The gang's all here.
At long last.
No one could be happier than Tyler Adams to be back with the U.S. national team.
The gathering in Cardiff ahead of Thursday's friendly against Wales is the first for the USA since January camp.
It's the first of European-based players since the Concacaf Nations League a year ago.
For Adams, it's the first time he's been with the national team since March 2019, a span of almost 20 months.
To complete the journey, after eight traumatic months because of the pandemic, is what's most important to Adams.
"It's been very difficult," he said on a media call on Monday night. "Obviously, as a footballer, you can't really ever complain about your life or scheduling. But when something comes along of this circumstance, you don't really understand how much it really impacts you until it quite happens."
For Adams, it's been a year of ups and downs, more ups and downs after 2019 when he was sidelined for long stretches after moving to RB Leipzig and being an important contributor for his first three months in Germany.
Adams got himself fit and playing again at the start of 2020, then had to wait two months before play resumed after play shut down in March. He wasn't starting but he was playing, and he scored one of the biggest goals in the history of RB Leipzig, the winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid into the UEFA Champions League.
The 2020-21 season resumed a month later, and Adams was starting at his favored No. 6 position, though he is again being rotated after suffering a knee injury in training three weeks ago.
"I got myself in a really good groove and I was fit," he said, "and then obviously COVID happened. And then, you come back into preseason and you're feeling good. And then we have a little bit more of an offseason that we're given because of the Champions League. And then you get back in the swing of things again, and you have more games and in such a congested schedule, there's a lot of rotation in the team. So it's been a lot of stop and go for a lot of different players. You're seeing in the Premier League now with how many injuries there are, things like that impact you and obviously the consistency that you're able to have."
Adams considers the change of pace of finally returning to the national team refreshing.
"Having the opportunity to come into a national team camp is good," he said. "Not only to see some familiar faces, but also step out of the groove of what was going on. It feels like that because I was with my club for such a long time in Germany, throughout all of COVID now. Being able to be around some of my friends again and step back into the U.S. crest is a good feeling, mentally, and obviously physically."
This is not like any other national camp the players have attended. Players have to be tested and isolated, then cleared to join the team when a negative COVID-19 test result is returned. The USA held its first practice on Monday, and 11 players were in attendance. The first full practice is on Tuesday, and the Wales game is on Thursday.
"We'll have a welcome meeting tomorrow," said U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, "and we'll have been here for two and a half days."
Adams is only 21, but he is one of the oldest players in terms of seniority. Only six players in camp debuted for the senior national team before he did, in the 1-1 tie with Portugal in November 2017, the first game after Couva. Ten players are uncapped, six of them who were born or raised or moved abroad at a young age.
He's never played with Barcelona's Sergino Dest and never met Yunus Musah, who was the last player to arrive in camp after starting for Valencia in its 4-1 win over Real Madrid on Sunday. The 17-year-old midfielder was still isolating as of Monday evening.
"It's my first time having real interaction with Sergino and he seemed so excited to be around the group and be on the pitch with us and you can see his confidence and different element that he brings to our locker room," said Adams. "Not only because he's a dual national, but because he's so excited every time he puts on the U S crest. And I think that that's really important for someone like Yunus. Obviously, he's doing really well in Valencia. I haven't quite met him just due to the COVID and having to be tested and what-not. But it will be really interesting to be able to talk to him and see his experiences and where his head's at. I think that with the quality that we're starting to have in our national team, I think it's more attractive for players to want to represent the U.S. and I think that's a huge positive."
Adams first played for the USA at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup in Chile. The only other player in Cardiff from the 2015 U-17s is Christian Pulisic, who returned to training at Chelsea after suffering another hamstring injury in warm-ups on Oct. 31 but did not suit up for the Blues' two games last week.
Adams says that Pulisic is in camp with the national team despite his uncertain playing status is a good sign.
"It shows that what we're doing is working right," he said. "We're creating an environment, the coaching staff, most importantly, is creating an environment that players want to come into. If you can create that environment, you're going to bring the best out of the players on the pitch and off the pitch. For me, personally, it's great to have Christian in camp because he's one of my best friends and I haven't been able to see him in a long time. But at the end of the day, it shows what a quality teammate he is as well, because he's working on getting back on the pitch as quickly as possible so that he can help the team and perform at a high level again. It's just a great feeling to have him back again."