Ricky King wasn’t yet with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy when a bright-eyed Alphonso Davies rose through the club’s youth system.
He wasn’t there to see him burst through the scene in Edmonton, to shoot forward from the Whitecaps FC Academy, become an MLS All-Star, and now move into the German Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.
He did, however, have a first-hand account of a similar path for another elite young MLS talent.
On Sunday, the New York Red Bulls announced that they have transferred 19-year-old Homegrown midfielder Tyler Adams to RB Leipzig, where he will face Davies once again in European competition.
That journey started years earlier on a stage much smaller.
A 12-year-old Adams had signed up for a Red Bulls summer camp near his hometown of Wappingers Falls, New York. That’s where King – who was a coach in the Red Bulls Academy at the time – spotted the now U.S. national team midfielder.
“I first saw Tyler play at a camp we ran, probably about 45 minutes north of Manhattan,” remembers King. “Tyler showed up to the camp and he was very confident, that was kind of the first thing that struck me about him. Normally when players have that kind of confidence at that age, there is an arrogance around them. What really struck me and impressed me the most about him was the fact that there was this confidence but there also was a lot of humility that went with it."
King continued to coach Adams throughout his time in the club’s Regional Development School program – where he also coached future Red Bulls Homegrown signing Ben Mines – before he graduated to the Red Bulls Academy.
“He was extremely coachable, extremely receptive to feedback,” tells King.
King would continue to move through the Red Bulls structure, eventually leading coaching education for the academy and acting as an assistant coach for the U-23 team.
Then came a new opportunity in 2017, as he accepted a role north of the border to join the 'Caps.
The native of Oxford, England first came on board as head coach of the Whitecaps FC Alberta Academy Centre, helping to grow the partnership with the Alberta Soccer Association. In September of this year, King moved to Vancouver to become head coach of the Whitecaps FC Academy U-19 team.
He’s seen similarities to the regional outreach of the Red Bulls development system, and has been especially impressed with the coaching of his 'Caps peers and the overall academy structure spanning from coast-to-coast, something that he feels is key to fostering players like Adams and Davies.
“Players wear the jersey from the youngest age. That allows those players to become fans of the club. You’ve seen it down the years with some of the great teams. The Manchester United team of 1999 had a lot of Homegrown players. One of the things I remember about that side was the resilience. I do believe that kind of resilience comes from being a fan of the club.”
And while he now wears the Blue and White and is helping the ‘Caps discover and develop that next special player, he’ll be keeping his eyes closely on his former youth prodigy.
“It’s always very exciting to watch players that you’ve known from such a young age get the opportunities to play, wherever it is, in college, or for someone like Tyler to follow his progress live and now on the television. I’m excited to see him get the opportunity for the [U.S] national team and see if he can really stamp his authority on that squad and really become a star name at a World Cup. Especially with the World Cup coming here in 2026, that would be really exciting.”