USMNT: The Tyler Adams versatility conundrum

Tyler Adams played 90 minutes for RB Leipzig on Saturday. Sadly, they came at right wing-back. The USMNT star’s versatility offers quite the conundrum.

Tyler Adams has been waiting to play central midfield. The U.S. Men’s National Team star moved across to RB Leipzig a little over a year ago and has battled against injuries and competition. But on Saturday, he finally got to start in central midfield, a position that he still feels is his best.

Earlier this year, Adams again reiterated that he feels most comfortable in midfield, and not at right-back or right wing-back, which is where he has been used most frequently for club and country. Speaking to Taylor Twellman and ESPN, when asked about his role in central midfield, Adams said:

“For me, it’s where I’m able to do what I’m best at. You go onto the field and you feel almost free in a sense. It’s natural, everything is natural. When I play, obviously right back, right wing-back, I’m definitely capable of playing there, I can have success there I believe. But I think there’s obviously still little things where you go into a game and you’re like, yeah this hinders me a little bit, all these little things where you can’t take as much risk. That’s obviously something that I think about a lot.”

On this occasion, Adams played the first half in central midfield for Leipzig. His team went in one goal up, but crucially, were one man down. Adams performed tidily in the first half. He was sharp, simple, neat, but rarely looked for the spectacular and his long passing was inaccurate.

Then Julian Nagelsmann’s hand was forced. Dayot Upamecano meant he changed things around. Adams, thanks to his versatility and ability to play in several positions, moved to right wing-back as a result, with Nagelsmann looking to see the game out with ten men in the second half.


Adams, again, was solid. He defended, closed down the space to opposing winger quickly, and even added a little offensive drive at times, including one lovely low cross that was inches away from finding Timo Werner.

By the end of the 90 minutes, Adams had more touches and made more tackles than any player. His pass completion rate was 74.8%, though this was 85% in the first half, showing that he can play the metronomic distributor from deep when asked to. He also made four clearances.

His versatility provided him with an extra half of action that others would have missed out on. And because of his positional flexibility, he has now appeared in every Leipzig match since the restart. He has also spent the majority of his time playing in a position that he himself describes as not his most natural.

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This is the conundrum of Adams’ versatility. At present, he is a jack of all trades. That guarantees him game time and makes him hugely valuable. But he is also in danger of becoming a master of none. There is a fine line to balance and the USMNT star needs to find it.