We’ve been ready for Tyler Adams’ move to RB Leipzig for a long time, which has a way of muting excitement and discussion when it finally happens. The details of the deal were not disclosed, and we’re also yet to see a transfer fee amount firmly reported in the media, which inconveniently deprives us of a headline-worthy dollar figure to chatter about.
Maybe the fact Adams is the type of industrious, no-nonsense midfield terrier the US and Canada produce far more consistently than the Alphonso Davies-esque creative attackers who have become white whales in North America leads us to take some things for granted.
Don’t sleep, though: This transfer is a big deal, for Adams, players like him and the places that create them.
Look, the New York Red Bulls occupy a relatively unique ecosystem. This is a founding MLS club and youth development pioneer in the United States’ largest metro area, which also happens to be operated by a multinational soccer empire that’s proved very good at sharing resources and know-how, grooming talent and building overarching philosophies across three continents.
Moving from one club to another under the same ownership group may cause some consternation, but you’ve still got to recognize that this is a supremely talented central-midfield workhorse who’s joining a trophy-hunting Bundesliga club as a teenager. He's doing this after first proving himself at every level of the North American soccer pyramid.
The next phase is really important, too: More than his club destination or transfer price-tag, a young player’s ability to seize such an opportunity is driven by how the situation sets them up to succeed.
In this regard Adams should be in very good hands. He’s already been immersed in the wider Red Bull ethos for years – nearly half his life – and he’ll probably only encounter minor tweaks in the tactics as he moves from RBNY to RBL.
You may have also heard that his former head coach, Jesse Marsch, is now on the technical staff in Leipzig and can offer an ideal sort of guidance as he navigates the transition. His US men's national team comrades Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent can, and apparently already have, provided useful perspective on life in Germany’s highest levels.
“Being a part of this team and this culture here, it's so similar to how they play at RB Leipzig, so it will probably be the best transition for me,” Adams told reporters at his press conference on Monday. “If I was to slot in tomorrow at defensive mid there, I know that the role for the most part is similar to what I've done here. That probably keeps me at ease the most about starting a new journey there.”
I’ve found that one crucial, but often-overlooked aspect of Pulisic’s fairytale rise at Leipzig’s Bundesliga counterparts Borussia Dortmund is the fact that his father and cousin, Duke goalkeeper Will Pulisic, moved across the Atlantic alongside him. Familiar faces and a stable home environment go a long way when you consider the daunting professional landscape that Landon Donovan found so famously depressing, even overwhelming.
Adams is smart, versatile, physically gifted and eager to improve. By all accounts he’s freakishly mature, dedicated and intense for a 19-year-old. Stories abound of him getting stuck into much older teammates on the RBNY training ground even as a wet-behind-the-ears kid, and MLS fans may recall his cold-eyed faceoff with an angry Jozy Altidore in last year’s MLS Cup Playoffs. And he’s in the right place to keep learning.
Adams refuses to back down from Altidore in 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. | USA Today Images
If he can get this far, this quickly, just think of how many other hungry Tri-state area kids will look on and believe they can follow suit.