Tyler Adams sure hasn’t had much luck over the last year. After walking into emerging German Bundesliga power RB Leipzig’s starting lineup within weeks of his arrival from the New York Red Bulls in early 2019, the U.S. midfielder missed the end of last season and the first half of this one because of injuries.
By the time he had sufficiently recovered from groin and toe ailments to make his much-anticipated Champions League debut in a knockout-stage match against England’s Tottenham Hotspur on March 10, the entire sports world was just days away from shutting down because of the global Covid-19 pandemic — not that Adams necessarily saw it coming.
“One day we're playing our Champions League game against Tottenham,” Adams said Friday during a virtual roundtable discussion with reporters. “And the next day, all of a sudden, our games are canceled for the weekend. So things happened and progressed rather quickly.”
But while sports officials across the globe are postponing and, increasingly, cancelling games and tournaments because of health concerns, there are still a couple of silver linings for the 21-year-old Adams.
Unlike just about every other league, teams in the top two divisions of German soccer have been training in small groups over the past couple of weeks as part of an ambitious but well-thought-out plan to become the first major sport to resume. The hope is that games can be played in empty stadiums as soon as next month. Time will tell if it happens. To hear Adams tell it, though, just getting back to some semblance of normalcy has been cathartic after weeks of self-isolation in a foreign land.
“It's just a good feeling to have the ball out at your feet,” he said. “When you're stuck at home and you're not able to really socialize with anyone, at least you can have a couple of teammates here to get out of the house.”
On a typical day, Adams drives to RB Leipzig’s practice facility, changes in his own room at the complex, then works out with three teammates as an assistant coach puts them thorough their paces for 45-minutes to an hour. Afterward, he showers, picks out food prepared by team chefs that is left outside his door, and heads back home.
“I think the players do feel really safe; I know from a personal perspective I do,”Adams said. That said, he also acknowledges that there’s a big difference between working on the individual skills he’s been limited to so far and a full match in which players are engaging in hard-fought physical battles for 90 minutes.
“Being able to go out and play [real games] would be a great feeling, but you only want to do so when it keeps everybody safe — all the players, all the staff that are involved in running games, and of course the fans. If we continue to play with no spectators, and that keeps them safe, then I think that we'd be glad to do that.”
Whenever the matches return, Adams will be as healthy as he’s been since he arrived in Europe. That’s the other bright side of the shutdown, at least on an individual level. “Being injured in the beginning of the season and not really being able to participate in preseason, I'm almost having a preseason right now,” he said. “I'm really building up to my full capability now and getting that full length of fitness.
“Right now the body feels great,” he added. “I feel fully recovered from any past injuries that I've had. My mental state is clear...it's going to help me.”
Of course, there are far more important concerns at hand. Mature beyond his years, Adams — a native of New York, the current epicenter of the outbreak — is quick to mention the bigger picture. He’s not sure when he’ll be able to see his family again. It might be months before he’s able to return to his home country. “It’s hard,” he said. “What this has kind of taught me is to put everything into perspective to pick up the phone and call my brothers, call my parents more on a daily basis and just keep in contact with everybody.”
On second thought, maybe he’s not so unlucky after all.