When the New York Red Bulls decided to let Dax McCarty go to Chicago Fire, the premise of the trade from their standpoint was that there were other players in the squad ready to start at McCarty's position and it was time to push them forward while harvesting the value on offer for a top-tier MLS midfielder at the peak of his career. Specifically, it was expected that Sean Davis would step up to a starting role - and that is what happened for the first few games of the season.
But RBNY struggled and misfired in its early matches of 2017, quickly dropping out of CONCACAF Champions League and not entirely convincing anyone that it had figured itself out during a couple of scrappy wins to open the MLS regular season. Head coach Jesse Marsch has been tinkering with his team's tactics and had his hand forced by injuries to key players throughout the season to date. At least one of the changes he made early in the year seems to have stuck: Tyler Adams stepped into the Dax-spot, replacing Davis in the starting lineup for RBNY's fourth game of the MLS season, against Real Salt Lake on March 25. He has started every game the team has played since.
As RBNY regrouped on Monday, May 1, after closing out a three-game home stand with a 2-1 win over Chicago Fire - the team's third consecutive three-point haul in league play - Marsch was invited to reflect on Adam's role in the side. The teenager was pitched into a midfield battle with the man whose absence he is now seeking to fill, Dax McCarty, and a man whose accomplishments he would surely love to emulate, World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger. He held his own.
Marsch didn't hesitate to praise Adam's performance, not just in the Chicago match, but for the full six-game stretch of starts the player has put together since late March - and particularly the work put in during the last three wins:
He's not a normal 18-year-old - that's the starting point.
He's had some tough match-ups against good players in the last three games, and he's come out of every one on top. And I think he's been a big part of our success recently, so we're really pleased with his growth. We're going to lose him for the U-20s soon, but that, I think, will be an important experience for him amongst his peers to continue to show what kind of player he is.
We've been really happy, he's put a lot into it, he's been sharp, he's been aggressive, he's covered a lot of ground, he's won duels, he's won battles: he fits within in our tactics really well. So yeah, he's done well.
He has done well, indeed. But, as Marsch noted, Adams is expected to be whisked away by the USA U-20s shortly for the U-20 World Cup in South Korea. How soon? Adams himself addressed that prior to the Chicago game, telling reporters at RBNY training that he expected to join the U-20 USMNT's training camp in Japan by around May 14.
That would be six days before the U-20 World Cup kicks off on May 20, and about a week before the USA's first game, against Ecuador on May 22.
We will see when exactly Adams departs but it would appear likely that he'll have left the RBNY squad by the time the team is next at Red Bull Arena, to play LA Galaxy on May 14 - the date by which he imagines he'll have joined his U-20 teammates. (The squad hasn't officially been announced, but it would be a shock if Adams didn't make the cut for Korea - especially since he's clearly been kept apprised of the U-20s' training and travel plans.)
The U-20 World Cup runs from May 20 to June 11. One wouldn't count the USA as a favorite to make the final at this moment in time, but even a run to the semifinals will keep the team in South Korea for the duration of the tournament (the third-place playoff is also on June 11). But that is immaterial to RBNY: the team has a break in its league schedule from June 3 to June 18.
Red Bulls fans can root for Adams and the US U-20s without anxiety: whether the team does well or not, he's pretty much certain to be out of commission for RBNY until after June 3 (since the USA's group stage ends on May 28 - and if that's the end of its tournament, the players still have to travel back from South Korea and recover from the effects of the journey and three games in six days). Once Adams leaves RBNY, he might as well make a run to the U-20 World Cup final, because he's unlikely to be playing for his club team before June 18 anyway. (Well, if the USA U-20s win the World Cup, Adams might be granted a little time off - so maybe he doesn't get back to club play until June 24.)
Expect Adams to miss three or four RBNY games while he's in South Korea: those scheduled from May 14 to June 3. That stretch looks a lot like Sean Davis' opportunity to restate his claim for starting minutes, but he'll have to play extraordinarily well to keep RBNY's extraordinary 18-year-old out of the team when the Red Bulls get back to their regular season in mid-June.