FAIRFAX, Va.— Called into US national team camp for just the third time in his career, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill is already feeling a duty to help guide the program into a new era and identity under coach Gregg Berhalter.
“Being able to play at more practices and games with everyone, definitely the comfortability level is increasing, and [I’m] getting to show my way of football,” the 22-year-old central midfielder said earlier this week, ahead of the US’s Concacaf Nations League opener against Cuba Friday (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMas, TUDN). “I think the calmness, the possession that we’re trying to build here, I definitely think I’ll be able to help in that sense.”
"Calmness" was not exactly Matias Almeyda’s MO in charge of Earthquakes this season, in which they employed a frenetic, man-marking press that took the rebuilding club within a win of the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
A holding midfielder with liberty to go forward at times with San Jose, Yueill has shown promise in adjusting to Berhalter’s more nuanced approach in his two international appearances to date.
After debuting in a 1-0 friendly defeat to Jamaica back in June, in which nearly everyone in the US squad played poorly, Yueill was a very active distributor in a 1-1 draw against Uruguay, completing nearly 50 passes.
Jackson Yueill's night in #USAvURU, via Opta: 49/53 passing (granted, 1 missed pass was an ugly turnover that led to a Uruguay transition), 1 shot (wide), 7 defensive actions. He's still green & not really a 6 IMO, but I want to see more of him @ int'l level. pic.twitter.com/BP4rcuoKnc— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) September 11, 2019
“Definitely the way that we play at San Jose is much different,” Yueill said. “I think the movements [with the US] are a little bit subtler. The way we play at the club level is just kind of rambunctious, just a lot of movements, and throwing opponents off. Here it’s more tactical.”
As one of the attackers who could benefit from Yueill's field vision, as well as one well versed in that "more tactical" system from his time under Berhalter at Columbus Crew SC, Gyasi Zardes has seen Yueill make definite progress.
“There’s so much promise for him, just because of the way he’s controlling the ball and also paying attention to what the coaches are asking of him, and then adapting and changing his game,” Zardes said. “It’s a good character trait to have and I think he’s going to be a phenomenal player.”
There is near-universal acknowledgement of a learning curve for players in Berhalter's project, and Yueill is no different. Even so, his club and international teammate Nick Lima has advised Yueill to remember the traits that won him these opportunities in the first place.
"[I’ve told him] Just to play his game,” the Quakes fullback said. “Because he’s so good, so technical and so smart. He sees things that a lot of players don’t. So just stick to that.”