Red Bulls’ Adams Shows Maturity Beyond His Years

Photo by Matt Kremkau

By JACK BELL

Red Bulls logoTyler Adams was presented with a choice that really wasn’t one ahead of Saturday afternoon’s Hudson River Derby between the Red Bulls and New York City FC.

The 18-year-old midfielder from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., could attend his high school graduation ceremony or he could take the field before an anticipated packed house at Red Bull Arena, which is perhaps the featured game in Major League Soccer’s so-called Rivalry Week.

It is not quite a Hobson’s Choice, though Chris Armas, who is in charge this week while Coach Jesse Marsch is in Europe, said that Adams is torn, at least that is what he said during a league orchestrated media day to promote the local rivalry.

“It’s going to be hard for him, graduation is in a few days,” Armas said. “We’re trying to work things out, but. … He still needs to be a kid, but his mentality is incredible. He’s so open and willing to work every day. He’s been fast tracked, but it’s the life of a footballer.”

As most Red Bulls fans know, Adams has been a part of the organization since he was 10 years old. He is the first player to graduate from the Red Bulls Regional Development School program and advance through the academy system and sign a professional contract. Adams has also been a fixture on United States youth international squads from U-14 through U-17, most recently emerging as one of the stars for the American team at the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea, where the U.S. was ousted by Venezuela, one of the finalists.

“He comes back to us more of a leader, more of a man,” Armas said. “Every so often you see a young guy who looks like a veteran.”

Red Bulls veterans like goalkeeper Luis Robles say they are continually impressed by Adams’ dedication to the game and willingness to learn. Adams said that after the Red Bulls’ 2-0 win at Philadelphia last week, he returned home not to relax, but to cue up the replay of the match so what he “could have done better in certain moments of the game.”

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

Though Adams has appeared to solidfy his position in the Red Bulls’ starting 11 with his tenacious play and growing tactical awareness, he had to deal with the perhaps unrealistic expectations as the replacement for Dax McCarty, who was traded to Chicago in the off-season to the consternation of many Red Bulls fans.

“When you look at Dax trade, the bottom line is the organization has a lot of confidence in Tyler Adams,” Robles said. “His fight and tenacity reminds people of Dax. When we were without [the injured Aurélien] Collin and Tyler we struggled, looking for depth. Now, they’ve been back two games and we haven’t given up any goals and and won both games.”

Those two include the shutout of Philadelphia and the 1-0 victory over NYCFC in the Open Cup.

Robles added: ““The very first moment I trained with him I was saying, ‘How is this kid 16 years old?’ If I was 16 years old and I had this mindset, I’d be playing on a different level. That’s what sticks out each and every day with Tyler. There’s a certain part that you just can’t teach and part of that is the tenacity, the fight. He doesn’t in any way expect to lose a ball, and there’s a fearlessness to him that’s impressive.

“It’s impressed upon me, it’s impressed upon other guys on the team, and as he continues to grow I hope that fearlessness refines itself into leadership. If that happens, then not only are we going to benefit, but the national team will benefit. I hope he maintains the humility. The sky’s the limit for this guy.”

Armas, an MLS veteran and national team stalwart who never got to play in a World Cup because of injuries, touched on the notion that players come and players go, and a club’s ability to replace and adjust is the true test.

“You can look at guys going like Lloyd Sam, Matt Miazga … when we lose great players there are voids to fill,” Armas said. “We know we lost a great player and it’s no surprise Dax is a big part of what’s going on in Chicago. His trade created room on the roster is play young guys, and we believe in young players. If you can’t be excited about Tyler and what he’s done on the field you’d be missing it. Now in the middle of the field we have some flexibility with Sacha [Kljestan] and Felipe. I think it was a revelation last game that we can interchange those guys.”

Adams’ tenacity on the field has yet to translate to a goal or an assist this season, but in only eight games (all starts) he is among the top 10 on the club in fouls committed. That lone statistic should not be overestimated, the young midfielder is showing a canny sense on the field and a willingness to challenge and work all over the field.

“That’s kind of just self-originated,” Adams said. “That’s something that’s happened over the years. I’m just super competitive and that’s one of those things that really irks me, if we’re losing or if you give a bad pass away. I always get on myself about those kinds of things.”

“Once I step on the field, it doesn’t matter who is on the field, who I’m playing against or anything like that. I’m going to give it my all no matter what.”

“I want to become more of a complete box-to-box midfielder and add more to the attack while doing more defensively as well,” said Adams, who said his favorite playeris RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita. “But I think that just takes time and as I mature a little bit I’ll figure certain things out like that.”