HARRISON, N.J. – There was Tyler Adams, 16-years old and sitting in a locker room not truly his own, soaking up the moment. Adams had just made his senior team debut for the New York Red Bulls in a 4-2 win over Chelsea in Wednesday night's International Champions Cup.
Yes, that Chelsea, the Champions League team that won the English Premier League last year. And not only did Adams start the match in a holding midfield role, he was solid in his distribution and positioning. He looked like a veteran of MLS, not overwhelmed in the least.
But wait, there's more.
Not only did Adams hold his own against some of the best players in the world, he scored the Red Bulls second goal with a well-taken header in the 69th minute.
Fearlessness and poise mark his debut with the team. Up to this point, Adams has featured only on the Red Bulls USL team, which is essentially a minor-league set-up in the third division.
So on Wednesday night following the improbable win over one of Europe's elite teams, Adams sat in Connor Lade's locker and talked about his coming-out moment. The Red Bulls went with nearly all reserve and young players for this match and Adams, like most of his teammates, borrowed locker spaces from the senior players.
“I don't even know how to explain it, it was unbelievable. We weren't expected to do what we did. Playing with that group of guys – then scoring a goal. I don't know how to explain,” Adams told Metro after the game.
He admits he "didn't know what to do” following his goal. He sort of did a hybrid brush-off with his hands as teammates mobbed him. Red Bulls legend Thierry Henry, who retired after last season, applauded and laughed in approval as he watched from a sky box at Red Bull arena.
Adams was the first player signed by the Red Bulls to their USL team, designed to develop younger players. He has come up through the club's academy system and has been integrated from time-to-time into first-team training. While he isn't eligible yet to play for the senior team as he is signed only to the USL squad, Adams is clearly growing and developing.
The young player appears poised for a big moment as he is already a member of the U-17 national team.
Even though Wednesday night wasn't an official MLS regular season match, going up against attackers such as Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Oscar was certainly a thrill. So was the fact that head coach Jesse Marsch had confidence in his young player to give him the nod against world-class opposition.
Marsch called his player's debut “fantastic.”
Adams repaid that confidence with a tremendous performance.
“Having confidence the given to me by Jesse and the whole first team – I'm not usually with the first team I'm usually with the USL team – given the confidence by all those guys to go out there and do what I do best,” Adams said. “They have confidence in me, I'm here for a reason. I felt completely comfortable with those guys.”