Countless professional soccer players spend their entire careers in pursuit of glory yet never achieve it. For American midfielder Tyler Adams, who has reached the Champions League semifinals in his young carer and also lost a German Cup final, he knows the opportunities are rare. That's why he's hoping Thursday is the day the 22-year-old is written into the history books at the young, powerful club RB Leipzig, founded 11 years ago.
Thursday will see RB Leipzig face off against Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final. The two teams actually just played over the weekend in the Bundesliga, with Dortmund winning 3-2. It's a fairly even matchup, though some would give the edge to Dortmund due to their attacking ability led by all-world striker Erling Haaland. Pair him with young American sensation Gio Reyna, and it is easy to see why Dortmund may have the slight advantage.
But that narrative is fine for Adams and Adams and his team, who currently sit in second in the Bundesliga. He and his guys are just focusing on what they can in preparation of the big game, looking to avoid that feeling of losing the 2019 final to Bayern Munich. Adams sat down with CBS Sports for an exclusive interview ahead of the match.
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"The excitement level is high. For me, when I came to this club, we had ambitions of reaching finals and playing in these big types of games. As a young team, we are really excited to have the opportunity to win a trophy. We know it's not going to be easy playing against Dortmund and such a quality team, but we feel like we've got a good chance at this. We are excited for it," Adams said.
"I think that is the most important part about it. For me, it would be a huge achievement to win my first trophy here in Europe. But, for the club as a whole, to be a part of that history, we watched it grow from the beginning, and to taking that trophy home, it would be an amazing feeling."
That 2019 final is in the rear-view mirror for the American, knowing a lot has changed since then. That 3-0 loss came under former manager Ralf Rangnick, though the majority of the players remain. It is a new era and a new day, and the team is buzzing, hoping to use its experience to secure cup glory.
"The team structure in general, the club structure in general has changed," Adams said. "We are now a lot more experienced in the sense that we've now played in a Champions League semifinal, and now we have the experience of looking back at losing that cup final. But it is also a different team in general. We have a different coach of course who is going to approach the game maybe slightly differently than we did before. A lot of different players, and we have a quality team."
And while he has a different coach now than in that final, he'll also have another one next season. Current manager Julian Nagelsmann, one of the most highly regarded young coaches in the world, is off to Bayern Munich next season. Incoming for Leipzig will be American Jesse Marsch of RB Salzburg, who coached Adams in MLS with New York Red Bulls and also was an assistant at Leipzig with Adams in the player's first season there in 2019.
But the fact that Nagelsmann is leaving hasn't impacted them team when it comes to their focus on Thursday.
"It hasn't been a distraction at all," Adams said. "They've handled it in the most professional way possible. Julian is so focused on this season. He also wants to write his own legacy, and that is part of it, winning the first trophy in the club's history before he moves on. What an achievement that would be. We are so focused on what is in front of us. We really look forward to playing that final, and he's been focused and has kept the team very focused."
But the task at hand is a big one, aiming to stop an attack in Dortmund that can put up three goals with ease. Adams said the team will be ready, but sharpness will be essential.
"You look at the players that they have individually. Their attack is something special. You look at Haaland of course, and how renowned he is in front of goal, his efficiency in front of goal," Adams said. "You add some of the pieces behind him like Marco Reus, an experienced player, captain who has been to many finals before. And then you have Jadon Sancho and probably Gio.
"They are so deadly in front of goal. You have to limit their chances as much as possible."
After the final concludes, yet another American will have won a trophy in Europe this season in a list that continues to grow. From Brenden Aarsonson at sister club RB Salzburg to Sergino Dest's Copa del Rey at Barca, it will either by Adams or Reyna this time around. The two are friends, talk a lot but have just aimed to remained focused ahead of this one.
"We actually talk quite often," Adams said, noting that they haven't talked in the lead up. "Playing them two times in a week is quite strange.
"I'll probably save it for after the final."
90 minutes and potentially more await. Whether Adams plays remains to be seen, but with his 37 appearances this season, 20 more than last season, he's hoping and committed. For a club that has given him his first crack in Europe, he wants to forever be remembered for Thursday.
"That was the team, that was the year. I was a part of that team," Adams said about potentially winning. "A bunch of guys were a part of that team that won that first trophy. That is so important to continue to write the history and set our goals moving forward. For me personally, I want to be the most competitive person possible and to win as many trophies as possible. Playing for a club like Leipzig, it's not necessarily the same name as a club like Bayern for instance, where maybe they have the opportunity to win three trophies a year. We know that when these chances come around, we've worked really hard throughout the season and set our goals to set ourselves up to win a trophy.
"This one you will have a bit of extra motivation to go out, compete and write your name in history."