Tyler Adams needs to be at the top of his game if the USMNT wants to get out of the group stage. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
You can tell much about an athlete about his or her actions, not only on the playing field, but off of it as well.
There is little question that Tyler Adams is a gifted soccer player.
We’ve seen it for years. I had the privilege of having, ahem, a front row seat at Red Bull Arena to see him excel for the Red Bulls before he took the huge step across the pond to play for RB Leipzig and currently for Leeds United.
You could tell he was destined for bigger things.
At first, his speed allowed him to become one of the leading defensive midfielders in MLS before his soccer knowledge allowed him to excel even further. He became lethal in striping the ball away from opposing players or knowing where the passing lanes were. Given that the Red Bulls’ press was essential for the team’s ultimate success, Adams was a vital link to the quick transition.
Ditto for the U.S. men’s national team.
You can talk about the importance of many players on the roster, from Christian Pulisic needing to have a breakout World Cup after just about being ignored by whoever the Chelsea manager is, to Weston McKennie being a force in the midfield.
No doubt they need to bring their A game to Qatar, as other teammates must.
But many times, a team’s success will hinge on the play of its defensive midfielder – aka as the No. 6 position (not a player’s number).
A defensive midfielder is so vital to a team’s success. An interception or a takeaway in the midfield, works two-fold. It takes away possession from the opposition and gives his side possession and perhaps a quick counterattack. If he or she does it enough, it will disrupt the rhythm of the their foe. Chris Armas, who missed out on two World Cups because of injuries, accomplished that supremely for club (Chicago Fire) and country, given both squads an added dimension.
Which is why Tyler Adams is the team’s most important player. The USA needs a transition game, a quick one, and the 23-year-old midfielder can provide it.
Which brings us to the next subject: He deserves to be the team captain for the World Cup. Last week, head coach Gregg Berhalter told me that the players’ council would deserve who would be the captain.
When he was with the Red Bulls, Adams impressed me, not only with his skill and persistence on the pitch, but the way he handled himself off of it.
His age at the time – he was a teenager, remember – belied his years.
Beyond his dazzling on the field, there is one scenario that I will never forget about Tyler Adams.
The night the Red Bulls, the 2018 Supporters’ Shield champions, were eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs, he answered question after question about the season and loss. Besides covering the match for FrontRowSoccer.com, another website had asked me to write a feature about Adams from his youth days. I told the Red Bulls communications director what I needed. I wait for most of the game-related questions were asked and answered (you give anyone on deadline the first crack).
Then I asked my questions, which were not game related.
Adams answered them like a pro. He did not look perturbed and not surprisingly, he gave me a great story.
I thanked him for taking the time and he said he was welcome.
Given what he has accomplished on the field and the way he comports himself as a leader, Tyler Adams deserves to captain the USMNT in Qatar.
Hopefully, the team’s player council will agree with me.
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