Getty Images

Tyler Adams has gone from a player without a set position in the United States men's national team to the heart and soul, captain, the anchor of the midfield. He'll lead the team on Friday night when Mexico visits Cincinnati in World Cup qualifying as both sides aim to make it a step closer to Qatar. Leading such a young, inexperienced squad hasn't been easy, but he's embraced the challenge while also embracing how manager Gregg Berhalter has aimed to build cohesion in the team.

So far, the U.S. is 3-2-1 and in second place in qualifying. They can finish the night in first place with a 'dos a cero' win over El Tri. Adams, who plays for German club RB Leipzig, has played in all six of the national team matches, going 90 minutes in four of them and 83 in another. The midfielder played the second half of the 1-0 loss to Panama. Plainly put, when Adams starts, the U.S. hasn't lost in qualifying.

So far, in his first taste of World Cup qualifying, it's been a learning experience. Adams spoke with CBS Sports' Que Golazo! podcast this week as he works closely with STATSports, a powerful GPS tracker in sports used to improve performance thanks to comparative data. 

Craving even more coverage of the world's game? Listen below and follow ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.

"I don't what I was expecting, to be honest," Adams said. "Playing with the young national teams in Concacaf doesn't give you a clear understanding of what it will be like at the full senior national team level. Going into this with such a young team, we always knew this was going to be a learning experience no matter what. What curve balls would be thrown at us we didn't know exactly, but now we've had a glimpse of what can be thrown at us so we're excited to go into this next couple of qualifiers, take it game-by-game. We've established that the most important thing in qualifying is not to get ahead of yourself, you can't take any opponent lightly because Concacaf is growing all the time and the quality is only getting better. Next on our agenda is Mexico. We've played them a lot in the last year and are excited for that game."

A key to getting early results, especially after the team missed out on the 2018 World Cup, was finding that cohesion. While the most important part is improving what we've seen on the field, there has also been a focus off the field to build that chemistry, Adams said. 

"The chemistry on the field speaks for itself, but something that I found very unique about this team - that the coaching staff has emphasized - is we want to be close with everyone," Adams said. "When we come into camp there is assigned seating at meals and it's always with different people so we get to know each other. There are no cliques in our team, you don't see the same guys always hanging out with the same guys, and that shows on the field. You can rotate Brenden Aaronson, Gio Reyna, Christian Pulisic, any of these players, and they come into the team and have a fluidity. We feel comfortable with each other."

And that comfort is going to be needed against Mexico in what will be the third meaning between the two since June. The U.S. beat Mexico in both the Nations League final and the Gold Cup over the summer, and while hoisting trophies is rad, this is just different.

No games are more important, outside of a World Cup, than the qualifiers. The last time the U.S. beat Mexico in a World Cup qualifier was September 10, 2013. After losing at home and getting a draw at Estadio Azteca in the last qualifying cycle, the U.S. hopes to build off the summer success but Adams says those wins don't do anything for them in this game. 

"[The Gold Cup and Nations League] mean absolutely nothing," Adams said. "The only good thing about those games is that we continue to progress in those points in time. We've gone through a lot as a team and have developed a lot more since those moments, and Mexico has as well. We respect Mexico very highly. They're a quality team with a lot of quality players. It's going to be a battle, bottom line. It's a rivalry match, I think we know what those games mean now and it was important to learn that over the summer. But winning those games means nothing. This is for a World Cup, the motivation will be completely different."

2021 USMNT game jerseys now available

Get the latest USMNT kits. Buy home and away gear, plus shirts, cornhole kits, hoodies, tracksuits, and more. Shop here and show your pride for the U.S. team.

We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.