By RYAN TOLMICH
HARRISON, N.J. – Just 16 years old, Tyler Adams scored the goal of a lifetime Wednesday night.
At an age where many are focused on homework or earning a driver’s license, the New York Red Bulls academy product did something much, much more extraordinary: he scored against one of the best teams in the world.
Adams netted the second of four Red Bulls goals Wednesday night, leading a reserve-heavy team to a 4-2 friendly defeat over reigning Premier League champions Chelsea. For Adams, a mere teenager still working on getting his high school diploma, the moment was surreal to say the least.
The teenage midfielder did more than just take on some of his heroes. He bested them.
“The perfect ball, right over John Terry’s head,” Adams said. “I don’t know how (Frank Castellanos) got it over him, first of all, because he wins everything in the air. Luckily, it fell right to me and I had one job to do and that was put it in the back of the net, and that’s what I did. It was perfect. Unbelievable.
“Playing with players like Diego Costa, (Eden) Hazard, I’ve seen them in a World Cup. It’s an unbelievable feeling stepping on the same field as them. It’s almost like you don’t belong, but there’s a reason you’re on the field with them. They’re getting better, they’re helping you get better, so it’s an unbelievable experience. It was amazing.”
The goal was as surprising to Adams as any, as he admitted that he panicked a bit during the ensuing celebration.
Bright eyed and with braces, Adams said that his entire family was at the game while also admitting that there was no sort of postgame celebration planned aside from an ice bath.
Adams emerged from postgame interviews clutching a game-ball, a symbol of an achievement that Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch says was over six years in the making.
Introduced to the team through the Red Bulls Regional Development School program at the age of 10, Adams joined the Red Bulls Under-13 team two years later, working his way all the way up to being the club’s first USL signing back in March, just one month after his 16th birthday.
A member of the U.S. Under-17 National Team, Adams cited his time internationally as a key to dealing with the physicality of a club like Chelsea. With that part handled, Adams says that it was all about confidence, a characteristic he says he gets from Marsch.
Composed on the ball from minute one, Adams never looked outmatched or outgunned against players much older and, frankly, much better than he was. Quick to dismiss his height as 5-foot, 9-inches on a good day, Adams pushed back against some of the world’s best, including Chelsea midfield destroyer Nemanja Matic.
For Marsch, Adams’ play was exactly as he expected, as the youngster continues to show the swagger of a champion with the humility of a real veteran.
“He’s established himself in that group because he’s a very good player,” Marsch said. “He’s very alert and he’s specifically a player that is not afraid. We’ve liked him from day one. He was our first young signing and we think he has a really big future.”
“The confidence that Jesse and everyone put into me, of course I’m going to be nervous seeing stars,” Adams said, “but at the end of the day, you have a game to play. It’s just another game. You always have to have the same mindset like that and we did, and we got the job done.”
For Adams, that last statement is the most important, as he knows that Wednesday night was about much more than his personal achievements.
Fielding essentially a youth squad, the Red Bulls bested a Chelsea side that was admittedly in preseason form. Still, the achievement is not one lost on the club, as each and every young player like Adams now knows what can be achieved with just a bit of belief.
“Personally, I wasn’t (surprised),” Adams said. “We all played as hard as we possibly could. We made it tough for them at times as well. As long as you’re making it tough for guys like that, it’s hard to score. That’s what we did.
“(I’m going to) just relax and take in the moment. What an unbelievable moment.”