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Tyler Adams: The next great MLS prospect headed to Europe, RB Leipzig

Apr 28, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams (4) celebrates after defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after former New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch left for RB Leipzig, he identified Red Bulls homegrown midfielder Tyler Adams as the “perfect player to join him” at the German Bundesliga sister club.

Then reports surfaced that Adams will join Leipzig, but not until after the 2018 MLS season. Details of a deal in the works were not firm at the time. RBNY, however, will receive 100 percent of any potential fee since he’s a homegrown player. 

Sunday, RasenBallsport Leipzig sporting director and head coach Ralf Rangnick told reporters in Germany that two unnamed players signed with the club during the summer transfer window, and German media quickly identified one of the players:

“One of the two signings is Tyler Adams,” reputable German sports magazine kicker reported that same day.

Rangnick said, “The players have already signed. But we will not make the transfers officials yet, that is the deal we made with the other clubs involved. We would have liked to have both players now, but neither player was available this summer.” 

 

Leipzig will compete in the German Bundesliga, German Cup and the Europa League this season. Earlier this summer, Rangnick said his squad was too thin “to dance on three weddings.” 

RB Leipzig hoped it would be able to conclude some key transfers by Aug. 31, when the transfer window closed in Germany. Linked with a move for Everton’s Ademola Lookman and Bayern’s Sebastian Rudy, both transfers fell through because of the financial demands made by Everton and Bayern. 

Even though RB Leipzig does not carry Red Bull in its name, due to German Bundesliga licencing rules, it is the crown jewel of the Red Bull football empire. The German club sits on top of a pyramid that also includes Red Bull Salzburg (although to comply with UEFA competitions laws the clubs are now disentangled), the Red Bull academies in Brazil and Ghana and the MLS franchise New York Red Bulls. 

With external transfers falling through, RB Leipzig has now looked within the system to fill holes in the squad.

What does RB Leipzig expect from Tyler Adams?

The expectations of Tyler Adams will be enormous in Leipzig. The 19-year-old will be signed to fill the void left by Naby Keïta, who left the Bundesliga side this summer to join English Premier League side Liverpool. 

“Two years ago, Naby played the best Bundesliga season that I have ever seen from a player,” Liverpool head coach Jürgen Klopp recently said in a feature interview with kicker. 

Last year, Keïta had a bit of an off year but was still the best player on Leipzig’s squad as die Roten Bullen finished sixth in the Bundesliga.

Despite earning a reported €60 million (nearly $70 million) from the deal, RB Leipzig failed to sign a replacement for Keïta this summer. Now Adams, together with a yet unnamed player, will be asked to fill the void left by Keïta when he arrives in Germany this winter. 

That is a lot to ask for from a 19-year-old midfielder, who for the first time in his career will be playing in a top European league. Thankfully for Adams, however, Leipzig will try to distribute some of Keïta’s load with veteran Kevin Kampl and Mister X to help Adams with the transition.

What can RB Leipzig fans expect from Tyler Adams?

Tyler Adams, together with future FC Bayern Munich winger Alphonso Davies, is the biggest talent in MLS at the moment. 

Unlike Davies, Adams is moving within the RB system. As a result, the United States national team player will move within the system. Furthermore, former RBNY head coach Jesse Marsch currently works as Ralf Rangnick’s assistant in Leipzig and Marsch was a big proponent of making this deal a reality. 

With Rangnick working both as a head coach and sporting director, Marsch’s responsibilities exceed those of an ordinary assistant coach. Marsch was brought in because Rangnick imposed a uniform playing style during his time as a sporting director of all Red Bull clubs. 

Hence, RBNY and RB Leipzig play a similar style of football. Both operate in a high press and quickly transition forward when winning the ball, trying to flood the opposition with significant numbers. 

For this style of football to work, defensive midfielders, such as Tyler Adams at New York, are asked to win the ball and distribute it quickly, or even join the rush to overload the attacking end. 

Tyler Adams by the numbers

To break this down in numbers, take a quick look at Adams’ statistics for the season (as of Sept. 2).

With MLS heading into the final stretch of the season, the 19-year-old is second only to fellow midfielder Sean Davis (79.8 percent completed passes) on New York’s squad with a pass completion rate of 77.1 percent. Furthermore, Adams and Davis lead the RBNY squad with 48.1 passes played per match.

Adams also leads all New York Red Bulls midfielders with 2.1 long passes played per game this season and is second overall in this ranking among all field players on the squad, behind defender Tim Parker (only players with more than five appearances were counted for this). 

His other offensive numbers are also encouraging. With 0.7 key passes per game this season, Adams ranks seventh on the squad. And he’s eighth with 0.5 dribbles completed per game.

It is in that latest category that Adams will have to make a significant jump if he wants to help replace Naby Keïta. The 23-year-old Guinean national team player averaged 2.5 dribbles per game in the Bundesliga last season. 

Winning the ball and holding onto the ball to quickly transition through the midfield will, therefore, be one key area Adams will have to work on once he has completed the transfer to Germany. While that will be a tough ask, there are indications that Adams could complete those requirements. 

During the New York Red Bulls’ 2-2 draw in Vancouver Aug.18, much of the attention was on the flashier Alphonso Davies. But it was Adams who took control of the match when the Red Bulls were a goal down and trying to find an equalizer. 

The 19-year-old on several occasions not only won the ball but also quickly moved it forward with swift movement through the Whitecaps’ midfield.

Leipzig is familiar with all of Adams’ skills and shortcomings, and he will have teammates there who will allow him to fill the Keïta void without needing to become a Keïta clone. 

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