As RB Leipzig kicked off their 2020-21 season with a 3-0 win over 1. FC Nurnberg in last weekend's DFB-Pokal’s first round, Adams featured at center back. He even earned Man of the Match honors, plus a distinct label from head coach Julian Nagelsmann.
“It didn’t work out at all in training on Friday, but it did in the game," Nagelsmann said of Adams' role. "We wanted to open up some new spaces in our build-up play. Tyler played like a quarterback. It gives us new opportunities for the future.”
Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann on Tyler Adams (21) new tactical setup in a much deeper role in possession 🗣— OneGoal.US (@OneGoalUS) September 15, 2020
“We wanted to open up some new spaces in our build-up play. Tyler played like a quarterback. It gives us new opportunities for the future.” pic.twitter.com/D2GUJng4qb
Adams isn’t lining up in a shotgun formation or timing a post route with his slot receiver, of course, but the role allowed Adams to pull the strings for RB Leipzig. The tactical wrinkle also clearly paid off as Adams paired in a three-man backline alongside Marcel Halstenberg and France international Dayot Upamecano, holding Nurnberg scoreless.
Adams, who’s listed at 5-foot-9 and 159 pounds, hardly has the physical profile one would expect from a center back. Yet Nagelsmann, widely considered one of the top up-and-coming managers in club soccer, has clearly identified something in Adams’ work rate, passing ability and combative nature to trust the New York Red Bulls academy product at the heart of his defense.
Coming through MLS as a defensive midfielder, Adams has also featured at right back during his 10 USMNT caps. He’s even featured at right midfielder for RB Leipzig, who last season made the UEFA Champions League semifinals and finished third in the Bundesliga table.
As for QB1? Perhaps we’ll be seeing more of that in Adams’ future as RB Leipzig begin their Bundesliga slate Sunday morning against 1. FSV Mainz 05.