Great talent and great professionalism never gets ignored when it comes to football. You can have all the talent in the world and not make it due to a lack of professionalism and on the flip side, you can be the most professional player in your team and get a chance, even if you may not have the talent. But to find the perfect balance between talent and professionalism is a tough ask, with very few having both. Tyler Adams of the New York Red Bulls has both. The 19-year-old has the talent to make it at any level for seemingly any team, but he also has the ethic, ambition and professionalism to make it work. His short but already exciting career has seen him become one of the most talked about American prospects in recent years, headlining a new generation of United States Men’s National Team stars alongside the likes of Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah, and has already attracted interest from teams from across Europe. Adams’ future looks bright to but to get the full understanding of how committed he is to his profession, and how determined he is to make it, you have to go back to the very beginning, back in Wappinger Falls, New York. The small village is located 74 miles from the New York Red Bulls training base and 73 miles from midtown Manhattan, but that didn’t stop Adams making the journey to and from Red Bulls Youth Academy practice every day from the age of 11. He’d have school during the day, travel to training for 8pm, finish at 10pm and arrive home at 12am. He’d get as much sleep as he could, wake up and do the whole day again. Most people would hate the constant travelling and lack of down time, but it’s what Adams wanted. “Almost every day for the past seven years, I’ve made that 74 mile trek, to and from training,” he recalled. £It’s a grind, but I don’t mind because if there’s one thing I want people to know about me, it’s that I’m a grinder. Every morning I wake up, bake my shake and get prepared in the same ways. I just think that good professionals create good habits.” This encapsulates what Adams is about. He is a strict professional who sticks to what he knows works. For a teenager, it’s commendable that he’s able to be so level headed from an early age, mainly thanks down to a childhood in the game. Bob Montgomery, a former NYRB Academy Director, said of Adams: “After the first camp, he was the best player. He was the captain from that point on and he’s been in camp every time when he’s available.” Growing up playing alongside Pulisic obviously helped Adams’ development and some of the players making their way into the USMNT have played alongside Adams from a very early age. He represented the United States in the U15s, U17s and U20s before making his full international debut in November of 2017 against Portugal and the likes of Ruben Neves, Pepe and Bernardo Silva. Adams’ progress through all age levels is also shown at the Red Bulls, where played at U13, U14 and U16 before signing a professional contract in 2015. Even at 16, Adams had a mind-set that he was going to succeed and be a vital part to the Red Bulls team, regardless of his age. His former Coach at the Red Bulls, Jesse Marsch, described the midfielder in glowing terms. “He’s amazing,” Marsch, now assistant manager at Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, sad. “He gets better every game, he grows every game. It’s a pleasure to watch him, it’s a pleasure to coach him. He’s a big time player.” Marsch wasn’t wrong. He is a pleasure to watch and Adams’ growth is visible every time he plays. He never hides from responsibility and always comes up big when his team needs him, and his former boss isn’t the only one to direct significant praise his way. “When I first saw him, I was blown away by his maturity,” Adams’ teammate Bradley Wright-Phillips said, adding: “And after that, you realise he can really play the game as well.” Praise has come from outside the Red Bulls too. “I don’t recall seeing an 18-year-old with that type of mentality or attitude,” said ESPN analyst Hercules Gomez. “He’s one of the most exciting players in this League. He’s the teammate that I’ve seen demand the most out of his teammates more than any other 18-year-old in Major League Soccer.” This tends to be the common consensus of Adams. Yes, he’s talented — or to quote USMNT youth teammate Justen Glad, ‘he’s a beast’ — but the maturity levels, willingness to win at all cost and his mental strength is what sets him above anyone else. Adams’ style of play marks him out. He is primary a defensive midfielder, or at least a central midfielder who doesn’t leave his position too often — he’s not yet in double figures for career goals. He sits in the middle well, but has the versatility and intelligence to play on the right of midfield, where he’s also been effective. Adams is comparable to Liverpool’s James Milner in that regard. He rarely puts a foot wrong and doesn’t rack up the goals, but his absence from the team is noticeable by the lack of balance in midfield. The United States senior side has been crying out for a player with Adams’ qualities, someone who is extremely talented but also has the winning mentality and fearlessness to inspire the rest of the XI. He’s never intimidated and never shies away in the big occasions, evidenced by the time and place of his first senior international goal — the only goal of a 1-0 win against Mexico. Adams also offers a ray of hope to young players in American and Canadian youth academies that sometimes, you don’t always need to go to Europe as a youngster like Weah or Pulisic. You can make it for your local MLS side if you have the commitment, the right mentality and the drive to push on to the next level. He may not grab the headlines in the same way that Weah does with Paris Saint-Germain or Pulisic does with Borussia Dortmund but he will become just as important, if not more so, to his club than either of his peers are to theirs. Adams is already the glue that holds the Red Bulls together, a hefty gap is left in midfield when he’s out of the team. Wherever his career takes him, his attitude and ability will ensure he is beloved.
Name:Tyler Shaan Adams
Born:February 14, 1999 (New York, United States)
Ht / Wt:1.75m / 68kg
Club:New York Red Bulls
Season Club Apps Goals
2016 New York Red Bulls 1 0
2017 New York Red Bulls 32 2
2018 New York Red Bulls 32 1
There’s plenty of young talent to get excited about in MLS. Here’s just five who should make waves in the future…
He may be the son of legendary USMNT midfielder and current New York City FC sporting director Claudio, but there’s no family bias here. Giovanni Reyna’s ability has warranted being on the fringes of the NYCFC set-up and a potential move to Borussia Dortmund, the 16-year-old forward upholding the family name with aplomb.
The Real Salt Lake defender turns 22 early in 2019 but plays with a maturity beyond his years. Recovered from a knee injury that saw him miss three months in 2017, central defender Justen Glad has big things in his future — both at club level and for the USMNT.
Another centre-back, D.C. United’s Chris Durkin stood out during the United States U-17 team’s quarter-final at the U-17 World Cup in 2017, and gets more minutes than most 18-year-olds in MLS. Already on the radar of a number of European clubs, Durkin appears a born leader.
Unfortunately not an attacker with that surname, FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon is nevertheless worth watching. A right-back who has grown into the MLS game, he’s earned his spot in the regular Toros XI and has rarely looked out of place. He’ll be 21 next June.
Sporting Kansas City’s midfield prodigy, Gianluca Busio won’t be 17 until May 2019 but he’s already made his senior debut. The youngest player to sign with an MLS club since Freddy Adu [see sidebar for that cautionary tale], Busio also holds Italian citizenship