Before their Champions League quarterfinal adjoin Atletico Madrid on Thursday, RB Leipzig bang-up Julian Nagelsmann alleged on Tyler Adams and the blow of his players to footfall out of the caliginosity and embrace the blinding spotlight that acclimated to flash on their above brilliant striker Timo Werner.
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With Werner watching his old aggregation in his new London collapsed adapting to activity at Chelsea — he was mentioned added prematch than any of his teammates — Leipzig answered Nagelsmann’s challenge. And it was United States midfielder Adams, the unlikeliest of heroes, who denticulate the acute ambition to adviser Leipzig into their aboriginal Champions League semifinal, aloof 11 years afterwards the club was clearly formed.
Atletico were prematch favourites — they had the “easy” ancillary of the draw — but were tactically outmanoeuvred. Leipzig, in contrast, played with a admirable fluidity; the antipode to Los Rojiblancos’ adamant style, anchored on footballing claustrophobia rather than any coercion in utilising their embarrassment of advancing riches. Atletico capital an arm wrestle; Leipzig had their own ideas. Mark this bottomward as a achievement for the appropriate adeptness of Nagelsmann and affirmation for his compassionate of the ebb and breeze of a 90-minute bout as he advised anniversary of his substitutions to perfection.
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When Joao Felix came on afterwards 58 minutes, it looked like Diego Simeone had plucked accession game-winning barter out of the hat, afterwards Marcos Llorente saw off Liverpool in the annular of 16, played aback in March. Felix begin this attenuated glimpse of befalling bottomward Leipzig’s appropriate wing, and prodded it until the dam access and the otherwise-superb Lukas Klostermann brought him bottomward and Felix equalised from the amends spot.
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The £113 actor super-sub looked to be Atletico’s admission to the semifinals, but there was accession backup who would booty the headlines. As Felix was axis the bout on its head, Nagelsmann was basic his antidote, with Adams continuing on the touchline. The American’s prime mission was to bung the Felix-shaped gap in Leipzig’s defence and mark him out of the game. In defence he’d about-face amid appropriate wing-back to axial midfield, tracking his man; in attack, well, he’d never denticulate for Leipzig in 28 appearances — a job larboard to others. But that’s no best the access in activity afterwards Werner.
In the bosom of Adams’ arresting duties came a attenuate advancing opportunity. The move was the apotheosis of Nagelsmann’s philosophy: Accomplish the transition, appropriate an befalling while actuality football’s positional agnate of a chameleon. As he approached the bend of Atletico’s box, it was the array of amplitude that would usually be adopted for Adams.
Marcel Sabitzer threaded a define through-ball to the outstanding burglary left-back Angelino, who cut the brawl back, and there was Adams on the bend of the Atletico area. Adams took a blow to abiding himself, afresh swung his appropriate bottom through it. The brawl ricocheted off Stefan Savic and accomplished the world’s best goalkeeper in Jan Oblak, Nagelsmann acclaimed and Adams, attractive originally added afraid than elated, was mobbed.
Adams has continued been Leipzig’s able advantage — he can comedy anywhere beyond the aback and midfield — and that can be a barren task. He’s the cement in a aggregation that rarely receives alfresco acclaim, but those abreast Leipzig say it’s those sorts of players who are indispensable. Talk to those who apperceive Adams and his achievement on Thursday will appear as no surprise. FC Salzburg bang-up Jesse Marsch, who’s accomplished the 21-year-old for four years in both New York and as abettor at Leipzig, will acquaint you Adams is a coach’s dream. He has this inherent compassionate of the bold and can apprehend it like few others can. He’s consistently been a game-changer in his own manner, but never one for the headlines.
But on Thursday evening, in advanced of the abandoned stands in Lisbon, Portugal, seven weeks afterwards their antecedent aggressive match, Adams answered Nagelsmann’s challenge. He is one of these ablaze adolescent things authoritative their own babble in Europe for the U.S. men’s civic team. With Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Weston McKennie at Schalke 04 and Giovanni Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, the civic aggregation potentially has the aback for the abutting 12 years. It seems like every anniversary there is a new signature for the USMNT talent: “The aboriginal American to …” is the new addendum of their names. Now Adams is the aboriginal U.S. men’s all-embracing to account in a Champions League quarterfinal. There’ll be added accolades to follow.
Leipzig’s claiming now is to echo this adjoin Paris Saint-Germain. PSG won’t sit aback like Atletico did; the superb Dayot Upamecano will accept to acquisition a way to mark Neymar out of the bold like he did adjoin Diego Costa. But Nagelsmann will accept a plan. He’ll attending to Yussuf Poulsen and Patrik Schick to advance and cull PSG out of position, Sabitzer to hover, Angelino and Nordi Mukiele to cross, Kevin Kampl to sit in advanced of their three-man defence and consistently jockey, and afresh he’ll attending to the bank to accomplish the difference.
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Even after above brilliant striker Werner — who denticulate 34 goals in 2019-20 — Leipzig looked far added alarming in attack, bar Atletico’s accession of Felix. They accept this absurd adeptness to about-face seamlessly from accumulation to formation, from defence to advance and afresh aback again. They don’t get scared; it’s not in their DNA.
“We’re not ashamed by these moments,” Adams said afterward. “We accumulate on ambience expectation, and afresh canyon it. We’re alone activity to get better.”
This club keeps on breaking new ground, and so do its players. Adams is the absolute archetype of this, and on a night back there was so abundant focus on who wasn’t in Leipzig’s attack, it was the absurd hero who stepped advanced and answered the call.
No Werner? No problem.
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