Yunus Musah Weston McKennie Tyler Adams “MMA” midfield sets.
The United States defeated Iran 1-0 on Tuesday to advance to the round of 16 of the 2022 FIFA
World Cup in Qatar. The midfield trio of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Yunus Musah once again put in a tough, determined effort. This team, which has been dubbed the “MMA” midfield after their names, has the ability to defeat you using strength, style, and cunning, much like in mixed martial arts. They even showed their versatility by participating in three different World Cup lineups in as few games.
In the 1-1 tie with Wales, a 4-3-3 formation was used, with Musah on the left, Adams in the center as a defensive midfielder, and McKennie on the right. In the goalless draw with England, Musah and Adams formed a double pivot in a 4-4-2, with McKennie playing as a right flank rather than a conventional central midfielder. They returned to the 4-3-3 for Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Iran, but McKennie and Musah switched sides to weaken the defense.
The USMNT midfield is effective because its players can switch into multiple roles when the team advances, unlike other strong midfielders who have players that are strong in one of two different roles.
The midfield is a strong point for the squad, both defensively and offensively, and Gregg Berhalter has a lot of leeways to make mistakes because of it. McKennie, the oldest of the three, is only 24 years old. If McKennie cannot play for more than 70 minutes against the Netherlands on Saturday, December 3, there will be some minor worries. In the group stage, he has just once continued to play over the 66-minute mark. That being said, things will be OK against the Netherlands as long as the team succeeds when he returns to the field, as his contribution to Christian Pulisic’s goal against Iran with Adams heading the defense after he leaves.
Musah made a significant contribution on his 20th birthday, completing 44 of 49 passes and attempting two shots. His unpredictable temperament works well to create space for McKennie and the assault. He plays the game on the edge, and at times you’re not sure if he’s going to win the team the game or lose it. They have been able to play freely because Adams, the team captain, is waiting to clear up everything behind them.
Don’t be fooled by Adams’ defensive positioning, though; he can also push the ball up the pitch. With 36 passes completed in the World Cup’s final third, Musah is the team’s leader. Pulisic (32), McKennie (31), Weah (31) and Adams are all behind him (30). It demonstrates how much the midfield switches roles with the offensive players to keep the team moving even in the absence of a true striker. Nearly a third of all of Musah’s passes are made in the final third. This is due to the fact that he has continuously been let to play in advanced areas, keeping Pulisic involved in the game and establishing safety valves to prevent the squad from being encircled by the defenders they have thus far encountered.
The USMNT has been able to generate quality offensive opportunities during the opening halves of games no matter which team they have faced. As the World Cup progresses, their levels of fitness should grow in order to maintain the intensity at the start of the second half. Due to the team’s youth, the midfield may be committed for nearly the ensuing 10 years, which gives Berhalter many reasons to be enthusiastic about their potential.
To take advantage of the opportunities that are presented, they’ll need Pulsic to remain healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see the side deploy its fourth distinct midfield formation on Saturday in order to keep up with the Netherlands. With its draw to Ecuador, Louis van Gaal’s team has already demonstrated its willingness to yield to pressure. Berhalter will make sure that his team is prepared to start strong. The round of 16 is being played with house money, and this young team is trying to establish a reputation. They are establishing the foundation for the 2026 World Cup in their country, and then some.