Tyler Adams may not be the most well-known member of this year’s U.S. men’s World Cup squad currently squaring off in Qatar against the world’s best national “football” (i.e., soccer to us Americans) teams, but his leadership qualities made him an easy choice for Coach Gregg Berhalter when it came to selecting a team captain.
“Tyler fits a very specific role,” Berhalter said, as reported by Fox Sports. “He is the general. He is the strategist. He’s the guy that goes out there and leads by example. When he talks, people listen.”
How does a 23-year-old midfielder, currently playing for Leeds United of the Barclays Premier League in the U.K., reach a maturity level such that he becomes the youngest team captain playing in Qatar, and the youngest U.S. World Cup captain since 1950?
He credits his mom, of course, who raised him alone for many years, as well as his stepdad, who became the father figure for him that was missing in his life.
“I was raised by a single mother, I was very fortunate to obviously have her in my life,” Adams told the Yorkshire Even Post. “Not having a father figure in your life is never ideal, but having a mother that was so committed to allowing me to reach my dreams and to become the person that I am today. I’m very grateful for all the sacrifices she made.”
When Tyler was 13 or 14, he learned his mother was dating a man with three sons, and the relationship blossomed into marriage. For Tyler, his new stepdad became the coach and mentor he needed.
“On the same day that I gained three brothers, I also gained a father as well. It was weird because I never had that father figure in my life, the bond that we created, specifically off the field and how he nurtured me into becoming a young man and being a role model for my brothers. I was no longer the only child. I now had to be a role model to three brothers that were going to look up to me,” Adams said.
“He [his stepfather] grew up in a role of coaching and playing [football] and having that influence from his parents who came over from Scotland.
“Not only did he help me grow as a man, but he also helped me grow as a player as well on the field.”
Tyler’s maturity was on display in Qatar during a press conference where an Iranian reporter pointedly corrected Tyler’s mispronunciation of “Iran” and then attempted to get the young man to criticize race relations in the United States.
In what Fox Sports analyst Stu Holden called an “all time classy answer,” Tyler responded graciously to the reporter by apologizing for his mispronunciation, and then addressed the issue of race relations with a pitch-perfect response.
“My apologies of the mispronunciation of your country,” Adams said, as reported in The Wall Street Journal. “That being said, there’s discrimination everywhere you go.
“One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in in different cultures and kind of assimilate into different cultures, is that in the U.S., we’re continuing to make progress every single day.
“Growing up for me, I grew up in a white family, and with obviously an African-American heritage and background as well,” he added. “So, I had a little bit of different cultures, and I was very easily able to assimilate in different cultures. Not everyone has that ease and the ability to do that. Obviously, it takes longer to understand, and through education, I think it’s super important.”
What an impressive response from the young man. Tyler’s U.S. teammate, Tim Ream, complimented Tyler’s poise in dealing with the awkward question.
“For him to handle it with the poise that he did and the sincerity that he did,” Ream said. “I thought it was fantastic for a 23-year-old.”
The U.S. team, ranked 15th in the FIFA world rankings, has been displaying its prowess in the “group stage” where four nations play each other once, and then the top two teams move on to the top-16 “knockout” stage. During group play, the U.S. fought Wales to a 0-0 draw, followed by a 1-1 draw against 5th-ranked England. The two draws were then followed by an exciting 1-0 win over Iran, ensuring the U.S. team will move on to the top 16.
Teammates Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Jordan Morris and Tim Weah may get all the accolades because they score goals, but the undisputed on-field leader for the U.S. is Tyler Adams, and he deserves a large share of the credit for America’s success at the World Cup so far.
As do his parents. And Tyler would be the first one to tell you that.
Photo from US Soccer.