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The future of US soccer is Red Bulls’ fearless, teenage sensation

If Tyler Adams gets his first senior team minutes for the United States on Tuesday, he won’t feel intimidated facing some of the world’s best soccer players.

Why would he? Throughout his first professional season with the Red Bulls, the hybrid midfielder played with controlled aggression, looking comfortable whether tasked with causing havoc up the wings or playing centrally as a box-to-box midfielder at Red Bull Arena. He’s not afraid of big challenges or foes, as he showed when he got in the faces of Toronto FC stars Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore after a shoddy challenge in the second leg of the MLS semifinal.

Adams gets in the face of Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco during the first half of the Red Bulls 1-0 win in Toronto on Nov. 5.AP

“I always play with a little edge to my game no matter who I’m playing against,” Adams told The Post about the Giovinco confrontation. “I wouldn’t really back down from anybody and nor do I have plans to do so in the future.”

Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch often applauded Adams’ fearlessness toward the end of the season, gushing that the teenager looked not only like the Red Bulls’ best player, but the best player on both sides of the ball.

It’s also why he’s been pinned as the future of American soccer.

With the US in turmoil after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Adams is part of an exciting, young group that includes the faces of US soccer for the next decade. The days of Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and the over-30 aged roster that plagued the US’ recent qualifying campaign are over.

Earlier this month, Adams was named to the US men’s national team to take on 2016 EURO-champion Portugal in a friendly at Estadio Dr. Magalhaes Pessoa in Leiria on Tuesday (3:45 PM; FS1), the US’ first test since its rock-bottom moment. He found out in October that he was named to the preliminary roster, but his spot wasn’t set in stone because the Red Bulls were still in the playoffs before falling 2-2 on aggregate to Toronto earlier this month.

“It was a goal of mine,” Adams said about the call-up. “But I think now looking back at it, maybe I wasn’t really thinking that at the end of the season that I would be playing for the senior team.”

While teen sensation Christian Pulisic won’t feature due to rest and some MLS options are tied down by the playoffs, Adams joins a youthful batch called into camp for the first time. Midfielder Weston McKennie (19), who’s starting for Schalke in Germany’s Bundesliga, and soon-to-be Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent (17), who became the first player to appear in the Under-17, Under-20 and senior team for the US in the same calendar year, also are getting their shot.

Count cup-of-coffee youngsters like ex-Red Bulls academy product Matt Miazga (22), Sheffield Wednesday defender Cameron Carter-Vickers (19), Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch (21) and Club Brugge goalkeeper Ethan Horvath (22) among the promising players offering encouragement for a disheartened fanbase. Despite the daunting task of facing Portugal with a group of largely inexperienced players, even without superstar Cristiano Ronaldo on the field, Adams feels the team is coming together to right the US ship as soon as possible.

From left-to-right: Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent and Cameron Carter-Vickers.EPA; Getty Images (2)

“The big talking point is obviously how the team didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” Adams said over the phone from Portugal. “Of course, that’s a gut-wrenching feeling but coming into this game [against Portugal], we want to show what we’re all about and continue to push and make strides forward and end this year on a good note.

“I think that having guys in camp who I have chemistry with on and off the field with of course makes the transition a lot easier for me. It’s not always easy to fit in a locker room that mostly has guys talking about their kids and other experiences that they’ve had. So having guys that I’ve been in camp with and have had months of preparation with for different tournaments and different cycles, it definitely does make the transition much easier.”

The maturation process picked up this season for the 18-year-old Adams, who started 22 of his 24 appearances for the Red Bulls, scoring two goals and tallying four assists. He squeezed in a U-20 World Cup run in May, which helped him develop and enhance his bravado on the field. Before he was selected to US camp, Adams picked Red Bulls teammate and captain Sacha Kljestan’s brain and also got a call from former teammate Dax McCarty. Adams said the MLS veteran, who’s played in 13 games for the US over the course of his career, is a “great role model” who advised Adams to take chances and be himself against Portugal.

In hindsight, the Red Bulls might have made the right decision in trading McCarty to the Chicago Fire if Adams’ evolution continues. Although criticized initially, the move cleared the Red Bulls’ log-jammed midfield and opened up playing time for Sean Davis and Adams. Marsch fell in love with Adams on the wing at the end of the season, while critics preferred to see Adams planted centrally in a midfield role to further enhance his development.

Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch watches Adams on a throw-in.Noah K. Murray

“Down the line, I want to cement myself and become a player of just one strong position,” laughed Adams. “I think as a young player, it doesn’t hurt me too much to just get on the field wherever I can right now and continue to develop. I think that the versatility is a good attribute, but to a certain point you have to pick one position and gain the highest level of your skill-set there.”

At his end-of-year press conference, Marsch said the Red Bulls would look into adding reinforcements to the back line, which would likely move Adams back into the middle of the field, the position that Marsch admitted is Adams’ best.

“I think we can all agree that he’s not going to be here for his whole career,” Marsch said.

Adams has ambitions to play at the highest level possible. He admires the development of McKennie and Miazga from afar and how they’ve handled different assignments around the world. Adams’ rise has many questioning how much longer the Red Bulls can hold on to him, with Marsch admitting it won’t be an easy offseason figuring out Adams’ next steps.

The homegrown midfielder has been through every stage of the Red Bulls’ player development program from their Regional Development School, to their academy, to Red Bulls II in the USL and finally the senior team the past season. Whether the Champions League is Adams’ next step is not on his mind — he’s just appreciating the moment he’s in.

“I love the development that I’ve gotten with the Red Bulls, and that’s my club right now. But you never know what the future will hold,” he said.

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