Armas still mentoring Tyler Adams as Red Bulls phenom aims for new heights

HANOVER, N.J. – Tyler Adams has already established himself as one of the rising stars of MLS; the New York Red Bulls midfielder was named an All-Star this season and has been a constant in his team’s starting XI over the past two years.

But even as he's been rumored with a potential move to Europe, Adams is still improving.

And still working hard. And still staying after training.

And still asking questions.

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At 19 years old, Adams is already a U.S. men’s national team regular with five caps and counting. His attributes as a central midfielder for the Red Bulls have thus far proven a useful fit on the international level, including a relentless work rate and a keen tactical acumen. Yet even as he’s already established himself for club and country, he admits that there is work still to be done.

So Adams has been relying on RBNY head coach Chris Armas to take him to the next step, which now includes the teenager being sharper on the ball.

Chris Armas during his USMNT days | Action Images

Armas, who took over as Red Bulls boss when Jesse Marsch left for sibling club RB Leipzig in early July, was an assistant with New York for three seasons and has worked with Adams almost daily on developing the teenager’s skillset. Arguably the best defensive midfielder in league history, a decorated ball-winner who also found success with the USMNT, Armas continues to mentor Adams.

“Yeah, 100 percent, I think that staying after training and training with guys like Chris, who knows the position better than anyone and always working with guys, whether it’s finding that final pass or being a little bit sharper in the final third, is something I want to add to my game,” Adams told after RBNY’s training session on Tuesday.

“So whenever I get those opportunity in games, you know you can’t take those chances for granted so yeah, working on it after training has definitely helped me. Now it’s just executing in the games.”

A New York native himself, Armas combines affability with a deep knowledge of the game. Capped 66 times by the United States, injuries prevented him from featuring in a World Cup, but he still played in plenty of big moments for his country.

As an assistant coach, Armas would work on intricacies and nuances of the game with Adams, mixing serious work with jokes. It’s his unique way of connecting with Adams, who Armas calls “a sponge” who is eager to learn.

“Tyler is one of the best players in the league against the ball and there are still reminders on that part to try and get right: having to balance from the other six [defensive players], is he stepping out, is he trying to balance with the outside back, his recovery runs. There are so [many things] defensively that we talk about,” Armas said.

“The part of the game that he is continually working on is with the ball and playing with it forward, knowing where he is on the field and getting his spacing right and just understanding the word ‘outlet,’ where he is always an option when [one of] the other six has it, or an outside back has it, or is he helping push the ball up the field to make something happen.”

Reports have suggested that Adams will move to Leipzig at season's end, which would place yet another young American midfielder in the Bundesliga. While he is already tactically astute and a tremendous ball-winner, Adams in recent weeks has shown a different side to his game. He’s been more daring on the ball, cleaner in his distribution, taking more initiative in the attacking end of the field.

A more creative Adams may be emerging – like last Saturday, when he delivered a beautifully-weighted set piece to the back post to assist on Daniel Royer’s 90th-minute equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Vancouver.

Daring. Initiative. Confidence. From a player yet to stop asking questions.

“I really haven’t seen it as playing more advanced, just taking my chances when they come and getting into the attack a little bit more,” Adams explained. “I know that I have the ability to do so, especially toward the ends of the game when guys can’t really hang with me, so it’s just continuing to pick the right moments to go forward and not leave our defense out to hang.”