nations League title with group fixtures against Grenada and El Salvador, and have four Germany-based players included in the roster. So, what do Tyler Adams, Joe Scally, George Bello and newcomer Malik Tillman bring to Gregg Berhalter’s team?
bundesliga.com looks at the young quartet…
Adams once joked that he can’t be Captain America because that’s Christian Pulisic, but he will be Iron Man. It’s perhaps the more fitting character for a midfielder who possesses a wide array of skills, powers and strengths. But the 23-year-old can still call himself captain after becoming the regular wearer of the Stars and Stripes’ armband, even ahead of former Borussia Dortmund man Pulisic.
Adams’s versatility has seen him used in a number of positions for club Leipzig, but he’s nailed on in central midfield for Berhalter as the former 1860 Munich defender looks to ensure a balanced team. The New York native combines grit (almost 10 challenges won per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season) and control (73 touches per 90 minutes and a pass completion of over 90 per cent), and looks like being the man the US will form the team around in the centre of the park for years to come. And he’ll join the camp even more confident on the back of DFB Cup success.
Scally was called up in November for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica on the back of an impressive breakout few months at Gladbach that saw the young full-back miss just 30 minutes of their opening 13 matches. In fact, 21 minutes of that were because he had helped completely nullify Bayern Munich as Borussia thrashed them 5-0 in the DFB Cup. Although Scally didn’t earn a first cap back then, he was given a taste of what it’s like to be around the national team camp.
Watch: Fast-rising Foal Scally
There is competition for places at right-back in this USMNT side, alongside Reggie Cannon and the experienced DeAndre Yedlin – plus the injured Sergino Dest, but the New York City FC product has proven in just 18 months in Germany that he can mix it with the big boys. He ranks in the 92nd percentile across Europe’s top five leagues for most defensive pressure moments created this season and won on average 10 challenges per 90 minutes, but also provided impetus going forward, with a goal, two assists, 20 shots and 18 chances created from 30 Bundesliga appearances. Key to Scally’s game is that he can operate on both the right and left flank, therefore allowing Berhalter to cover two positions with one man in a limited squad, when thinking about this winter’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
“I’ve been learning,” Bello told bundesliga.com of his start to life across the Atlantic. But while Scally was afforded six months to acclimatise in Germany and find his feet with the Gladbach reserves, Bello didn’t have that fortune and was thrust into the action for struggling Bielefeld with a debut against Scally’s Borussia just a week after signing from Atlanta United.
Watch: Bello and the Bundesliga's World Cup-bound Americans
He stated his goal was to take his game to the next level, with early signs in that coming in defensive stats, which are up on his last season in Major League Soccer. And although behind Anthonee Robinson in the pecking order at left-back, Bello is clearly still doing enough to please Berhalter and keep himself in the squad. A sign of faith from the coach despite Bielefeld’s relegation, which could benefit the Nigeria-born defender by allowing him to blossom in Bundesliga 2 – arguably one of the highest-quality second divisions in the world.
Tillman is a new face in the USMNT setup, having not featured in Red, White and Blue since doing so at U15 level alongside Bello and Gio Reyna. In the meantime, the Nuremberg-born dual national has turned out for Germany up to U21s before confirming his international allegiance lies with the USA, the country of his father. And Tillman is an exciting prospect for US Soccer, being held in high regard at Bayern.
He gives Berhalter real flexibility. The teenager is an attack-minded midfielder – who compares himself to Paul Pogba – turned prolific forward with 21 goals across 34 appearances for the club’s U19s and reserves in 2019/20. He even scored on his senior Bayern debut as they thrashed Bremer SV 12-0 in the DFB Cup first round. “He's really talented between the lines, he really has a knack for scoring goals, good and calm around the penalty box, good technique scoring both feet - both footed. So, he's an interesting player,” Berhalter said of his newest recruit when discussing what Tillman will add to the team.
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