HANOVER, N.J. — They walked out of the tunnel together and quickly scanned Groupama Stadium in Lyon, France where 58,000 fans were ready to send Les Bleus off to the World Cup with yet another victory.
Over time, specifics of the match will fade, and they will likely play bigger and more important games for club and country. But they will each take something from their impressive performances as part of the U.S. starting XI.
“It was just something I think you’ll remember, an environment and something like that they were off to the World Cup and their country wants to send them off the right way and we obviously wanted to play the villain in that story,” Parker said of his first start, which came on the heels of his first cap against Ireland. “We did a pretty good job.”
That’s an understatement especially considering France trotted out the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Paul Pogba in their starting XI.
“Playing against a lot of guys who are my idols and going toe-to-toe with some of the best players in the world and a World Cup favorite was really unique,” Adams said. “Me and Tim had a fun time in Lyon and it was nice to get a good result as well.”
Remarkably, that was what Parker, who has arguably been among MLS’ best center backs in the first half of this season, had to deal with in his first start for the U.S. national team.
But Parker more than held his own, deflecting a Mbappe shot over the crossbar in the 26th minute after a long French buildup.
As it turned out, that wasn’t Parker’s most memorable encounter with the Barcelona forward. He tried slap Mbappe’s hand following a slide tackle, though Mbappe was having none of it.
“I thought I rolled over his ankle so I felt bad,” Parker said. “A little piece of me got a little worried that maybe I’d make him miss the World Cup because I rolled over his ankle.”
Adams big moment came as Pogba ran at him deep in the U.S. defensive third. It could have also been a viral moment, but the young defensive midfielder stood strong and forced the ball out for a corner.
“Winning your individual battles is always something I take personally,” Adams said. “Obviously when you’re playing against France you don’t want to end up on a highlight reel against some of those players. But with him dribbling at me, obviously I want to win the ball. It’s a good feeling to take the ball from Paul Pogba, but for myself it was just a game that I felt like individually we had to do everything we can and collectively to get a good result and we were able to do so.”
Jesse Marsch saw that exchange live, watching on television in the visitor’s locker room at MAPFRE Stadium as his team was on the field for pre-game warmups. He jokes its one of the worst parts of being a head coach, but when he gets to see his players hold their own against mighty France, it’s not too bad.
“Pogba was probably like who is this little punk? But that’s Tyler, man,” Marsch said. “He’s tenacious, he’s fearless and he’s always up for the challenge. When I saw that first moment, I was like he’s got him, no problem, Tyler’s got it taken care of.”
While both Adams and Parker proved themselves in a match few thought the U.S. would even get a draw out of, let alone threaten to win, there was no surprise among his Red Bulls teammates.
“I’m really happy for the guys and I’m really not surprised at how well they played because I get to see it week in and week out,” captain Luis Robles said.
Adams and Parker have memories that will last a lifetime from their time of facing France in Lyon. Adams also has a souvenir.
“Getting [N’Golo Kante’s] jersey at the end of the game, that was a fun one,” Adams said. “That was always the plan. I was excited about that.”
Parker had a plan too. It didn’t quite work out.
“I blame my dad,” Parker said. “I tried to get [Raphael Varane’s] jersey but when I spoke to him on the field he wanted to meet in the tunnel and then I went to speak to my dad after the game and [Varane] left.”
Next time, Tim. Next time.