The addition of Boyd could pay big dividends for Berhalter and the USMNT

ASN's Brian Sciaretta has been covering Tyler Boyd throughout his breakout season. Now with the talented dual-national winger declairing his allegiance to the U.S. national team, Sciaretta takes a look at how Boyd could help Berhalter's team. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 19, 2019
5:00 PM
ON SATURDAY, U.S. Soccer confirmed that New Zealand-born winger Tyler Boyd had filed an application with FIFA for a one-time switch to represent the United States internationally and that the application had been approved. The result is that Boyd can only play for the United States internationally in the future.

Boyd, 24, has been enjoying a breakout season in Turkey’s Super Lig with Ankaragucu where he has five goals and four assists in 13 games. He joined the club on loan in January from Vitoria de Guimaraes and has been in first-rate form ever since.

Boyd was born in New Zealand to an American mother and New Zelander father but moved to Santa Ynez, California months after his birth. He lived there until he was the age of 10. It was also there where he developed a love for soccer and even attended LA Galaxy games when the team played at the Rose Bowl.

He retuned to New Zealand and represented its youth national teams in official competitions (which required him to file a switch with FIFA to play for the United States). He also represented New Zealand’s full national team six times in non-tying friendlies.

ASN interviewed Boyd in December about the possibility of playing for the United States and to date it is the only time he spoke on the matter.

“It's tricky. It's kind of like choosing between your mother and your father, which is impossible” Boyd said with a chuckle. “I actually have spent 10 years in each country before moving to Portugal. Every offseason I go back to America for at least two weeks. I still have a lot of friends and family over there and I love it. I spend half my offseason in New Zealand and half in America. I have a parent from each country and I feel loyalty to each country. I'd be proud to represent either. At this stage I've only played non-competitive games for New Zealand. It's still a possibility for either nation. The U.S. team is looking to rebuild and qualify - that is an interesting process. The same goes to New Zealand.”

But that was before his breakout in Turkey and the following months his play alerted U.S. Soccer and that put the wheels in motion.

But Boyd had been frequently turning down New Zealand national team call-ups in recent years and that fueled speculation in New Zealand that he was keeping the door open to switch allegiances to the United States. New Zealand’s national team plays far fewer games and long-traveling to the country is especially hard on its players based in Europe.

The final attempt New Zealand made to call-up Boyd was in May 2016 for Oceania Nation’s Cup games in Papua New Guinea – which would have cap-tied him to the All Whites. But Boyd declined the callup.

"Ever since he pulled out of that squad, because he wanted to spend time with his personal trainer to prepare for preseason, rather than coming to the Nations Cup, I haven't heard from Tyler," then New Zealand manager Anthony Hudson told Stuff in September 2017. "So, I think it would be wrong for me, and quite disrespectful to the team, to be chasing after someone that doesn't want to come."

In subsequent interviews, Boyd declined to speak on his international allegiance until he spoke with ASN.

Now Boyd will be moving forward with the United States as his only option and it is highly likely he will get the opportunity sooner than later. His first potential call-up would be to a pre-Gold Cup camp where new U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter will look at more players that those who make the final Gold Cup team.

In addition, he will be a crossroads at the club level where Boyd stood out in Turkey but is set to return to Vitoria de Guimaraes next season. Thus far he has not stood out for the club’s first team and his best moments have come on loans to Tondela (also in Portugal’s top flight) and now Ankaragucu.

Where does Boyd fit?

For the U.S. team, this is a great pickup. Berhalter will be getting a player who addresses a weakness on the wings.

Boyd is a pure winger but can play either side effective. He is lightening quick as well. Now he is right footed but told ASN he feels equally comfortable with his left. The evidence backs this up as two of his best goals have come with his left foot.

This goal last year for Tondela was scored with his left foot and was named the Goal of the Week in Portugal.

Then last week, Boyd scored an extremely impressive goal for Ankaragucu against Istanbul Basaksehir where got into a 1v1 situation with former Manchester City, Arsenal, and French national team left back Gaël Clichy and was simply too quick for him. Then Boyd fired a beautiful left footed shot to the near post.

In addition to his two-footed nature, U.S. Soccer might be adding a player who is the fastest in the player pool. So far in Turkey, he has shown a great tendency of just getting past the opponent’s backline.

If Berhalter wants to use Christian Pulisic on the left side, Boyd can play on the right. If Pulisic is in the middle, Boyd can play either side. 

It has been pretty clear that the wing positions are not particularly deep for the U.S. team right now. Paul Arriola has been useful and plays a fairly complete game with solid defense. Kenny Saief might also be an option and has UEFA Champions League experience although Saief has struggled with injuries the past two seasons and his loan to FC Cincinnati is set to soon expire.

Corey Baird and Jeremy Ebobisse both played out on the wing earlier this year. Ebobisse, however, is mainly a center forward while Baird also is probably best used centrally as well. Jonathan Lewis showed some promise but needs more club stability and is probably eyed towards the Olympic team. Jordan Morris, also, is looking to establishing himself as a winger as opposed to forward but the results have been mixed.

Boyd has a lot of potential but is still only in his first season as an impact player at the top flight. He is at a point in his career where his club situation isn’t settled and it remains unclear how he will build off his 2019 success. But the benefit of Boyd is that he is able to help immediately. U.S. national team players are still getting adjusted to Berhalter's system so Boyd is not far behind. At worst, he helps bridge the gap for when/if top wing prospects like Ulysses Llanez, Konrad de la Fuente, or Tim Weah are ready. There is no question that the U.S. national team had a very weak generation of players born between 1990-1994 and is still dealing with that - due to a lack of quality players who would now be in their prime. Boyd fills that gap as his birth year, 1994, was the worst of producing birth year during that hole.  

No matter what, it is a promising development because Boyd brings so much of what the U.S. needs on the wings in terms of speed and, most importantly, 1v1. ability. That kind of skillset will help open up the field for other players because defenders will not be able to afford to give space to Boyd. In a sense it will stretch the defense apart. That will then allow players like Christian Pulisic, Jozy Altidore, or whatever attacking midfielder, winger, or forward on the field to make more effective runs. In Berhalter's 4-1-4-1 formation, Boyd will have plenty of other attacking players to connect with in the box. 

The U.S. team is still building under Berhalter and it will take time for the team to get to where the fans want to be. A promising young generation is still at the very beginning stages of their careers and certain positions remain thin. But adding Boyd is certainly a welcome addition that could pay dividends in the short-term as well as the long-term.

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