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Why playing Olympics and Copa America for USMNT makes sense for Tyler Adams but not Christian Pulisic

It will be quite a summer for the United States men’s national team as they’ll be taking part in both the Copa America and the Olympics. While the Olympics will be made up of mostly the U-23 team, there is the ability for Marko Mitrovic to take three over age players to the tournament as well, leading to discussion about who they should be. 

With the Copa America taking place during June in the United States and the Olympics running from July to early August in Paris, players can theoretically take part in both tournaments but with the wear and tear rising by the season due to games being added to the soccer calendar, it’s something that the USMNT have to be careful with.

Winning the Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity which is why it makes sense for USMNT captain Christian Pulisic to potentially participate in both just how Kylian Mbappe of France wants to participate in the Euros and the Olympics. Pulisic expressed interest in playing at the 2020 Olympics, so there”s reasons to believe he’d still be interested, but there are cautionary tales of why that isn’t the best idea. 

Neymar‘s case

Neymar and Dani Olmo are a few examples of players who have done both and it didn’t end well in either situation. In 2016, Neymar played in the Copa America for Brazil before then taking part in the Olympics before missing the entire final two months of the season for PSG due to a metatarsal fracture. 

Missing 18 games and only appearing in 20 during the season, Neymar’s career hasn’t been the same since as now he’ll miss this year’s Copa America due to a knee injury. Metatarsal fractures would then impact the Brazilian for the next three seasons before he then missed time with hamstring and knee injuries. There’s a strong case that can be made that playing in both tournaments after a packed European season has stopped us from truly enjoying one of the most talented players in the world with the ball at their feet.

Dani Olmo’s case

Representing Spain, RB Leipzig attacker Dani Olmo is a similar case that his former coach Jesse Marsch provided insight around.

“When I took over RB Leipzig it was the year of the Euros and the Olympics,” Marsch recalled recently on Call It What You Want. “I had Dani on my team and he was playing for Spain. He wanted to play in both the Euros and the Olympics. When I looked at the commitment if he wanted to do both, basically over an eight-week period he was only going to be free for four days and he wanted to go so badly that he wanted to come directly to camp after the Olympics.

“Normally we give three weeks off in Europe after any major tournament for players because often it is the only time off they have all year. So, reluctantly and against the club’s wishes I allowed Dani to play at the Olympics. And I did it because I wanted to invest in our relationship long term and show him that I wanted to support him,” Marsch continued. “But he came back, I gave him a week off after the Olympics — I think they went to the semifinal in both — and when he came back to training he got hurt two weeks later. In my time at Leipzig, I think he only played 20 minutes for me, he hardly ever played. And this was a factor in how the team performed.”

In a similar situation to Neymar, that injury had a cascading effect on Olmo during Marsch’s tenure and after Pulisic has been critical to the success of AC Milan, risking that for an Olympic medal is too much. This is the healthiest that Pulisic has been in recent seasons as the winger has dealt with hamstring injuries during his career so it’s important to ensure that he is in peak condition. 

Tyler Adams should play both

Struggling with hamstring injuries for the past few seasons, it may seem counter intuitive for Adams to play in the Copa America and Olympics but considering his lack of match fitness, it could be a great opportunity for him to return to Bournemouth in peak condition after featuring in competitive matches. With only 20 minutes of action this season following appearing in 26 matches for Leeds United in the previous season, the worries of having too many miles on his legs don’t impact Adams. The USMNT staff will need to be careful to manage his minutes but that’s something Berhalter has been able to do with Gio Reyna and Folarin Balogun. 

Chris Richards could also end up in a similar situation depending on how many minutes he picks up for Crystal Palace between now and the end of the season. Now featuring as a defensive midfielder, it may not continue once Palace are back to full health at which point sending Richards to Paris does make sense ahead of next season. 

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