Soon after Tyler Adams signed his first senior contract with the New York Red Bulls in 2015, he went on a two-week trip to the team’s sister clubs in Leipzig, Germany and Salzburg, Austria. He stayed in the same building as the Leipzig academy players and trained with the under-19 team, playing in a few friendlies while he was there. It was more than just a valuable experience, as his teammate in New York – and roommate on the trip – Sean Davis noted: “I think that’s when Tyler fell in love there.”
Adams has been working, and hoping, for a move to Leipzig ever since, and he made it official on Sunday. He joins a growing contingent of young US men’s national team players in the Bundesliga. It also keeps Adams in a familiar spot: after playing and excelling in New York with the pressing system the Red Bull clubs share, it seems like the higher-ups in Germany feel the defensive midfielder is ready for the plans they have for him. That said, Adams had been getting ready in other ways as he patiently waited for a career-changing move.
For starters, he has been studying German for the last five months. “I’m trying to become as fluent as possible as quickly as possible, but it’s not easy,” Adams said at the New York Red Bulls’ end of season media day on Monday, his final media obligation as a member of the team. He has also been talking to international teammates Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, and Josh Sargent, who already play in Germany, to make the move easier. “The hardest part they talk about when you go to Europe is what you do off the field because you have so much downtime,” the 19-year-old said, “so that’s obviously something that I’m going to have to figure out.”
The pull of a career in Europe, though, goes back further than his 2015 trip. Adams joined the Red Bulls academy at the age of 12 and by the time he was 15 he had impressed as the youngest member of the under-17 team. “When he was 15, he was like, ‘I want to become a pro,’” New York Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett says. As Hamlett puts it, they believed they had a “special kid” rising through the ranks.
Adams signed a contract with the newly-formed New York Red Bulls II in 2015, though there was a little bit of resistance. “I wasn’t excited to be playing [in] USL,” Adams said, at the time preferring time with the first team. He eventually adapted, winning the USL Cup in 2016 and becoming a first-team staple in 2017. In retrospect, he admits that the slow integration worked in his favor.
“I had just turned 16 when I had signed my contract [with New York Red Bulls II]”, Adams said, “and at that time, I was just getting in my comfort zone. I think that staying inside that realm and being able to finish school with my high-school friends and having my family and living at home, it all just made sense.”
Adams says he grew as a person after he moved out of his parents’ home and began to adopt the trappings of adult life, like paying his own rent. While that has him feeling ready for life in a foreign country, so does the fact that he did not rush to Europe as an eager teenager, instead building a career in Major League Soccer.
“I could’ve gone to Europe,” he said. “I could’ve waited until I was 18 to play my first game and maybe had 10 games under my belt by now, but instead I have 70. I’m more established now and I’m more prepared for the next challenge.”
Now that he has finally achieved his goal of a move to Europe, Adams is learning to be patient again despite rising quickly through the American soccer ranks. He acknowledges that success will likely not be instant in Leipzig and that he will have to earn the respect of his new teammates. For Adams, though, the way his career has worked out means he feels he can make his next move a success.
“Being a part of this team and this culture here, it’s so similar to how they play at RB Leipzig,” Adams said. “It’ll probably be the best transition for me … If I was to slot in tomorrow at defensive mid, the role for the most part is similar to what I’ve done here and that probably keeps me at ease the most about starting a new journey there.”