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Tyler Adams showed why he’s a top USMNT prospect in New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake

Expect to hear a lot more about this 18-year-old MLS star.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at New York Red Bulls Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

You likely didn’t hear much about Tyler Adams last season, but that’s about to change. The 18-year-old New York Red Bulls midfielder made his first start of the year for New York Red Bulls on Saturday, and he stole the show. Even though the match ended 0-0, Adams turned in a stellar performance, impressing in all facets of his game against Real Salt Lake.

Though Adams wasn’t a full-time member of the Red Bulls’ first team until this year, his United States national team profile has been rapidly rising since 2014, when he made his debut for the Under-17s. He established himself as one of that team’s top players alongside Christian Pulisic, then made the jump to Under-20s last year.

Despite being the youngest of the USMNT’s first choice players at the CONCACAF Under-20 championship in February, Adams earned rave reviews as one of the tournament’s best players as the Americans won the title for the first time.

But that’s what he’s done against teenagers. What can Adams do against grown men? Well, it turns out he can do quite a bit. Here’s his passing and defensive actions from the RSL game.

This is from the MLS match center and Opta’s data. On the left, green arrows are successful passes, red are unsuccessful and yellow are passes that led to shots. On the right, green triangles are tackles, yellow are blocks, blue are interceptions and orange are ball recoveries.

Adams completed 82 percent of his passes, and his missed ones aren’t bad. Almost all of them are aggressive forward passes that gave an attacker a chance to do something positive, while also not putting his team in a bad position to defend an opposing counter attack.

Perhaps most importantly of all for a deep-lying central midfielder, Adams was dispossessed zero times against RSL. He did it all — kept the ball moving, broke up attacks and didn’t make any big errors in possession.

But defensive and possession work are the thing that casual youth national team followers knew Adams could do. What was really striking about his performance against RSL was his range of passing. Here’s a chip that should have been an assist.

And here’s a great long ball that beats the entire defense.

This was Adams over and over on Saturday. Win the ball, play an early forward pass, rinse, repeat.

Of course, there are a lot of caveats necessary here. Adams is just 18 and has not played a lot of pro games. RSL is not a good team, and was missing a couple of key players. The takeaway here is not that Tyler Adams is a superstar and should be starting for the USMNT now, simply that this was a very exciting performance.

But this was an excellent first start of the season. The Red Bulls’ willingness to trade Dax McCarty suggests that they think this performance is repeatable. Adams’ play for the Under-20s suggests that thinking is not way off-base. He’s a player that you should make time to watch this season.