14 Aug Tyler Adams is RB Leipzig’s unlikeliest of heroes to emerge from the shadow of Timo Werner
Earlier than their Champions League quarterfinal towards Atletico Madrid on Thursday, RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann referred to as on Tyler Adams and the remainder of his gamers to step out of the shadows and embrace the blinding highlight that used to shine on their former star striker Timo Werner.
With Werner watching his previous team in his new London flat adapting to life at Chelsea — he was talked about extra prematch than any of his teammates — Leipzig answered Nagelsmann’s problem. And it was United States midfielder Adams, the unlikeliest of heroes, who scored the essential objective to information Leipzig into their first Champions League semifinal, simply 11 years after the membership was formally fashioned.
Atletico had been prematch favourites — they’d the “simple” aspect of the draw — however had been tactically outmanoeuvred. Leipzig, in distinction, performed with an exquisite fluidity; the antithesis to Los Rojiblancos‘ inflexible fashion, anchored on footballing claustrophobia somewhat than any urgency in utilising their embarrassment of attacking riches. Atletico needed an arm wrestle; Leipzig had their very own concepts. Mark this down as a victory for the tactical mastery of Nagelsmann and affirmation for his understanding of the ebb and movement of a 90-minute match as he judged every of his substitutions to perfection.
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When Joao Felix got here on after 58 minutes, it seemed like Diego Simeone had plucked one other game-winning substitution out of the hat, after Marcos Llorente noticed off Liverpool within the spherical of 16, performed again in March. Felix discovered this slim glimpse of alternative down Leipzig’s proper wing, and prodded it till the dam burst and the otherwise-superb Lukas Klostermann introduced him down and Felix equalised from the penalty spot.
The £113 million super-sub appeared to be Atletico’s ticket to the semifinals, however there was one other substitute who would take the headlines. As Felix was turning the match on its head, Nagelsmann was readying his antidote, with Adams standing on the touchline. The American’s prime mission was to plug the Felix-shaped hole in Leipzig’s defence and mark him out of the sport. In defence he’d swap between proper wing-back to central midfield, monitoring his man; in assault, effectively, he’d by no means scored for Leipzig in 28 appearances — a job left to others. However that is not the method in life after Werner.
Within the midst of Adams’ defensive duties got here a uncommon attacking alternative. The transfer was the embodiment of Nagelsmann’s philosophy: Make the transition, seize a possibility whereas being football’s positional equal of a chameleon. As he approached the sting of Atletico’s field, it was the type of area that will normally be overseas for Adams.
Marcel Sabitzer threaded a pinpoint through-ball to the excellent marauding left-back Angelino, who reduce the ball again, and there was Adams on the sting of the Atletico space. Adams took a contact to regular himself, then swung his proper foot by way of it. The ball ricocheted off Stefan Savic and previous the world’s greatest goalkeeper in Jan Oblak, Nagelsmann celebrated and Adams, wanting initially extra stunned than elated, was mobbed.
“I am going to take it!” he mentioned afterward.
Adams has lengthy been Leipzig’s versatile possibility — he can play anyplace throughout the again and midfield — and that may be a thankless process. He is the glue in a team that not often receives outdoors acclaim, however these close to Leipzig say it is these types of gamers who’re indispensable. Speak to those that know Adams and his efficiency on Thursday will come as no shock. FC Salzburg boss Jesse Marsch, who’s coached the 21-year-old for 4 years in each New York and as assistant at Leipzig, will inform you Adams is a coach’s dream. He has this inherent understanding of the sport and might learn it like few others can. He is all the time been a game-changer in his personal method, however by no means one for the headlines.
However on Thursday night, in entrance of the empty stands in Lisbon, Portugal, seven weeks after their earlier aggressive match, Adams answered Nagelsmann’s problem. He’s one in all these vivid younger issues making their very own noise in Europe for the U.S. males’s nationwide team. With Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Weston McKennie at Schalke 04 and Giovanni Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, the nationwide team probably has the backbone for the subsequent 12 years. It looks like each week there’s a new signature for the USMNT expertise: “The primary American to …” is the brand new extension of their names. Now Adams is the primary U.S. males’s worldwide to attain in a Champions League quarterfinal. There will be different accolades to observe.
Leipzig’s problem now could be to repeat this towards Paris Saint-Germain. PSG will not sit again like Atletico did; the very good Dayot Upamecano should discover a method to mark Neymar out of the sport like he did towards Diego Costa. However Nagelsmann may have a plan. He’ll look to Yussuf Poulsen and Patrik Schick to push and pull PSG out of place, Sabitzer to hover, Angelino and Nordi Mukiele to cross, Kevin Kampl to take a seat in entrance of their three-man defence and continuously jockey, after which he’ll look to the bench to make the distinction.
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Even with out former star striker Werner — who scored 34 objectives in 2019-20 — Leipzig seemed way more harmful in assault, bar Atletico’s addition of Felix. They’ve this unimaginable skill to change seamlessly from formation to formation, from defence to assault after which again once more. They do not get scared; it is not of their DNA.
“We’re not fazed by these moments,” Adams mentioned afterward. “We preserve on setting expectation, after which cross it. We’re solely going to get higher.”
This membership retains on breaking new floor, and so do its gamers. Adams is the proper instance of this, and on an evening when there was a lot focus on who wasn’t in Leipzig’s assault, it was the unlikely hero who stepped ahead and answered the decision.
No Werner? No drawback.