New York Red Bulls center back and US men’s national team regular Aaron Long talked about why Tyler Adams is a “different breed of human,” what makes Christian Pulisic special and his plea to Gyasi Zardes to recruit Darlington Nagbe to the national team in a wide-ranging interview with Herc Gomez on ESPNFC.
Long described Adams, his former club teammate, as “crazy,” and listed him as the biggest pest in the current USMNT pool. He recalled a game with the Red Bulls when Adams lost his mark and was responsible for a goal scored the team as an example of the Leipzig midfielder's mentality.
“Two minutes later, he sprints over to the sideline at Jesse [Marsch] and just starts screaming at Jesse about tactics and why are we not forcing the ball to the left, to their left center back,” Long said. “Jesse just turns around and is like ‘He’s right, he’s right. I can’t believe it. How is his mind so strong, how does he not even think about his mistakes and he just moves on?”
Like Long, Adams has established himself on the USMNT and the center back is hoping Nagbe opts to join Gregg Berhalter’s squad. He was teammates with Nagbe when his MLS career started with the Portland Timbers. When Nagbe was traded to Columbus Crew SC in November, Long reached out to Zardes about getting the midfielder to change his mind about playing for the national team.
“‘Dude, if you do anything, you get Darlington to come to the national team’ because I think he’s an unbelievable player,” Long said he told the forward. “I think everyone in our generation thinks he’s an unbelievable player and a crazy good talent and he can only help the national team pool at this moment.”
What makes Nagbe a perfect fit for the current USMNT?
“He’s a guy you can give the ball to at any moment in the game and he’s going to keep it for you. I think that is undervalued right now,” Long said. “Especially in the national team, with being a possession-based team I think he would be instrumental in those moments when we’re trying to build out of the back and keep the ball.”
Long said he also sees a present, and future, for veterans Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley on the team. He used the run to the last Gold Cup final against Mexico as an example of the Toronto FC duo’s value to the young team.
“You need leaders and guys who have been there before and guys that can set the tone, guys you can lean on in moments that are either tough or you haven’t been through,” he said, adding “Seeing Jozy and Michael’s reactions going into Mexico and seeing how fired up they were and how you knew it was going to be a brawl and almost a fistfight to the death. You need guys that have been there in those moments to look at and to understand what’s coming.”
When Gomez pressed Long into his thoughts about who the best current player in Concacaf is, he highlighted LAFC’s Carlos Vela because "he knows exactly how to hurt you." But Long was quick to acknowledge Pulisic will be there soon.
“He’s so tidy in tight spaces,” Long said. “His acceleration, and it’s not just his top speed, it’s quickness and top speed mixed together. I think Michael Bradley described it as light, almost like a Landon Donovan how he’s so light on his feet. The way he can dribble around defenders and make it look effortless is crazy. It’s something I’ve never seen before.”