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Boyd conceived in US, and now he’s playing there, too.

July 6, 2019
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U.S. forward Tyler Boyd plays the ball against Trinidad and Tobago defender Aubrey David during the first half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match Saturday, June 22, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

CHICAGO (AP) — Tyler Boyd was conceived in the U.S. and now he’s playing there, too.

His father, Ric, wanted his son to be born in his native New Zealand, so Ric and Sherry Boyd traveled there for their son’s birth in December 1994.

“We flew straight back to America when I was old enough to travel,” Tyler Boyd said.

After Tyler spent a decade in California growing up, the family moved back to New Zealand and he debuted for New Zealand’s senior national team in 2014. He made six appearances for the All Whites, was granted a switch of affiliation by FIFA in May and has become a regular for the Americans heading into Sunday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final against Mexico.

“It was my dream to play for America,” Boyd said Friday. “I represented New Zealand and that’s my dad’s country, and now I get to represent America and make my mom proud — and my dad is extremely proud, as well. To represent such an amazing country is such an honor. There’s 330 million people in this country, and to be one of those players that gets to play is just humbling.”

A 24-year-old winger, Boyd signed with the Wellington Phoenix at 17 in 2012 and moved to Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes in February 2015. He started to score during a loan to the smaller Portuguese club Tondela in 2017-18, made a few starts but mostly substitute appearances for Vitoria Guimaraes in the first half of last season, then became a regular during a loan to Turkey’s Ankaragucu during the second half of 2018-19.

Three months after he was hired as American coach, Gregg Berhalter called Boyd in March. Boyd had attracted attention from a scout for the Columbus Crew about 2 1/2 years ago when Berhalter coached the Major League Soccer team. Boyd missed Berhalter’s initial outreach because he was in a pool session, then called Berhalter back.

“He was excited about it,” Berhalter said. “That’s what you wanted to hear, that type of answer, because we want guys that are in it for the project that we’re on and for what we’re trying to do.”

Boyd made his U.S. debut on June 9 in an exhibition against Venezuela and scored twice in his second game, the Americans’ Gold Cup opener against Guyana on June 18. The first goal was the 1,000th in U.S. team history.

“You could see he was full of confidence coming in,” U.S. forward Jordan Morris said.

Defender Tim Ream was impressed with the physical play of the 5-foot-11 Boyd.

“He throws himself around, not afraid to get into a tackle,” Ream said. “His willingness to get the ball to feet and run at guys and make things happen ... He’s just showed a willingness to do whatever it takes to stick in this group.”

Boyd attended Santa Ynez Valley Christian Academy and played soccer, baseball and judo as a youth. Becoming a professional soccer player was his goal.

“I think at 4 years old I believe I was telling my parents this is what’s going to happen, I’m going to do it,” he said. “And they never doubted me. They filled me with confidence, filled me with belief, and I believed.”

He was playing with a youth academy when he was part of a group offered a trial with Wellington

“They said out of these 12 we will sign two professional contracts,” he recalled. “It was after a game that we played in preseason and I scored four goals, they signed me directly after that. And then as a 17-year old I was making appearances in the Australian league as a pro. My debut was against (Alessandro) Del Piero,” the Italian World Cup champion then with Sydney. “It was crazy how things happen.”

Boyd told his new U.S. teammates during his first few days to call him “Boydie.” He started on wing midfield in three of the Americans’ five Gold Cup matches and entered another as a second-half sub.

“His speed, his verticality, his ability to get to goal, his ability to score goals is something that’s valuable,” Berhalter said.

And he has fit into the group as if just another American.

“He’s been a great addition to our group, just in terms of the personality,” said midfielder Michael Bradley, among the team’s veterans, “I think he has established himself in a good way in a short amount of time.”

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