FEATURE | What can Leeds United expect from Tyler Adams?

With 23-year-old United States international Tyler Adams swapping Saxony for West Yorkshire, it’s important to look at what Leeds United will gain at RB Leipzig’s expense.

The young defensive-midfielder joined RB Leipzig back in 2019, after impressing in his homeland at partner club New York Red Bulls. He made his first Bundesliga start for the club in a 4-0 victory over Fortuna Düsseldorf, before recording his first ever Bundesliga assist just a month later during a 3-1 triumph in Stuttgart. Yet despite a relatively steady start in a Leipzig shirt, his influence on the team was evident. An abductor injury unfortunately ruled him out of April’s fixtures, but of the games featuring the young American in the first three months of his Leipzig adventure, the team did not lose a single game. Adams returned to the team a month later for a DFB Pokal final date with Bayern Munich, with the latter running out 3-0 winners.

Injury once again regrettably persisted for a player who was just starting to find his feet, with Adams missing the first half of the 2019/20 domestic campaign. Though, his comeback just before the winter break, playing 86 minutes in a 3-1 victory over Augsburg, was where he really began to make a starting place in the dogged Leipzig midfield his own. Just a few months later, Adams made his Champions League debut in the last-16 second-leg against Tottenham Hotspur. From here, the youngster never really looked back. In the next round, the quarter-finals, Adams scored the winning goal in a 2-1 win over Atlético Madrid, helping RB Leipzig into the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in their insubstantial history.

Adams is a player with worthy Champions League experience, and Leeds will certainly be hoping that he can bring this sense of European pedigree to Elland Road and the Premier League in the coming seasons. On top of that, Adams made 38 appearances for Leipzig last season, highlighting just how integral a part of this Leipzig side he has become, as well as demonstrating his valuable experience at the very highest level. All in all, Adams has made over 100 appearances in all competitions for RB Leipzig, and earlier this year lifted the DFB Pokal.

Adams has also enjoyed a fine international career to date, having represented the United States at under-15, under-17, under-20 and full international level. He registered an appearance in every game at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-17 Championships in Honduras, helping the team qualify for the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Adams proved reliable once again, playing every single match for the United States at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea, in a tournament of course famously won by England.

After leaving an indelible mark on the international stage at every level, Adams earned his first senior cap later in 2017, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Portugal. A year later, he bagged his first international goal, netting against Mexico in a friendly. Adams has won 30 caps for the United States, clearly elucidating his ample ability and prized experience on a global level. This is a player who remains so young, yet for his age, has played a supreme amount of football.

Having already played under Leeds United head coach Jesse Marsch at both NYRB and Leipzig, this appears an incredibly adept signing for the West Yorkshire outfit, who are so desperately looking to bolster their midfield options following the announcement of Kalvin Phillips’ move to Manchester City. An incredibly gifted footballer, Adams is a player that is extremely comfortable on the ball, often able to escape the opposition’s press with immense precision, retain the ball and start his side’s attacks. He often describes himself as a transitional player, a player that loves to win the ball back, a player that relishes in pressing hard, illustrating exactly why he was so fantastically suited to a Nagelsmann and Marsch midfield. Adams seemingly fits the bill as an effective Kalvin Phillips replacement, with the American’s undisputed technical proficiency, fitness, stamina, and intense work-rate, the key strengths of his ever-more impressive game. Adams is an incredibly mature personality for his age, an intelligent and switched-on type, one whose attitude, endeavour and commitment can never truly be brought into question.

This is a fantastic opportunity for both Adams and Leeds United. The move gives the former the opportunity to resuscitate his European career, after falling slightly out of favour at Leipzig during the latter stages of the most recent campaign. However, with his irrefutable quality, combined with his reunification with Jesse Marsch, who will no doubt play to his strengths, this could be a move that plunges Adams forward into a top-of-the-range midfielder. Leeds now have an opportunity to rebuild from the Marcelo Bielsa era, and with Kalvin Phillips – a major representative of that successful period – having now departed, Marsch has the opportunity to mould the club firmly in his manner. He seems to have initially opted for the Americanisation of Leeds United, having signed two fellow countrymen: first Brendon Aaronson, and now Tyler Adams.

However, be that as it may, a slight brake on the excitement must be applied. Despite Adams’ abundant ability, we are all familiar with the unfortunate truth that there are absolutely no guarantees in football. Questions unequivocally persist. Can Adams’ tenacity in midfield really take Leeds to the next level? Is he really the man to shoulder the pressure of an illustrious club with great expectations? And how will the American fare during his first venture outside of the Red Bull footballing project?

As for Leipzig, they are losing a very fine player, and with the rumours that fellow midfielder Konrad Laimer could be departing for Bayern Munich, Leipzig’s midfield options appear to be drastically thinning. The club of course has time to put things right, with their plans to be busy in the transfer market having been made known. Though, in this particular case, it really would seem that RB Leipzig’s loss is Leeds United’s gain. An exciting player, only time will tell whether or not he’s the right fit. Nevertheless, at this stage, sensible and promising are the two words that immediately spring to mind.

James Westmacott


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