HANOVER, N.J. – Call it a 3-6-1 or a 5-3-2 or even a 3-5-2, the fact of the matter is that the New York Red Bulls have found consistency and success with their new formation. And for one of their players, it is an adjustment that might just be helping his development.
Tyler Adams, the Red Bulls' 18-year-old wunderkind, has found his way into the final-third with greater proclivity in the team’s new formation.
Ironically, he does so, even more, when he is lined up as a wingback in the formation, a position that should see him push deeper and hold more defensive responsibilities.
Instead, it seems he has more freedom to roam.
As a wide player alongside three central defenders, Adams as a wingback has time to push forward and plenty of space to do so, given how narrow the Red Bulls midfield is in such an alignment.
In many ways, he is like a John O’Brien in this role, the former United States national team midfielder who had so much success with Dutch side Ajax as an outside back.
As a wingback, Adams can overlap and move into space, knowing that the space behind him is covered by the three center backs to his left. Because he has comfort on the ball and good pace as well as a solid work rate defensively, he seems a natural fit for this role.
“Obviously my natural position is a midfielder so it’s a little weird being out there, a little bit more uncomfortable on the wing,” Adams said on Monday. “At the same time, I have to be ready to adapt to whatever situation I’m playing in. I’m trying to adapt as well as I can and play my role within the team.”
Adams did play some outside back while with the Red Bulls Academy but since playing for the youth national teams and now in MLS, he has always been a midfielder.
And a central midfielder at that, so this is certainly a transition.
“I think that playing outside back has helped me with my attacking game in the attacking third,” Adams said. “Whether making little plays here or there, trying to get some assists, some long hard crosses like we try to emphasize with our side, it has helped me with some things I need to work on.”
It worked well for Adams, who put in a solid shift on Friday night in a 1-1 draw against New York City F.C. at a sold-out Red Bull Arena.
He was part of a team that pressed very well and dominated possession, using his ability as a two-way midfielder in a new wingback position.
After this summer’s U-20 World Cup where Adams bossed the United States midfield to the quarterfinals, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll play anywhere else but the center of the park. And with the United States national team training just yards away at the Red Bulls Training Facility ahead of Friday night’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica, Adams is likely closing in on a call to the full national team soon.
“That’s what I like to think,” Adams said. “But right now I’m focused on what I’m doing here so hopefully they can notice me for the national team.”