Chris Armas: John Tolkin 'Brings Something That's Different'

The 17-year-old left-back, John Tolkin, signed his first professional contract this week with the New York Red Bulls and became the 25th academy product to achieve it. Tolkin, who can also play the central defensive midfield position, has been in the academy from the Under-13 to U-19 and Red Bulls II.

Last year, Tolkin made 13 appearances for NYRBII, eight of them starts. He was able to get three assists in his first four appearances, including a game-tying assist to Tom Barlow in his debut against then-Bethlehem Steel FC.

Sporting Director Denis Hamlett sees his internal drive as a trait that’s going to be crucial as he takes this new step in his career.

"I think that’s the one thing that I would say that he has; it’s the desire to always push himself to be like ‘I don’t want to play with the U-19, I want to play with the second team; I don’t want to play with the second team, I want to play with the first team,'" Hamlett said. “I think that internal drive is what’s going to get him to where he needs."

Tolkin totaled 807 minutes for NYRB II in 2019, and he has also made eight appearances for the U.S. Under-17 men’s national team, his most recent ones took place at the 19th annual Nike International Friendlies at the Premier Sports Campus, where the Americans played against Turkey’s U-16 and the Netherlands’ U-16.

Head Coach Chris Armas looks forward to working with Tolkin, who will attend his second preseason in a row after attending last year’s.

“He obviously brings something to the team that’s different. He’s super intelligent. He can play a few positions, but he’s more comfortable as left-back. He can play as a six,” Armas said. “A year ago, he was the man of preseason, so even as a young guy, he still has a really good mentality, a really good soccer brain, athletically he keeps coming along, but he makes up for it because he’s intelligent and throws himself at everything we do. He plays the philosophy. [We’re] thrilled to have him in a Red Bull uniform, you know, No. 47.”