CARSON, Calif. -- There's optimism in American soccer for what's to come following the failure to qualify for this summer's World Cup, and much of it has to do with the likes of Tyler Adams.
The New York Red Bulls midfielder has skill, smarts, and all the confidence in the world that he and a rising young generation that's been pegged to take command of the US national team en route to 2022 can do something special.
At 18 is the future. And the future is now.
“We can't change the past. That's behind us now,” he told MLSsoccer.com on Friday from the national team's annual January camp at StubHub Center. “So we have to look forward and look at what's positive, and what's positive is the amount of youth that we have produced that are making a difference in the country.
“I think that I can play a big role going forward. A lot of other young guys probably have their eyes set on that as well. Now it's getting on the field, getting experience, and moving forward.”
Borussia Dortmund's Christian Pulisic, 19, has already broken through with the Yanks' first team, and Chelsea (on loan to Vitesse) defender Matt Miazga, 22, and Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch, 22, have gotten their feet wet. On their heels come Schalke 04 midfielder Weston McKinnie, 19; Tottenham (on loan to Sheffield United) defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, 20; and Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent, 17.
And Adams, who has extensive youth national team experience including at last year's FIFA U-20 World Cup, made his international debut in January's friendly with Portugal after winning a starting job for the Red Bulls last season.
“I'm never nervous for a game, and that game, I had a little bit of nerves,” he said. “It was good to get out there, and it's a true honor to put the crest on whenever you have the opportunity, so you can't take it for granted. I'm excited to be in my next camp, and going forward I just want to play a big role.”
Adams' role also is sure to grow with the Red Bulls after Sacha Kljestan, traded to Orlando City SC, followed Dax McCarty out the door. Coach Jesse Marsch gave Adams some time this season in his U-20 attacking midfielder role, and he was most vital to the attack down the stretch, scoring both of his goals and dishing three of his four assists in the final five games of the season.
However, Adams says his natural position is as a defensive midfielder or between the attacking and defensive midfielders.
“I don't think it would necessarily be [me] taking the reins,” said Adams, who wasn't yet a teen when he joined the Red Bulls' academy. “Within our team, we don't put too much pressure on any player. It's always the team effort. I'm ready to play whatever role I'm needed to play.”
Adams says he wants build on last year's success by making more “final plays.” And he's thinking long-term.
"You want to be a player that teams can rely on ...,” he said. “When I'm playing with confidence, I have a lot of qualities that are hard to defend and hard to read on the field. But you don't want to have one good year, then a bad year, then a good year, and on and off. I want to have 15 good years.”