TORONTO – With most eyes focused on the cavalcade of MLS stars that will grace the pitch when Toronto FC travel to New York on Monday, some of the TFC stars will be having a close look at a player who could have a bright future with the US national team.
Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Victor Vazquez, and Michael Bradley headline the TFC side that will make their Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs debut on Monday with the away leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal (7 pm ET | FS1; TSN4, TVAS in Canada). Most of the talk about the New York Red Bulls revolves around their primary attacking pieces: Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan.
But 18-year old New York midfielder Tyler Adams, who made his MLS Cup Playoffs debut against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday in the Knockout Round, has caught the eye of Bradley, Altidore, and TFC head coach Greg Vanney.
“From the outside looking in, I’m very impressed,” said Bradley on Friday. “He has, in a year, grown in big ways. The first thing that catches your eye when you watch him is how easy he is moving around the field. He’s light on his feet, explosive, can cover ground. With the way they play, his ability to close down, press, and come away with balls is so important. Football-wise, he continues to get better.”
Toronto got their first look at Adams at the end of September in a 4-2 defeat of New York at BMO Field. Though the home side got the better on the day, Adams did pick up an assist, playing to Gonzalo Veron in the area after a lightning fast move tore through the middle of the defense to remind TFC that despite two earlier goals from Justin Morrow, they were in a contest.
“To play against him was nice, see what he is all about,” said Altidore.
“I was a fan for sure. I heard a lot about him, but I’d never really watched him play,” continued Altidore. “He’s got some great starting points for a young kid. He’s definitely got a bright future as long as he continues to work hard. Hopefully he can be a guy that can have a national team future for many years to come.”
Said Vanney: “I like him a lot. I think he’s an excellent young player.”
“It starts first and foremost with his mentality: To compete, [be] aggressive. And his confidence for an 18-year old is interesting to watch,” pointed out Vanney. “We have to be aware of him. He picked up an assist in the last game [against Chicago].”
Adams was a threat up the right flank all night against the Fire on Wednesday, playing in a lovely ball from wide for Kljestan’s 11th-minute strike to make it 2-0, all but ending Chicago’s hopes of advancing from the Knockout Round.
Adams’ battle with Morrow up that side will be one of many to watch come Monday.
“He’s playing, in their current shape, out on the outside. He has nice athleticism, speed… He’s got a bright future,” said Vanney. “At the end of the day I’m not sure he’s a wide player. He’s fully capable of doing that, but as he gets more mature he’ll slide to the inside.”
“I enjoy watching him,” added Vanney. “It’s a good sign of the future of this league when you see young guys like that who can come in and hold their own.”
There was one thing in particular that stood out for Bradley: “From what I hear and what I read, he has real personality; he’s not afraid to take a big role, to play and compete and go for it.”
“I have a lot of respect for that,” added Bradley. “The more players with that mentality that we can produce, the better.”