Adams has been with Germany’s RB Leipzig for a year and Leeds sent Gaby Ruiz, their European head of recruiting, to watch him in the flesh. Leeds were in no position to sign him as they were only a second-tier club at the time, Leipzig were investing heavily in Adams but more often than not in football, that first look at a player sows a seed.
Interesting, Adams was a player of technical promise and personality. He was young, a few weeks shy of turning 21, but to the naked eye, he didn’t look at her. self-confidence, arrogance, and maturity; whatever He. She It was, the midfielder did and Ruiz offered his thoughts with interest.
The club reconsidered its files on Adams last summer, when speculative interest turned to a concerted bid to sign him from Leipzig. Another report, written by another scout, Alberto Cordero, effectively served as a green light for the deal to take place:
“Dynamic in all his movements…a very quick player in small spaces…very willing to make constant pressure in different areas…constantly generates continuity in his passes…able to carry the ball into attacking areas with great accuracy and speed…simple And true … generates effort … ”
Cordero’s assessment continued in this vein before concluding that Adams was tailor-made for Elland Road countryman Jesse Marsh’s midfield, in contrast to the shrinking Violet.
At that point in the transfer market, it amounted to the exclusion of Leeds, who had already paid another German club, Bayern Munich, £10m ($12.1m) for another midfielder, Marc Roca. They could have Adams or they could have Mohamed Kamara, the tenacious financier who played for Red Bull Salzburg.
The difference in their prices was not great but Leeds, Marsch and director of football Victor Orta fell to Adams’ side. They thought that he and Roka would be more stable. And with Adams, they also acquired strong leadership qualities—a surrogate leader. (Camara went to Ligue 1’s Monaco instead.)
Those qualities were given a vote of confidence last week when Adams was named USMNT captain of the World Cup.
He had worn the armband internationally before, but this was something else, a 23-year-old asked to lead the United States through a tournament where their anticipation was higher than ever. Previously, the Americans had rotated the captaincy among members of a “leadership council,” and the decision to give it to Adams permanently clearly didn’t come from the head coach. Greg Berhalter. It came instead from the team – they voted off and Adams was the winner.
“Tyler is a man who has matured beyond his years,” Berhalter said when the selection was announced.
That call, said the former US international the athletewas a “no brainer at all” and aNearly every conversation about Adams—with current teammates, longtime teammates, past and current coaches—leads to the same validation.
He was the kid who broke the convention that footballers know where they are until they’re settled and grounded and old enough to fight back or drop their weight. Whenever stories are told about his spell with the New York Red Bulls in MLS, they always come back to an incident in which an attempt to remind him of his lack of seniority ended in a physical altercation that Adams won.
The United States need that bite and will need it hollow in their second group match against England in the coastal city of Al Khor after drawing 1-1 with Wales in the opening match.
The “no-brainer” note came from Sasha Kljestan, who played alongside Adams in New York.
Without overdoing his foresight, Kljestan saw this coming a while ago.
“Given that (the captaincy) was left to the players to decide, I’m not surprised it worked his way,” he says. “I’ve known him since he was sixteen, and I brought him down as a natural-born leader quite early on. Shines through the way he is and the way he plays, this very confident guy who kind of shocks you but quickly earns your respect.”
“I was 20 when I turned pro and I was one of those guys who always considers the older guys. Always. That’s what most guys do. Tyler was nothing like that. He came in at 15, 16 and from day one, he was confident. himself, and he’s never been the type to shut his mouth if he has something to say. He speaks well, plays well and that makes him an ideal captain.”
Adams’ trick, and his way of being respected from the rest of the dressing room, was to back up his speech in the only way a young player could.
He wanted to be seen to put in the most effort, and although the USA left a 1-0 lead late against Wales on Monday, Berhalter got a typical Adams performance from his captain, a combination of tackles, tackles and recoveries. he is He won the most tackles (five) and tackles (eight) of anyone on either team and ranked third for regaining possession.
Leeds are seeing, more and more, that industry in the Premier League, buoyed by the stamina that allows Adams to marshal the area between the boxes and manipulate the ball there. The total distance he covered against Wales, over 13 kilometres, was the farthest in a World Cup up to that time.
However, he is capable of possession and more than just a midfielder.
On and off the field, those close to him see two sides of him. Adams is a fierce competitor when the chips are down, but people at Leeds have described him as “nice and laid-back” in ordinary life.
He and Brendan Aronson, the other member of the US World Cup team on Leeds’ books, live close to each other in the smart Yorkshire town of Harrogate and play golf together when matches and courses allow. According to Aronson, Adams is the more proficient golfer of the two, and both have hired coaches to improve their swings.
“I’ve played with Tyler enough now to see that he’s a completely different person on the court,” Aronson says. “Sometimes we yell things back and forth at each other, we get into it a little bit, but we’re really good friends.
“On the field, he’s like…puts his face on his face and does his best. The thing that’s really underrated about Tyler is that, not only has he earned a lot of tackles and he’s all over the place, but on the ball this year he’s been amazing (in Leeds), changed the point attack, connecting with a 10- or 15-yard pass up the middle. He was fantastic, one of our best players.”
Leeds, like the US team, has a leadership group of senior players who interact closely with the coaching staff and provide a sounding board.
It was created by Marsh, the club’s American technical director, when he was appointed in February this year.
Interestingly, Adams is not yet part of that group but is a member of the council that created it Berhalter with others including Christian Pulisic and Walker Zimmermann. The American camp is somewhat reticent about talking about the council in detail but it is mainly the voice of the team, designed to keep people on the same page and maintain good channels of communication with Berhalter.
Adams, who turns 24 in February, is the youngest national captain in this tournament and Leeds’ first World Cup captain since Lucas Radebe with South Africa in 2002. He hasn’t been far from the USMNT team profile since Berhalter took over in 2018. Berhalter says I could go on and on about Tyler’s strengths, but I think the other thing about him is his humility.
My word game. Written by Tyler Adams
“He’s a guy whose teammates know exactly what they’re getting from him. They know he’ll go out on the court and compete, they know he’ll think about the game, they know he’ll get into the minutiae of the game. He’s not just a competitor, he’s also a strategist. That helps the group because it calms people and he is the man behind whom the people stand.”
Kljestan, a veteran of more than 50 USMNT appearances who’s been in Qatar as host and analyst on Fox Sports’ FIFA World Cup Now, admits he needs to adjust to Adams’ outspoken persona.
“When he was cut off from his life as a child, I took the time to warm up to him,” says Kljestan. “What he was just wasn’t what you’d expect from someone his age. There was nothing malicious in what he did or said. He didn’t seem afraid of anyone.
“He’d talk when he felt like talking and he’d be completely honest, so, at first, part of you thinks, ‘I don’t know what to do with this guy.’ But then he plays the way he plays, he’s 100 percent for the team and you forget everything. Other than the fact that he is exactly what you want by your side.”
A few months ago, Mike Grilla, another former New York Red Bulls player, told the story of Adams getting into a fight and hitting an older teammate who pushed him too far. Kljestan remembers that incident too although, like Grella, he prefers not to name the recipient of the hit.
“This was someone who plays in the same position as him, someone who has been in the game longer,” says Kljestan. He would put Tyler in trouble from time to time, and give him a little digging—a bit of fun mostly, but maybe a way to show who was in charge.
“One day we came out of a team meeting and this guy was attacking Tyler, like he did. I don’t know, maybe Tyler had just had enough. They started wrestling and wrestling, all of a sudden serious, and well, Tyler made this guy explode. He never messed with Tyler again. Then.
“It’s a good way to sum up Tyler. He doesn’t take anything from anyone.”
England would find out in what must be the biggest test of Adams’ captaincy yet.
Gareth Southgate’s team is very fond of winning the match, and they are among the favorites to win the World Cup itself.
For the United States, a point or three may hinge on a player who will swoop down to attack England’s midfield like a Wasp, entirely in his racism.
Giving him the national team captaincy required a dressing-room vote, but everyone who had experience with Adams believed that was his destiny.
Every question you’re afraid to ask at the World Cup
(Images: Getty Images, Styling: Sam Richardson)