Tyler Boyd spoke softly and smiled often. His responses to questions were sincere but tinged with slight nervousness.
That’s understandable for any player, but especially for someone who swapped playing for his birth country to play for the one where he was raised. On Sunday, that switch solidifies at Nippert Stadium.
Boyd was born in New Zealand and played six times for the All Whites in friendly matches. But last month, the 24-year-old winger decided to make a one-time nationality switch to the U.S. As a result, any international action moving forward will be as an American.
His dad is a New Zealander. His mom is American.
“I think it’s a huge bonus for my career,” Boyd said of the move. “I got to make my dad proud by representing New Zealand and now it’s time for my mom to get to see me get to play for our country here in America.”
After Boyd was born in the Oceanic country, his family moved to the U.S. until he was 10 years old. Then, they moved back to his birth place. As a result, both countries felt like home, and when it came time to decide which national team to represent, that also meant playing for which parent’s homeland.
Beginning Sunday afternoon, when Boyd and the USMNT play against Venezuela at Nippert Stadium, it’ll mean the he’s represented both national teams – and made both parents happy.
“She’s super excited about me representing the country,” he said. “My dad is also. The messages I’ve gotten from New Zealand are mostly positive. Everyone understands that choosing between two parents, it’s not possible. I love both countries, but this is my decision.”
This background explains Boyd’s nerves. But he’s not the only one feeling anxious.
“We’re anxious to see him,” USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said. “He’s a very dynamic runner. (He likes) to run behind the line; a vertical-type player (with) good finishing. We’re excited to see him in uniform.”
Despite never playing a minute for the U.S. previously, Berhalter opted to include Boyd in his 23-man squad for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. That speaks to the player’s potential and the coach’s belief in him.
With Sunday being the national team’s last match before the Gold Cup – and the first major international tournament since the U.S. missed the 2018 FIFA World Cup – there’s an eagerness to move onto the past and see promising signs in the future.
Boyd’s production could be one of these signs.
While his parent club is Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal, he spent 2019 on loan at Ankaragucu in Turkey. In 14 games, he scored six goals and added four assists.
Now, the focus shifts to how he can create for his new national team ahead of the continent’s biggest soccer tournament.
“I just need to play my game and believe in myself,” Boyd said. “My quality brought me here. What I did beforehand obviously impressed the coach to bring me in, so I just need to believe in myself, work hard, listen to what the coaches have to say and work hard for the team.”