Former New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams joined RB Leipzig in January to further his career against some of the best soccer clubs in Europe. Young Americans do not have the best track record when it comes to moving from Major League Soccer to a European league, but the Wappinger Falls, N.Y., native is on course to help redirect that trend upwards.
Since January, Adams has appeared in six of the seven matches RB Leipzig has played and started in four of those. Leipzig have won all four of the matches Adams has started, scoring 11 goals and conceding just one over that time. Leipzig’s only loss over the course of the seven games since his transfer came against league leaders Borussia Dortmund when Adams was left as an unused substitute on the day.
Leipzig’s success with Adams on the field comes down to his most treasured attribute – recovering possession in the middle third. He averages seven ball recoveries per match and has completed 28 total ball recoveries in matches where he played at least 45 minutes in the Bundesliga. His work rate is a freak of nature, accommodating for Leipzig’s all-or-nothing counter attacks with intelligent positioning and a natural vigorous engine.
Playing in a 4-2-2-2 formation, there are often four or five players at a time swarming the final third to force the opposition into making an unnecessary turnover. As the facilitator of possession, Adams collects loose clearances, cuts off passing lanes to the opposition’s forwards, and recycles the ball when his team tries to move defenders out of position. Essentially, he is doing the job of two holding midfielders during their team’s offensive phase and that ability to multitask as seamlessly as he does is what makes him such an invaluable enigma.
Fortuna Düsseldorf felt first hand just how much of a nuisance Adams can be for a team struggling to handle high pressing opponents. With forward Dodi Lukebakio being the only outlet going forward, it became easy for Adams to keep the Belgian’s influence on the match at a minimum. The majority of his two interceptions and four tackles from that match came from plays in which Düsseldorf were looking to get Lukebakio involved in the match.
The only concern from Adams’ early performances would be that he is yet to face one of the league’s outright powerhouses. Fortuna Düsseldorf, VfB Stuttgart, and Hannover 96 are three of the four teams Adams has started against, and all of them currently sit below eleventh place in the league table. He did come on as a substitute against sixth place Eintracht Frankfurt and eighth place TSG Hoffenheim, but there is still a clear hesitance from manager Ralf Rangnick to start the midfielder in big-game situations.
Nonetheless, his early impressions and ease of transition from the pace of MLS to the pace of the Bundesliga are proper representations of what is to be expected from the 20-year-old. Adams was one of the best midfielders in the league during his time in New York, and now, he is slowly becoming one of the best midfield prospects amongst his peers.
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Sousa7474.