Voices: Greg Seltzer

Tyler Adams: RB Leipzig have shown we're Bundesliga, Champions League title contenders

Tyler Adams - RB Leipzig - evade challenge

Given how Tyler Adams operates on the field, it should come as no surprise that the US men’s national team midfielders gets straight to the point when discussing his favorite sport.

After all, that's exactly how he operates on the field and a big part of why he’s a rising star for rising club RB Leipzig at the tender age of 21.

Adams freely admits that this chance to contribute in a young squad with enough quality to vie for the Bundesliga crown – and make a deep Champions League run – is exactly what he bargained for when departing the New York Red Bulls 15 months ago.

Only a few weeks after landing in Leipzig, the youngster jumped straight into the line-up. Buoyed by tactical similarities that eased his transition from RBNY, and even a visit from old boss Jesse Marsch, Adams grabbed a spotlight almost immediately.

"I hit the ground running," Adams told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Germany. "The players, the coaches, they all gave me the confidence to go do what I like to do. To come in and play in as many games as I did right away, that wasn't expected. To make the impact I did was nice, because then everyone knew what I was capable of."

Praise poured in for his midfield ball-hawking ability. Adams credited MLS for developing that stifling nature, while the German game is harnessing his confidence on the ball.

"Playing a lot of games at a young age definitely prepared me the jump to the Bundesliga," Adams said. "When I came here, my ability to be on the ball and make plays only escalated, because I was having so much of the ball. I had to think plays ahead, and see the game quicker. As I grow, it's getting easier."

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Tyler Adams is a centerpiece of a young, promising US men's national team generation | USA Today Sports

Of course, all that momentum was halted by a spring muscle injury that hampered Adams for all but the rest of 2019. It seemed a positive omen that no operation would be required, but the ailment was a real hassle to heal.

"It was a bumpy road," Adams conceded. "The biggest thing they said to me was, ‘Your body just needs time to recover,’ which is not what a player wants to hear."

He returned for RB Leipzig's league closer, but quickly realized his body still required more time. Adams rested all summer, missing out on the Gold Cup duty with the USMNT. Then when the 2019-20 season began, the recovery timeline kept being pushed back.

The injury nag was finally tamed just before the winter break, and though he'd yet to appear under summer manager hire Julian Nagelsmann, Adams quickly reclaimed his place in the XI. He made five straight starts before an unrelated calf knock in February cost him a few games.

"I've been good since [December], and I'm happy about it," says Adams. "We had a new coach, and I wanted to prove I was capable of being a key player in how he wants to play."

Adams successfully made his case just in time for COVID-19 to shut down soccer around the globe. It's another unwanted layoff, but as you might expect, he's making excellent use of the added downtime.

"It's definitely an interesting time, to say the least," he said. "For me, it's a lot of individual things [that pass the time]."

Mornings are now spent keeping up his fitness levels for when regular Bundesliga life returns. Even without team facilities, Adams sticks to a custom workout plan that includes runs in Leipzig's parks and his stationary bike at home. He’s also been filling afternoons by exercising his mind. 

"I've been doing a lot of German classes to stay fresh on that," said Adams. "I can't say I'm fluent, but it feels good to be able to navigate with the German I'm capable of speaking."

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Tyler Adams had two goals and 11 assists in 52 regular-season games for the New York Red Bulls | USA Today Sports

He’s also taking advantage of the forced pause by doing online classes. Adams started chasing a psychology degree from Southern New Hampshire University during his MLS days, and has continued his education from Germany.

Adams also has one eye on what, as of now, should be an important calendar year for the USMNT, who tentatively have the Nations Cup conclusion and World Cup qualifying lined up. Despite last representing his country March 22, 2019 against Ecuador, Adams remains an integral piece of Gregg Berhalter’s plans.

Whenever that return comes, it looks certain that Adams will no longer play the hybrid right back role. Berhalter stated as much in a January conference call, declaring that Adams would again be counted on in central midfield.

"A lot of people brought that [statement] to my attention," chuckled Adams. "But anywhere he puts me, I'm ready to go."

Right now, Adams most wants to get back on the field for RB Leipzig, who in early March extended his contract until the summer of 2025. Then he wants to chase championships with a club that, like him, seems increasingly capable by the game.

"I think this was the year we showed everybody we're title contenders," he asserted. "Looking forward, we're only going to get better with experience."