RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams spent a childhood in Wappingers Falls, New York that was anything but ordinary. At just 11 years old, Tyler joined New York Red Bulls Academy, a top soccer program in the United States.
The facilities of the academy were in Hanover, New Jersey, which was about an hour and a half drive for his home and until he could get his driver’s license, his mom had to take him five days a week. There were some days where his practices would end at 10:00 p.m. as Adams and his mom would return by midnight just to repeat the process again the following day.
Adams’s mom played a major role in his life especially during the beginning of his days with the academy. He loved his mom, and he takes pride in calling himself a “mama’s boy”. At just 14 years old, he managed to balance playing for the academy, playing basketball for the Wappingers Falls high school team, and getting onto the school’s honor roll.
“He’s fearless”, his stepbrother Darryl Sullivan said as he described what Tyler was as a teenager. “[Tyler] is the most competitive person that I know. And he’s not scared of anyone and you can see that when you watch him on the field and I saw that off the field too.”
Sullivan went to the same junior high and high school as Adams and became friends quickly because of their love for sports and how they both saw themselves as the most competitive people in the room. They didn’t realize it but where they both have gotten to today just doesn’t seem possible with each other.
“At the time, we were just friends,” said Sullivan. “But when we realized that our parents started dating, we just became even closer and I just can’t see my life without him and his mom.”
Sullivan is a redshirt junior offensive lineman at the Marist College football team and even though both him and Adams lived just 15 minutes away from the campus, there was no doubt in Sullivan’s mind where Adams wanted to be while he was in the academy.
“I honestly never thought what it would be like for Tyler to come to Marist with me,” Sullivan jokingly said. “He always had the mindset that he was going to make it in the professional level.”
This type of support mixed in with the drive that Adams had when he was going through the ranks at Red Bulls going from U-13 to New York Red Bulls II all the way to the first team as a homegrown player made who Adams has become today.
Although his time was short with the New York Red Bulls first team, he accomplished a lot for the MLS club. He was not only a regular starter for the team when he was just 18 years old, but an integral part of the team during the 2018 season. He got them to their first Open Cup since 2003 and won the Supporters Shield in 2018. In just his second year as a starter for the team, he was selected to be in the starting lineup for the MLS All-Star Game against Italian powerhouse Juventus. He was just one of two players in the entire All-Star team to play the full 90 minutes. Sullivan called his brother “a hometown hero”.
“Everyone here in Poughkeepsie follows what he’s doing and every time he is playing, he is representing us,” said Sullivan.
After an impressive two seasons in the MLS, he was growing a lot of attraction from clubs in Europe. In January 2019, he joined a German club RB Leipzig of the Bundesliga. After a strong end to the 2018-2019 season in his first half season with his new team, Tyler ended up sidelined for the entire first half of the 2019-2020 season with a groin injury. It was the first time in his career where he had to sit out for a long period of time and it was hard for him at first especially when the team qualified for the UEFA Champions League.
“One of his dreams was to play in the Champions League,” exclaimed Sullivan. “It’s obviously not easy transitioning to a different country and it was very tough for him to come back from an injury like that, but he is slowly enjoying himself more out there.”
He finally made his Champions League debut on March 10th against English club Tottenham Hotspur in the Round of 16 after being subbed on in the 56th minute. He once again had to wait a little longer to get another opportunity in the biggest European club competition after COVID-19 put a halt to all European play. But on August 13th, Leipzig faced Atlético Madrid in the quarterfinals after play had resumed. In the 88th minute, Leipzig’s Angeliño crossed the ball in from the left flank to Tyler Adams who was in acres of space just outside the 18-yard box. He took a touch, struck the ball cleanly, and deflected past keeper Jan Oblak into the back of the net, which went on to be the winning goal and sent Leipzig into the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time in their team’s history. Once the final whistle blew, all of his teammates ran towards him to congratulate him on his first ever Champions League goal.
“It’s crazy that he’s doing these things at the highest level,” said Sullivan. “I’m obviously so happy for him, but at the same time it’s still taking some getting used to.”
There have never been this many young Americans playing across Europe and they are all certainly making names for themselves. Christian Pulisic. Weston McKennie. Sergińo Dest. Timothy Weah. Giovanni Reyna. Josh Sargant. Now add Tyler Adams to the list. This feels like the beginning of another story with a budding star from the United States in the world of European soccer.