Tyler Adams, 18, Is Making Strides for Club and Country
February 14, 2017
TWO YEARS FROM NOW, when the United States men's under-20 national team will be looking to qualify for the 2019 U-20 World Cup, midfielder Tyler Adams will be 20-years-old and a likely candidate to serve as team captain.
But Adams, who turns 18 today, doesn't have the luxury of looking that far ahead. The Wappingers Falls, N.Y., native is one of the fastest-rising players within coach Tab Ramos' player pool. Adams received his first U-20 call-up just two months ago—and now he is likely to be in the starting lineup on Friday for the team’s World Cup qualifying opener against Panama.
“I think that in all the opportunities I've had with the team, Tab has put me in a situation to succeed in every way,” Adams told American Soccer Now from U-20 camp. “Being integrated into the team not too long ago, starting in December, I think we've already progressed within the last few months more than anyone would have ever expected. Every player is starting to gel together in unique ways. Just from the simple things like learning the timing of runs to how certain players like to receive the ball. That will help us in the long run.
"We all have the energy, the passion, and we're committed to each other. That is going to be final determination in how well we do in qualifying. But I have faith in this group.”
Adams has ranked among the team’s top performers in 2017. A natural central midfielder, Ramos has been playing him as either a box-to-box No. 8 or as a straight-up defensive midfielder in the No. 6 role.
Historically in U-20 World Cup qualifying, the U.S. emphasizes defensive organization. Often playing in hostile environments on subpar fields, defense wins games. That proved to be the difference in 2015 when Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and goalkeeper Zach Steffen stood out in a successful qualifying run.
This year’s qualifying tournament in Costa Rica should be similar. Expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3- formation, Justen Glad and Tommy Redding provide experience in central defense. In the holding midfield positions, Adams could start with captain Erik Palmer-Brown, a central defender who has moved to the midfield in cap. Despite his limited experience, Adams believes Palmer-Brown could be a standout at the position and has been impressed with him in that role.
“Erik has fit into that role perfectly,” Adams said. “He's there and breaks up plays, he wins balls in the air, and he's really good in the air. He's quick to start the transition into the attack. He can help us a lot. He can do the dirty work. That's exactly what we need in that spot. He does it very well.”
Adams and Monterrey’s Jonathan Gonzalez are the only two players on the current squad who were born in 1999 and therefore eligible for the 2019 cycle. The majority of the team is born in 1997 but Adams has not had a problem integrating with the older players.
The team’s welcoming nature helped Adams, a New York Red Bulls prospect, adjust to his surroundings.
“I wouldn't say it was intimidating. I would say that is the least of my concerns,” Adams said. “I think all the guys here have made it a very easy transition for me. I always had hopes that I would get called into this age group. I thought that I had what it takes. I just kept working every single day with the Red Bulls hoping I would get noticed.
"Fortunately, I did—at the right time. And I made the transition into the team quicker than expected.”
Of course Adams has picked a good year to begin playing well. In addition to the U-20 opportunity, the New York Red Bulls recently sold captain and starting central midfielder Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire. That void will leave a lot of MLS, Champions League, and U.S. Open Cup minutes that need to be filled and Tyler Adams, along with Sean Davis, are the most likely candidates to fill that position.
Last year Adams played an important role with the New York Red Bulls II—a team that won the USL championship. Early in 2017 he looked sharp in the Red Bulls' first preseason game against Portland and he has a strong chance to start a significant number of games this season.
“Obviously when any team loses a player as big as Dax was, and his meaning to the club and the locker room in general, it’s hard to see him go. But we wish him well. We know he’ll do great there. But for myself and Sean [Davis] it does open a huge window.”
Davis, a fellow Red Bulls homegrown signing, has known Adams for years, having played with him on multiple occasions in 2016. After the Portland game, he was particularly impressed with Adams’ recent development and is optimistic for his chances for both club and country this year.
“I am really excited for Tyler,” Davis said. “He's one of the most exciting young players in the country right now. He's full of energy, he's very eager, he's extremely motivated, and he doesn't back down from any challenge. Watching him play, he's fearless—whether it be against U-20 or MLS opponents. He just wants to play and he doesn't care who he is playing against. I can't wait to see how he does with the U-20 group. We only got to see him for a few days [with the Red Bulls] but he was really impressive and very sharp.”
In addition to serving as a springboard within U.S Soccer, the U-20 World Cup could also open doors at the club level as a huge number of scouts attend the tournament.The 2015 U-20 World Cup helped get Matt Miazga noticed by Chelsea and it served a real springboard for players such as Paul Arriola, Emerson Hyndman, Gedion Zelalem, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Desevio Payne to push further up the ladder within U.S. Soccer.
Only time will tell if the 2017 World Cup accelerates mpre American careers, but Adams is optimistic.
“Matt Miazga did it in all the right ways,” said Adams, who is under contract through 2018. “He got the MLS season under his belt and he played an unbelievable World Cup to get himself noticed. Looking at that, there is no reason why a lot of the guys on our team can’t do so. This experience is going to help us make the next step which will be the senior squad.
“This team has a ton of talent coming from everywhere. You have guys like Cameron Carter-Vickers at Tottenham and Gedion Zelalem at Arsenal, potentially Christian Pulisic who has played a huge part of our senior team, even Erik Palmer-Brown who had experience last cycle. They could be the leaders heading into the World Cup.
"There are a lot of guys who are developing and have the potential to do that as well. I think the sky is the limit for this team. We have so many attacking options and creative players that the goals will come. The defenders we have are second to none. We have guys playing in the Premier League and in MLS, it will be very hard to make the starting XI for this team.”