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The United States men’s national team has historically struggled to find depth at the No. 6 position. That became especially apparent in the absence of Tyler Adams, who hasn’t played for the USMNT since the 2022 FIFA World Cup due to a hamstring injury he sustained while playing for Leeds United in March 2023.

There’s hope that Adams — now with English Premier League side AFC Bournemouth — will return in time to join the U.S. for the 2024 Copa América, but if he’s unable to, the U.S. might finally have someone that can capably fill that role: 22-year-old Johnny Cardoso.

Cardoso has demanded a lot of attention since joining Spanish La Liga club Real Betis in January, recording a goal and an assist in six appearances with Los Verdiblancos. Cardoso has 11 caps with the national team, but with Adams sidelined and his form improving at the club level, he could play a bigger role going forward, and not just as a No. 6, according to USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter.

“If you look at what he’s doing at Betis, he’s playing next to another player,” Berhalter said during a recent appearance on “Alexi Lalas’ State of the Union Podcast.” “Johnny thrives, I think, next to someone, also. But if you remember, from World Cup qualifiers, we moved another player next to Tyler [Adams], also, so it wasn’t always like Tyler was there alone.

“We obviously miss [Tyler] … he’s really important to the team. But we’ve also played with a double pivot when he was around.”

If Berhalter decides to play Cardoso in a double pivot, we could see a midfield trio of Cardoso, Yunus Musah and Gio Reyna as soon as the CONCACAF Nations League in March. Berhalter has historically played in a 4-3-3 formation, with Adams as the No. 6 and Musah and Weston McKennie as the two central midfielders. McKennie is unlikely to join the USMNT for Nations League after dislocating his left shoulder on Sunday.

You can listen to the full episode of “Alexi Lalas’ State of the Union Podcast” with Gregg Berhalter below.


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