The youngest captain at the 2022 FIFA World Cup might just be one of the most poised players at the tournament in Qatar — and it was never more apparent for US Men’s National Team captain Tyler Adams than an off-the-field incident prior to his side’s Group B finale against Iran.
Needing a win to advance to the Round of 16, the 23-year-old Wappingers Falls, NY native was bombarded in a pre-match press conference by an Iranian reporter who scolded him for mispronouncing Iran before asking him about social issues in the United States — mainly regarding discrimination.
“There’s discrimination everywhere you go,” Adams said. “One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in in different cultures and kind of assimilate into different cultures, is that in the US, we’re continuing to make progress every single day.”
Such poise for someone so young, but that’s the name of the game for Adams. The defensive midfielder is the calming presence of a frenetic, young team that’s beginning to make waves in Qatar.
This is a team that exudes speed and vivacity down the wings. Christian Pulisic pulls the strings for an attack that has an abundance of support whether it be from Antonee Robinson or Sergino Dest, or Weston McKennie.
But Adams’ job is all the more important. He has to keep the defensive structure at the heart of the pitch sound.
Outside of an ill-fated Walker Zimmerman penalty to gift Wales a game-tying goal, it’s a responsibility he’s passed with flying colors.
While the Americans hoarded the chances against mighty England, he helped control the midfield to keep a prolific group of attackers at bay. After getting that all-important goal against Iran on Tuesday from Pulisic, Adams kept American emotions in check to see out the vital 1-0 victory.
“Tyler’s a guy that’s just mature beyond his years, and you notice it from the minute you start talking to him,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “He’s a guy that teammates know exactly what they’re going to get from him. They know that he’s going to go out on the field and compete. They know that he’s going to be thinking about the game. They know that he’s going to be into the details of the game — not just a competitor, he’s also a strategist.
“And I think that helps the group because he calms people down and he’s a guy that people get behind.”
Quite a journey from the New York Red Bulls’ Youth Academy, which ultimately led to him breaking into the professional ranks in Major League Soccer. Adams played three seasons with the Red Bulls from 2016-2018 where he quickly showed just how high his ceiling can be — and just how far he can take the representation of United States soccer.
The Red Bulls’ sister club, RB Leipzig of the German Bundesliga — one of the largest leagues in the world featuring iconic teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund — came calling in 2019 where he made the move to Europe.
From a promising American prospect to a stalwart of a defensive midfielder, Adams appeared in 75 matches for RB Leipzig and was a centerpiece for a squad that finished within the top four of the Bundesliga in each of his four seasons with the club, which included two Champions League berths.
He made the move to Leeds United of the historic English Premier League in July where he was tasked with replacing Kalvin Phillips, who was signed by vaunted Manchester City. He’s appeared in 13 of 14 games for the Lillywhites this season, working closely with fellow USMNT talent Brenden Aaronson.
This only appears to be the start, especially after showing that he’s one of the best midfielders at the 2022 World Cup.