Tyler Adams might have played his last game as a Red Bull Thursday night. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — Tyler Adams was the second to last Red Bulls player to walk off the Red Bull Arena pitch Thursday night.
Perhaps he was savoring the atmosphere the venue can bring to the beautiful game.
Perhaps he was saying goodbye to his adoring fans before he departs for Europe. Well, that bit of information is not official, although there have been reports he will join RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga when the international transfer window opens up in January.
“It was a good atmosphere tonight,” Adams said. “Talking to the fans, talking to the family. Whenever you can get an atmosphere like that and get support like that it’s always nice to walk on and thank the fans. I always try to do myself.”
Perhaps for the last time in a while.
After the Red Bulls were denied reaching MLS Cup yet again in their 3-1 aggregate loss to Atlanta United Thursday night, the 19-year-old phenom from Wappingers Falls, N.Y. teased the media huddled around his locker stall on whether he had performed in his final game in MLS.
“It’s a tough way to go out,” Adams said after a 1-0 win over Atlanta. “That’s been my focus all season long to try to win an MLS Cup. To fall short is never easy. Obviously for me, there has been speculation all season about what will happen next and I’ll keep you guys waiting again, so we’ll find out in the next couple of days, hopefully.”
For the third time in sixth years, the Red Bulls captured the Supporters Shield. While it was nice to add another piece of hardware to the team’s trophy case, the regular-season championship is not what it’s all about.
“Nah. MLS Cup is the ultimate goal,” Adams said. “We’ve won Supporters Shield before. Yeah, it’s a trophy to have, one to say you’ve been a part of and you won; you had a great MLS season. You fall up short at the end of the day. It’s tough. We put so much into this year, whether it was [Concacaf] Champions League run that we made. We thought we could possibly come away with that. We hurt ourselves with that in the Chivas series. you look at this and we hurt ourselves in the first game of the Atlanta series and the U.S. Open Cup. At the end of the day, we come away without any trophies other than the Supporters Shield.”
It has been quite whirlwind of the past two seasons for Adams. He starred in the Under-20 World Cup in Korea in 2017. Later that year he made his full international debut. He has accrued nine caps and has become an influential player for the red, white and blue.
“I think I improved a lot this season,” he said. “At the beginning of the season there was talk about can he play center mid at the highest level and all that sort of speak. I played center mid my whole life. Of course, I could play center mid. Just to go out there and prove that I could be one of the best center mids in the league was important to me. Improving on a lot of the little things and having a great coach like Chris [Armas] to help me, one of the best center mids to play the game, I have improved so much this season.”
That’s Armas, as in head coach Armas, who has seen Adams grow from a promising player into an impact one the last few years.
During his time with the Chicago Fire and LA Galaxy, he was the dominant defensive midfielder in the league.
“Tyler’s growth, we haven’t seen anything like this in this country,” he said. “Christian [Pulisic] and Tyler Adams, those are the two, you know, guys in our national team that show a fearlessness quality, big personalities, humbleness, work ethic, maturity courage — going to start repeating myself — courage, but keep going. When we saw Tyler, even the recent article, you can read it and almost have a tear in your eye of what a gift he is.”
Pulisic, who recently turned 20, is considered a major cog in the national team’s future.
“And we’ve seen him grow,” Armas added about Adams. “We’ve seen him grow with his maturity, with how he can take over games, how he can lead, a 19-year-old, you know, leading a team in many ways. We’ve seen his performances with the national team, how he’s a big presence in those games and a big energy, and where you put him on the field, put him up the field tonight, and things start happening. We’ve seen it on every level, his understanding, tactically in games, how to be more effective. So we’ve seen every box that you can check. Just it’s growing rapidly.”
Asked if he thought Adams would succeed in Europe, Armas replied, “I think we know that answer. It’s for sure, because he has the physical ability. He’s got the mentality for Europe. He keeps improving, and, his personality and the courage that he has, the approach, every single day to get better and win, it’s like I’ve never seen. I know certain players that play in Europe, and you see what he has, he’s going to do great.”
Goalkeeper Luis Robles? He said that he was going to enjoy the show.
“If that ends up being the case and he goes across the pond, I’ll be able to sit from a vantage as a fan and as a friend,” he said. “Not only is it great for us soccer, it’s great for his career. It’ll be a lot of fun to watch.”