Bob Montgomery helped influence the career of two USMNT captains.
By Michael Lewis
It’s pretty rare for anyone to coach one future national team player, let alone a captain of a World Cup side.
Bob Montgomery did that way back in the 1980’s when Mike Windischmann attended and starred for Adelphi University. Windischmann went on to captain the U.S. men’s national team that participated in a World Cup in 40 years at Italia ’90.
Montgomery never would have guessed that he would help influence the career of another talented player – Tyler Adams when he joined the Red Bulls organization as a 12-year-old 11 years ago. Adams is the USMNT’s captain at Qatar 2022 as the squad prepares to meet Iran in its final Group B match on Tuesday. The Americans needed to win to reach the knockout round.
“It’s quite an honor, for me,” Montgomery said on Sunday. “I think I helped guide those guys. I think I was good at recognizing talent.”
Actually, he was pretty damn good at that. It should be noted that Montgomery also recruited Chris Armas to play for Adelphi. While Armas did not participate in a World Cup, he made 66 international appearances for the USA.
The only coach to have directed two future USMNT captains was Bruce Arena when he directed Tony Meola and Claudio Reyna at the University of Virginia back in the day.
It must be noted that Montgomery never coached Adams in a game, he made some key decisions that put the defensive midfielder on the proper path way to become a professional and eventually a vital member of the USMNT.
“I didn’t discover him, a lot of people knew about him,” said Montgomery, who was Red Bulls Academy director for 10 years. “We just happened to have the resources that Red Bull had the best to offer.
“Tyler’s mother is the unsung hero behind him. When he came to Red Bull, he was living in Poughkeepsie. She drove down [to training] four times a week. She’d sit on the sideline and do get her laptop out and do work. I think I was very helpful to the family, because his mom wasn’t a soccer mom. She didn’t know soccer and she didn’t know what was right. She trusted me and I think I gave her good, good information and good advice.”
That advice started fairly early in Adams’ career with the Academy.
“He was phenomenal when he came to us,” Montgomery said. “We saw him in training tryouts. A couple of people told me that we shouldn’t take him, we should let him stay where he was. I said, ‘No, he’s ready, if they can make the commitment.”
Adams impressed Red Bulls coaches his first day at practice as a dominated player on the Under-13 team. A week later, the Red Bulls Academy staff decided he would be better off playing with 14-year-olds.
Montgomery explained that process to Adams’ mother.
“We basically told him that he could play with both teams, different teams on different weeks, because he had formed a bond with the U-13 players,” he said. “He was the best player on the field in the he older age group. He was a super talent.
“His mentality and his athleticism were off the charts as a young guy, but also as a young guy playing up all the time.”
When a 16-year-old Adams trained with Red Bulls for the first time in 2016, he was at his competitive best, Montgomery said.
“He’s yelling at his teammates about closing down the ball and get over there and this and that,” Montgomery added. “You’re supposed to be a timid kid when you walk in there. At first the players looked at him like, ‘Who the hell does this kid think he is?’ And then by the end of the practice they were like, ‘Where did this guy come from? He’s unbelievable.’ Because he’s not telling other people to do his work, he works harder than anybody out there.”
Like every player, Adams wore a fitness tracker, and his numbers were off the charts.
“Tyler did more work in a training session than anybody on the team,” Montgomery said. “He covered more ground. He did more accelerations; he had more jumps and all these things that they record every training session.”
Windischmann, a center back, attended Adelphi from 1983-86, earning All-American honors.
“Michael was a quiet leader,” Montgomery said. “Michael was a quiet guy. You probably remember people used to say, ‘He should talk more.’ But he’d lead by example. He had the respect of everybody. A great soccer brain. He read the game and he was a very calming influence on the field at a high level in college. He just did things, just dominated from the back. You just didn’t worry. You stick him in the back, and he’s taken care of that part of the field.”
Windischmann, now 56, played 51 times for the national team and was key member of the U.S. squad at the 1989 and 1992 FIFA Futsal World Championships that finished third and second, respectively.
Armas, the most dominant defensive midfielder of his with the LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer, never got an opportunity to play in a World Cup due to knee injuries. He did captain the USMNT on several occasions.
Montgomery had coached Armas since he was with the Long Island Junior Soccer League Under-12 select team.
“I knew the guy and I knew how good he was,” he said, adding that Armas and Adams “weren’t flashy guys. They weren’t doing step overs. They weren’t scoring bicycle kicks. They don’t garner the same attention. But I was fortunate to know that these guys not only had great talent, but even further potential.”
First as a Red Bulls assistant coach and then as a head coach, Armas was able to give some advice to a younger Adams.
“Chris also had a big influence on Tyler on the pro side,” Montgomery said. “Jesse [Marsch, then the Red Bulls’ head coach] just kind of said to Tyler, ‘Look, this is one of the best guys to play in the center midfield for us and in MLS.’ ”
Now Tyler Adams has become one of the best center midfielders to play for the United States.