By James Piercy, Football Whispers
Sometimes, you just have to applaud a player for his honesty. It’s no secret that Tyler Adams is one of the best prospects in MLS and no great surprise that RB Leipzig have kept close eyes on the youngster. Former coach Jesse Marsch works in Germany while Adams plays for sister club New York Red Bulls.
The eventual coming together of all parties seems inevitable but rather than shroud the situation with vague replies, Adams opened up over his future this week when speaking to The Atlantic.
“I feel like at the end of the season, it will be the right time to go to Europe,” he said. “I’ve been in my comfort zone for this whole season … you have to step outside of it and really test yourself … all the stories of the best players in the world have something like that.”
With Adams seemingly bound for Europe, and most likely the Bundesliga, we take a look at the teenage midfielder.
Who is Tyler Adams?
The New York Red Bulls Academy was a ground-breaking venture in the context of MLS and US Soccer when it was launched in 2005. But the drip feed of talent continues and following in the footsteps of other notable alumni Matt Miazga and Timothy Weah is Adams.
Academy coaching is never an exact science as more fall by the wayside than carve a consistent path in the professional game. Adams is very much a product of the system and a shining beacon that focused and well-financed facilities can produce potential stars.
Having joined the academy at the age of 12, the New York state-based midfielder progressed through the ranks at under-13, under-14 and under-15 level before turning pro when he turned 16 as he was signed by the Red Bulls' reserve team.
After a string of excellent performances for the B team he was called into the first-team set-up over the summer of 2015 and played in a pre-season friendly against Chelsea, even scoring in the game as the Red Bulls beat the Premier League giants 4-2.
He would have to bide him time in terms of MLS action, though, as it wasn’t until March the following year he made his senior bow for the club, starting against San Jose Earthquakes. He had also earned United States Under-17 honours by this stage but 2017 was to prove his breakout year.
Adams became a fixture in Marsch’s side, delivering an assist to Bradley Wright-Phillips in the Open Cup final as well scoring twice himself in a regular season game against D.C. United. The 18-year-old finished the season with 32 appearances.
He also was part of the squad which travelled to the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea, playing every game as the United States reached the quarter-finals.
Adams’ strengths at present lie in the defensive side of the game as he is equally adept at full-back or in a holding midfield role, emphasised by the fact he ranked fourth among all MLS midfielders this season for interceptions per 90 minutes (2.34).
Despite standing at 5ft 9ins he is also strong in the air, with his athleticism and timing allowing him to consistently compete with taller players. His 2.14 aerial duels won in 2018 placed him ninth among his fellow midfielders.
As a continuity player, getting the ball and distributing it efficiently, he still needs work as his 39.84 accurate. However, on average 22.33 of those passes go forward, a number that ranks him seventh in his position. It also shows Adam’s desire to play on the front foot.
To use a well-worn English football cliché, Adams is a player who “likes to get stuck in.” What stands out immediately when watching him is his tenacity in the tackle and ability to hold his position in a tactical sense.
That might not sound like much but for such an energetic footballer who loves to make tackles, intercept possession and get the Red Bulls attacking in transition, he’d be forgiven for roaming all over the field. But Adams sticks to his task, diligently.
That speaks of a wider football intelligence and the understanding of his role in a team framework. He’s rarely going to score match-winning goals or even make lung-busting runs from deep, but Adams goes about his task studiously.
He has that natural athleticism and awareness which means he closes space very quickly and is a solid marker when required to shadow playmakers or opposition midfielders.
Although his passing numbers don’t scream of a budding deep-lying playmaker, he has still had his moments in MLS when he’s had time and space, looked up and threaded a fine through ball to his team-mates. It’s a part of his game that you sense is lurking deep inside.
International – United States
Having made such an impact at Under-20 level, Adams earned his first USMNT cap in November last year as he played 90 minutes in a friendly against Portugal starting at right-midfield in front of full-back DeAndre Yedlin.
He’s proven a regular presence since in Dave Sarachan’s squad, accumulating nine caps to mirror his growing stature in MLS. Adams claimed his first international goal in September in a friendly against Mexico.
In a very un-Adams move, but maybe also a glimpse into the future, the midfielder made a late break into the penalty area and finished with some confidence, firing side-footed and first-time into the bottom corner.
“Refinement” is the buzz word for Adams as all the tools are there for him to become a fine holding midfielder. His passing needs to become sharper and crisper, his crossing more accurate and overall attacking player a little more consistent.
Defensively there is plenty to be excited about in his overall awareness and reading of the game, something that will be tested but also improved with a move to Europe.
It’s also of note than in the age of ego, Adams appears a perfect squad member: he can play a multitude of positions, has a mature head on young shoulders and has an unfussy and unselfish attitude on the field.