Having returned from the first serious injury of his young career, USMNT midfielder Tyler Adams is now midway through his third season in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig and has already made more league appearances in 2020/21 than in each of his first two campaigns with the club.
In an exclusive interview, Adams sits down with bundesliga.com to discuss life at Leipzig so far, establishing himself as a first-team player, the future of the USMNT with the likes of Gio Reyna, Josh Sargent and Matthew Hoppe as well as much more from the 21-year-old.
bundesliga.com: On Instagram, we've seen your story about Justin Kluivert. He had to clean your car from all the snow. Did he really do it? What are your experiences with snow in Germany?
Tyler Adams: "Yeah, so this is kind of my first experience with snow in Germany. My first two years here, it hasn't snowed much so the winters have been very cold but other than that, there hasn't been a lot of snow. So, now that we have some snow, it feels a little bit more like New York in this time of the year. It was funny. Justin didn't end up cleaning my car so it was kind of a selfish one from him. I had to clean my own car!"
bundesliga.com: Recently, you scored your first goal in the Bundesliga. Can you tell us what went through your mind right after scoring? What did it mean to you?
Adams: "Yeah, obviously, any way I can help the team is important. I think I was - when I scored, I was happy because we were winning the game at that point but we ended up dropping points to Mainz in that game. For me, as competitive a person as I am, I want to win every game possible. I was happy to be able to score my first goal, of course, but at the end of the day, I would rather have the three points."
bundesliga.com: Julian Nagelsmann plays you in different positions in the squad: in the middle or on the right flank for example. Where do you love to play most and why?
Adams: "Yeah, I mean, my natural position is in the midfield. I'm able to do what I am best at, playing in that position: breaking up plays, winning the ball defensively for the team, pressuring the opponent. That's what I'm really, really good at. Julian has helped me this year the same way as playing multiple positions and learning the game and how I can affect the game from different positions on the field but, yes, I would say that my most natural position is in the midfield."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe the relationship between you and the coach?
Adams: "Yes, it's good. He has helped me in the past weeks in developing my game. Obviously, the opportunities I've had in the game, I've been able to work on the things he wants me to develop. It's just a matter of getting better day by day and showing him that I'm improving in the things that he wants me to."
Watch: Adams at home in Leipzig
bundesliga.com: You also scored an important goal in the Champions League quarter-final last season. Leipzig made it into the top four of Europe and ended up top three in the Bundesliga. What are the team goals and your personal goals for this season?
Adams: "Yes, I mean, personally, I want to play as much as I can, contribute to the team and help them win games so that we can reach our team goals. Our team goals are, of course, to continue to progress the team forwards. That means for us to make it as far as possible in the Champions League. I think that this year, we have a really good chance of winning the Pokal (DFB Cup). That is one of our goals. To lift one of the first major trophies for the club is very important for us and then, in the Bundesliga, of course, finishing as high as we can. What that means, it obviously determines where we can go in the Champions League for the next year and finishing top four is very important for us."
bundesliga.com: Obviously, RB Leipzig is still the biggest rival of Bayern Munich in the title race. What makes you think that it's still possible to lift that trophy in the end?
Adams: "Yeah, of course, there's always a realistic possibility of lifting a trophy when you're competing very close to the top of the table. For us, it's important to take it game by game. We have to be realistic with ourselves. We have to focus on our own goals and what is ahead of us. We take it game by game. Try to pick up three points along the way. Of course, when you have games like the one against Mainz where you drop points, you have to quickly forget about those types of games because there are still a lot of big games ahead of us to win."
bundesliga.com: In the Champions League, you will face Liverpool in the last 16. What are you most excited about in this match-up?
Adams: "Yeah, I mean, it's very exciting, right? Because they won the Champions League two years ago now. They won the Premier League title the past year so we know that we're going against a top, top team. What better opportunity for a club like ours, for a team like ours to compete against one of the top teams in the world and really show what we're about. You can go into a game like this and anything can happen. Hopefully, we come out of it with two victories and show everyone that RB Leipzig is here to compete with some of the best teams in the world."
bundeslgia.com: In our last interview - in early 2020 - you just came back from your longest injury break to date and said: "This experience will probably help me further in my career". From today's point of view, did that come true or what did you learn from that time?
Adams: "I think that for any young player, going through your first injury, it'll be a dark time. At that time, I didn't know how long I would be out for exactly; when I'd be able to play football again. Living in Germany, being here, it's obviously difficult when you don't have your family here to help you and push you through those types of times so for me now, being on the other side of the injury and really now starting to perform at my best against and feeling like myself, I look back at that time and realise: this is what it's all about because you work so hard to put yourself in the position to play again and help the team in any way possible that now, when you're playing regularly, you can't take those times for granted. So I look back on that as a time where I worked very hard through that and I have to continue working hard to make an impact."
bundesliga.com: Looking ahead to this season you said: "I'm the best version of Tyler Adams so far but I'm still able to improve". Where exactly do you see room for that?
Adams: "Yeah, I think that for me, just establishing myself in the team as a regular week in and week out, as I'm starting to do, is very important to me. I obviously want to prove to the coach and my teammates exactly what I'm capable of but in terms of what I can improve, there are a lot of little details to the game that Julian emphasises to me in terms of what I should improve on. Whether it's sometimes a little of your positioning detail or sometimes your first contact in terms of making a play going forward. Just to have more of an impact on the game. There are so many little details that I look at and he helps me look at in the game to continue to push forward and to continue to have an impact on the team."
bundesliga.com: We heard that you have gotten more and more into cooking and that you ask your mother for recipes. How is your cooking improving? Did you reach a new level in that?
Adams: "Yeah, I mean, it's not really that I'm that interested in cooking. It's more that I had to become more interested during quarantine because not being able to go out and eat or go pick up food all the time, I would call my mum and ask her for some recipes and whatnot. Simple things to make. I would go to the grocery store and buy some of the things that she would say. I think that during this quarantine period, everyone has had to cook to a certain extend to eat so for me, I don't really know if I'm getting better. I haven't really had anyone other than my girlfriend to test it so that's probably a good thing for everyone!"
bundesliga.com: Tell us something about your soccer roots. Where did you play before entering the RB universe at such a young age? Who discovered your talent?
Adams: "My mum threw me into a bunch of programs when I was younger to find the best environment for me to play. I played for some local town teams not too far from my house. 15, 20 minutes, before joining the academy in New York, New York Red Bulls and then slowly progressing through the system there. My dad, obviously, had a big influence on me in terms of which club would be the best for my development. My mum was more 'go out there and have fun' whereas my dad was also the same way but always trying to find the best competition for me so that I could progress my game because, at the end of the day, becoming a professional soccer player was always the goal for me so, in order to do that, I had to find the best competition to play."
bundesliga.com: Growing from a young talent to a professional. What impact did the different steps in the academy have on you? Where did you improve the most?
Adams: "Yeah, it's a tough question. I can't really pinpoint an exact age. I'd say more that, very influential years in my young career was: my whole career I had been playing up-aged groups against older players. I'd say that the one year that I really found myself very confident was when I played my own age group for one year. I was able to hang out with kids my own age and not really worry about having to play against older, bigger, faster, stronger kids. I'd just be able to be myself and kind of, express myself on the field with my own age group. I think I was 13 or 14 when I, instead of playing with Under-16 or Under-17, I was playing Under 14. My own age group. I was able to become more confident because I was the best player on the field. That helped me in the future years."
bundesliga.com: What kind of role did your family play in your soccer development?
Adams: "Yeah, they've played a huge role for me. They've helped me make any decision that I've made, whether it was to pick a certain club. When I was deciding to leave New York, there were multiple clubs that were interested. We found that the best route for me was to come to Leipzig. Not only because of the developmental plan that they had for me but also the structure that the club works in. Their ability to want to play young players and give young players the opportunity to play was huge for me. In my parent's eyes, there's no better place to go than a club where they play young players and give you the chance to play."
bundesliga.com: How tough was it to leave the USA and your family behind?
Adams: "Yeah, of course, it was tough but at a young age, I was already leaving the house, living on my own. For a year when I was 14 or 15, with the residency program in the US, I travelled a lot with the national team already so, for me, it was a difficult task to leave them but an easy decision because I was going to follow my dream."
bundesliga.com: What was the biggest challenge in coming from a big city like New York to a smaller town like Leipzig?
Adams: "I think it's actually harder going the other way around when you go from a small city to a big city because there's a lot going on whereas, for me, coming from such a big city to more of a low-key city with obviously, fewer people, less going on, it's pretty easy to acclimate yourself because now, when the weather is nice and there isn't two feet of snow on the ground, I ride my bike to training sometimes. I'm just able to enjoy life a little bit. It's a little slow-paced and it's good for me."
bundesliga.com: Claudio Reyna said there have never been so many young American players at such big clubs before. Why do you think that is? Do you think you can potentially become part of a golden generation for your country?
Adams: "Absolutely. I wouldn't just call it a golden generation because I think that now as you see more and more us players emerge, that will set the tone for the next generations so there are going to be more quality players. As you already see, the success of a lot of the current national team players is leading to more clubs wanting to explore the crop of young Americans that we have and the talent that we have. I think they're just starting to trust and have confidence in the ability of American soccer players and with that, you're going to see more and more players given opportunities at big clubs."
Watch: The Bundesliga's American boys
bundesliga.com: What do you think will be the lasting impact of American players such as yourself and others playing in the Bundesliga?
Adams: "Yeah, I think it'll have a huge impact I mean, it's easy to see the talent that we have coming through. I think it's very important that when we have all these players together and in the national team, for instance, that we do have success because that's going to show everyone continuously that they can trust in our abilities. A lot of big clubs in the world - we have a lot of Americans there. I think that, now as you see all of these younger and younger players coming through, they have something to look at. They have the players of Giovanni Reyna, Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent. All these players to watch every weekend on TV which in the past, we didn't have that."
Can you tell us something about your relationship with Gio Reyna? Where did you get to know each other?
Adams: "Gio and I have known each other for a long time now. He's from New York. I'm from New York. So, we've always heard about each other and then, you know, he's played against my younger brother. Actually, he's the same age as my younger brother. I remember going to the games and watching him so I knew of him and everyone knows of his dad of course. Once we heard that Claudio has a younger son that is coming through, we already knew he was going to be a top player. Gio and I are very close. He has a great personality. We get along really well and we're good friends."
bundesliga.com: What things do you have in common and where do you differ?
Adams: "Yeah, on the field he's an attacking player. I'm a defensive player. Off the field, he's a little bit shy at times. Not always the most outgoing person but once you get to know him, he's hilarious. He's a funny guy, very laid back. He's a good person to be around."
Watch: A USA groupchat: Adams, Reyna and Sargent
bundesliga.com: Where do you see his future footballing career going? What is possible?
Adams: "Anything. He's an unbelievable player. He's one of the best players I've played with. So much talent. The best part about it is he has just turned 18 so everything that you're seeing right now, he's only going to get better which is an amazing thing."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe the other US boys? The likes of Josh Sargent, Chris Richards and Matthew Hoppe...
Adams: "Matthew I don't know personally but obviously, what he's emerged to do in the Bundesliga is unbelievable. Obviously, his current team situation, they're obviously not doing the best right now but what he's able to do in that team and help them score goals has been really good. Josh, I go way back with. I've known Josh for a really long time. We've played in the Under-20 World Cup together. He's a very, very bright talent. He's a true forward. He scores goals, he assists goals. He's doing a great job with Bremen. Chris Richards, he just got loaned to Hoffenheim which is really, really good for him. He has a really great personality. He is a central defender and he will be getting a lot of playing time at Hoffenheim now which will be good for his development."
bundesliga.com: Can you remember what your first impression of Hoppe was, performing like this in the Bundesliga?
Adams: "Yeah, yeah, it was very exciting to see. As I said, I don't know him personally but to see any American thrive like that and have a performance like that, you have to applaud it. Now, it's obviously important for him to just keep his head down and keep working. He seems like the type of player to do that. We just played against him this past weekend. He has a very strong work-rate and a good mentality so I think he'll continue to shine."
bundesliga.com: Is there any Bundesliga player you love to watch, some kind of role model who inspires you?
Adams: "The player I like the most, I mean, not in the Bundesliga, is N'golo Kante. He's one of my favourite players to watch and, kind of, the guy I emulate my game of off but another player that is in the Bundesliga is Joshua Kimmich. He's a top-quality player. He does all the little things right. He's kind of the reason that Bayern Munich is so good. He kind of holds that whole team together. You saw the influence on the team when he came back from injury and how quickly he cemented that team back together."
bundesliga.com: You still study psychology and you will finish in 2023. How are you progressing? Is there something from your studies that you can already use in soccer?
Adams: "Yeah a lot of it, what I'm taking right now, is general Psychology courses, contemporary health, things like this. A lot of what you learn in these classes subtly relates to the professional athlete life: learning things about your sleep, your nutrition, your mental health and how all these things play a key role in your performance. That's kind of why I picked to study this because I was so interested in what the similarities are between being a professional athlete and sports psychology are. Now, sport psychology is a growing field for so many young athletes and so many athletes that are dealing with mental health problems and things like this because it's a real thing and everyone goes through it. For me, it's important and that's why I chose to study it - how these things relate and I enjoy it."