Tyler Adams shines in Red Bulls' draw, aims for more minutes in 2017

HARRISON, N.J. – The last time Tyler Adams stepped foot on the field for an MLS match, the teenager appeared nervous and tentative before being taken off at halftime.

That was almost exactly a year ago, and a far cry from the mature, savvy player who started and played 90 minutes in the New York Red Bulls0-0 home draw Saturday with Real Salt Lake.

Adams proved a bit of a revelation in an an otherwise choppy and overly physical match slugged out mostly in the center of the midfield.

The 18-year old played quick balls, often with one touch, and very often spraying them wide to find space and avoid the bottleneck down the middle. You can see many of them in the video above.

He also showed a keen positional understanding, clogging up Salt Lake’s channels and cutting off the service from Luis Silva and Brooks Lennon to Yura Movsisyan up top.

In short, Adams looked anything but out of place.

“I'll say that Tyler is tenacious in there,” said Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch. “He's aggressive. He's confident on the ball. … The thing that he's still developing is the savviness and sense of how to move around with the game and set plays up in front of him.”

Saturday’s draw represents just Adams’ second league appearance for the first team, coming more than 11 months after his MLS debut on Apr. 13, 2016.

But he looked a player who had grown from other practices and other games, albeit in the USL with Red Bulls II.

“I think (it’s) just maturity,” Adams explained. “Playing for a full year. Practicing with these guys, gaining confidence over that year time and getting games with USL was a huge moment for me in my career.”

Adams is also coming off several solid performances to help the United States U-20 national team qualify for the World Cup. And he now gives the Red Bulls yet another option at what is perhaps their deepest position.

The Red Bulls already boast a strong center of the midfield with Sacha Kljestan, an MVP finalist last year, currently away with the US national team. There is also Felipe and Sean Davis.

Even so, Adams may find himself in the first team more often moving forward more often if he can replicate Saturday’s performance.

“I think that I have to take it game-by-game and day-by-day,” Adams said. “And show Jesse that I deserve to be in there and get starts.”