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Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie are the heartbeat of US soccer and core of Leeds' EPL survival bid

By Jack Bezants For Dailymail.Com,


Make no mistake about it, Leeds are America's Premier League team. And the nickname 'Leeds United States of America' grew stronger on Monday night, wh en Weston McKennie completed his loan move from Juventus.

There, he was greeted by Tyler Adams - the United States captain, teammate and his friend from his teenage years. Adams crept up on McKennie while he was giving his first interview as a Leeds player and then took on the journalistic duties himself.

'He had nothing to do with my decision!' McKennie joked about Adams, moments after putting pen to paper to officially become a Leeds player.

He continued: 'You know how it is when we play. We like bumpin' atmospheres. But obviously knowing there's a big American support network here - Jesse's here, you, Brendan (Aaronson) - having played with on the national team, it was an easy decision.'

It's an interview littered with laughs and cheeky smirks between the two as Adams asked the questions and the jokes carried over to social media, where Adams posted a throwback picture from a United States Under 17 training camp in Florida.

They first met when they were 14 and that snap is one of the first of them together. McKennie was actually shorter than Adams at the time, but now stands at six feet and is three inches taller.

'That photo came up and I just lost it,' Adams said of the image back in 2018. 'Wes hadn't hit his growth spurt yet, not even close to it.'

Their story is remarkable - they even both made their USA debuts together in November 2017 against Portugal. It ended as a 1-1 tie and McKennie scored for the US.

But the pair are in England to work and McKennie must start at top speed. Leeds are 15th in the Premier League standings, only a point above the relegation zone and play at Nottingham Forest - another team fighting to stay in the league - next in a must-win game on Sunday.

'The 8 role is the position I like to play, running box-to-box, try to create plays and get back defensively,' McKennie told Adams. 'I like to have the freedom to attack and defend.'

Speaking to ESPN in 2018 without the gaze of Adams to distract him, McKennie opened up in more depth as to how the duo compliment each other.

'I think we're both eager to press,' McKennie said. 'We both like pressing and we both have a good set of lungs - we can definitely run for a while. I think that's one of the things we talk about when we do talk about going into games and game plans.

'We know we like to press, we know what kind of style we like to play. We're normally good together on the field. Whenever one guy goes up, the other has the other guy's back. I think we definitely compliment each other.'

Speaking to FOX before the World Cup, McKennie also explained how Adams can take the tough line with him if he has to.

'We all know each other so well that we can talk to each other openly,' McKennie said. 'If I'm doing something wrong, Tyler has no problem holding me accountable for it.'

Adams won admirers across the globe at the World Cup when he kept his composure in the face of an intense grilling from an Iranian journalist at a press conference before the two teams played in Qatar.

The reporter corrected Adams on his pronunciation of 'Iran' before asking him if he was comfortable representing a country that 'has so much discrimination against black people'.

McKennie, meanwhile, was a standout performer for the United States in Qatar but did not complete 90 minutes once in the tournament, after injuring his thigh in the month before. Whenever he was substituted off, the US then struggled to retain a foothold in the game.

The success of Leeds between now and the end of the Premier League season in May has a big impact on the reputation of US soccer across the globe, too.

Jesse Marsch admitted that Ted Lasso didn't help him earn respect as an American in the game when he replaced the much-loved Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds a year ago.

Marsch has, clearly, looked to tap into his knowledge of American soccer in a similar way Rafa Benitez did as Liverpool coach with Spain, or Arsene Wenger with France at Arsenal.

Now, Leeds could field an American midfield three of Adams, McKennie and Aaronson as the side bids to climb away from the bottom three. With the United States working hard to establish itself as a force in international soccer and the country a co-host for the 2026 World Cup, the team's games will be watched very closely in America.

This season, Leeds games often get priority showing in sports bars across the country, ahead of the likes of both Manchester teams and Liverpool, due to their American presence.

McKennie could be a revelation for Leeds. He impressed at Juventus and struck up a friendship with Cristiano Ronaldo, who affectionately called him 'Texas Boy' in reference to where he was born. When news of a Leeds move first surfaced, former USA international Alexi Lalas said he felt the midfielder could go to a better team in England.

'I think Weston McKennie is better than Leeds,' Lalas said on his State of the Union podcast, and also tweeted out much to the dismay of Leeds fans.

Brad Friedel, a columnist for DailyMail.Com during the World Cup who coached McKennie at youth level for the United States, was effusive in his praise for the midfielder.

He wrote: 'Weston McKennie is one of my favorite players the US has ever produced.

'Wes is the type of kid who will be heading the ball away in his own box, he has the guile and skill to wriggle out of tight areas, a range of passing, a powerful shot on him, a powerful attacking header - the kid has everything.'

The US were the second-youngest squad at the World Cup in Qatar and there is a growing belief that in 2026, this team will come to the boil at the right time as a host nation.

But their 3-1 defeat in the World Cup last-16 to Holland was sobering and demonstrated just how ruthless knock-out international football is.

American soccer now must hope McKennie and Adams, along with Aaronson, don't learn another hard lesson by tasting Premier League relegation.

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