Two years ago, defender Matt Miazga left the Red Bull Academy at the age of 18 and signed with the first team under Major League Soccer’s Homegrown Player rule. It was a move that left a huge impact on those still in the academy, especially Tyler Adams.
“For me it was like I always wanted to be the next player to come through the academy,” Adams said. “I saw Matt Miazga as a role model and wanted to follow him.”
And he has. The 17-year-old from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., today became the first academy player to sign with Red Bulls II, the newly-formed team that will play in USL, professional soccer’s third division. The team, coached by former Red Bulls striker John Wolyniec, begins play March 28 against the Rochester Rhinos at Red Bull Arena.
“It hasn’t even hit me yet that I actually signed,” Adams said. “It wasn’t an easy process. I put a lot of work into perfecting my game and I’m only trying to develop myself more.”
New Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch has quickly gotten himself acquainted with the talent in the club’s academy and likes what he sees in the 5-9, 150-pound Adams.
“Tyler Adams is a kid who we were able to watch when we were down in Florida and see him a little bit with the U-17s,” Marsch said. “We’ve watched him play down there in some big games for our country and he‘s a kid that we’re really excited about. He has all the tools and he’s got the mentality to be a real pro.
“He’s young. He’s 16 years old, but I think that he gets our coaching staff and our club really excited because, first of all, he’s truly a home-grown player, and second, he has some really good starting points and tools to work with. The quicker we can get him here in our team the better.”
It’s been a huge year for Adams. Last summer, while enrolled in U.S. Soccer’s Under-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., he was selected for U-17 training camp and earned a spot on the U-17 team under coach Richie Williams, another former Red Bulls player. On Sunday, the team qualified for the Under-17 World Cup but not without a scare. Following a scoreless tie in a playoff against Jamaica, the Americans prevailed 5-4 on penalty kicks to earn the final CONCACAF berth and claim a place in the 24-team field that will compete for the title in Chile in October.
“We had one job to do and that was to qualify, and we were able to do that,” Adams said. “But we did it the hard way.”
Adams says he feels fortunate to have played for Williams and is looking forward to playing for Wolyniec. Both had solid careers in MLS and are quickly establishing themselves as excellent coaches.
”Richie helped me develop a lot. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him,” said Adams, who has played every position on the back line as well as central midfield, but may be pegged in a defensive midfield role. “Being with him full time has been awesome. Wolyniec helped out with the U-15s. I know him very well. He knows a lot about the game and he was a great player as well.
“My parents looked at the residency decision as a great opportunity for me to develop as a player and a young man. The first year I wasn’t quite mature enough yet, but the following year I was ready to go. Leaving my family was hard but leaving my friends and high school environment was just as difficult. I loved training there every day.
“I just want to be the best I can be, to work hard every day and keep the motivation going. (Red Bulls II) gives players like me a great opportunity to develop and an opportunity to play, and I think that’s great. I just want to take this one platform and work my way up to the first team and maybe one day be a designated player.”
That dream will begin at Red Bull Arena, a building Adams is very familiar with.
“I love the stadium. I feel like when I walk into the arena it feels like a European stadium. The environment is awesome,” he said. “Last season my family had season tickets and went to almost every game. I also went to the U.S.-Turkey game and the Red Bulls-Arsenal game.”
Though Adams has come a long way in a short time, the real work begins now. And whether he realizes it or not, as he begins to establish himself with Red Bulls II there will likely be a number of players working their way through the Red Bulls Academy with an eye on him and the motivation to follow his path. And that’s the way it should be.