Tyler Adams celebrates his goal. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
He is only 19-year-old but Tler Adams plays like a grizzled veteran.
Case in point: when the Red Bulls needed someone to help settle the team down in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals match against Tijuana, he did by connecting for the equalizer at Red Bull Arena Tuesday night.
They went onto a 3-1 second-leg victory to capture the series, 5-1.
The Wappingers Falls, N.Y. native also made himself felt in the middle of the field, whether it was clogging passing lanes or making himself a nuisance to Xolos’ playmakers.
As impressive as Adams was, head coach Jesse Marsch there is plenty of room for growth.
“It’s taken time to groom,” he said in a post-game press conference. “It still has a ways to go yet. It’s not like he’s a finished product. But, that was the thing that anyone, when they recall the first time they met Tyler, they referenced that. Whether he was 13, or 15, now nineteen, that he’s a man. For whatever reason he’s this old soul and he’s figured out how to manage this world. It’s going to continue to reward him. He’s only getting better.
“We sometimes see, every day, the growth before our eyes. We see how every day he gets better and every day he’s more confident and he has more belief and he has a better ability to lead and communicate with people around him. It’s just growing. So, it’s impressive. It’s impressive. We always give him little reminders but it doesn’t take much because he’s so focused on that process.”
Adams said the Red Bulls realized they were on the edge of something special prior to kickoff.
“I think that today we came out with an edge,” he said. “Internally within the locker room, we were determined to get a result today no matter what the circumstances were.
“We knew we weren’t going to come out there and play scared. Obviously [everyone] knows our philosophy. Tijuana knew what they were going to get today and that’s exactly what we gave them. I think for us personally, moving on and being the first MLS team to advance – beating a Mexican team – feels pretty special. We know we have something special brewing in the locker room but we also know we have a lot to improve on.”
The Red Bulls will have a few weeks before they play the winner of the Seattle-Chivas series in the first leg of the semifinals series April 3-5. The Sounders FC lead its quarterfinal series, 1-0, entering Wednesday night’s second leg.
So, for now New York can concentrate with the league as it visits Real Salt Lake Saturday night.
Adams hoped the Red Bulls can bring their CCL success into the league. They rolled to a 4-0 win over the Portland Timbers in their season opener Saturday night.
“I think it’s really important,” he said. “Luckily, we got to use these games to get sharp and get as fit as possible going into the MLS season. Some of the other teams in MLS had to go right into competition. Obviously, it’s not the same but for us at the same time we emphasized coming in fit and we came in fit, and now it’s paying off for us.”