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An in Depth Look at the Fall 2020 Top 50 u20 Prospect Rankings

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Yesterday the Fall 2020 update of the Chasing a Cup top 50 u20 prospects was released and today we take a deep dive into the list.  We will look at each player and take a look at why they made it and what we should be expecting of them.  This list is not of all American players under the age of 20 but is of players who are eligible for the current u20 cycle which is players born on or after January 1st, 2001.  This means that players born in 2000 like Sergino Dest, Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, Chris Richards, Richie Ledezma, Alex Mendez, Brenden Aaronson, and James Sands are not eligible for this list as they are not u20 World Cup eligible.  To take a look at the last top 50 ranking click here April 2020 Rankings

First let’s take a look at some of the notable names not on the list.  The first name I want to talk about is Patrick Weah.  I think Patrick is a very talented play and Patrick did nothing to get dropped from the list but when COVID cancels his season and he will not play any games for potentially the next year that will potentially impact his development in a critical year for his growth.  I really hope that a USL team can pick Patrick up for the time being to get him minutes.  The next players are Italo Jenkins and Nelson Pierre who are both 2005 strikers that I dropped.  The 2005 striker pool is the deepest that we have ever had in an age group and I want to wait to see who truly emerges in this group before I move them into the top 50 prospects. 

Here is the list of players who nearly made it but were just short: Sebastian Berhalter, Leon Flach, Rokas Pukstas, Cameron Duke, Dantouma Toure, Grayson Dettoni, Casey Walls, Quinn Sullivan, Eric Kinzner, Jack McGlynn, Paxten Aaronson, Dante Huckaby, Francis Jacobs, Christian Torres, Tayvon Gray, Caleb Wiley, Efrain Morales, Felipe Valencia, and Cole Bassett. 

Without further ado, let’s dive into the ranking!

  1. Aethan Yohannes – Center Mid, AZ Alkmaar, 2004

Aethan is a very promising central midfielder at a club who is possibly the most underrated talent developers on the planet.  AZ Alkmaar has an academy that rivals and at this rate could potentially surpass Ajax and Aethan is a player who is getting regular minutes for their u17 and consistently looks good in those minutes.  A concern I had with Aethan is his speed and keeping up against bigger and faster players in the midfield and he offered a rebuttal by looking significantly more fit and faster since play has resumed post COVID.  How AZ develops Aethan is something that is definitely worth watching.  This upcoming season we will want to see him start to get looks with AZ’s u19 team as well as getting consistent u17 Youth National Team call ups.  Aethan is a yank abroad to be monitoring over the next year. 

  1. Cam Dunbar – Winger, LA Galaxy, 2002

Cam is an incredibly talented player who is ranked low on this list for a reason he can’t control: the coaching staff at the LA Galaxy.  If you wonder why Cam is on the list, go watch his performance against the Portland Timbers in the MLS is Back tournament.  If you say that Cam was not the most dangerous player on the field in that game then I will call you a liar.  The problem is that even after Cam’s stellar MLS debut, he is rarely getting looks with the Galaxy first team who, to put it lightly, suck.  For some unknown reason, the Galaxy are playing Julian Araujo, a right back, over Cam Dunbar at winger which makes no sense.  While Guillermo Barros Schellotto is the head coach of the Galaxy, I can’t put Cam any higher because I am worried that the Galaxy will hinder his development and trajectory. 

  1. Nico Carrera – Center Back, Holstein Kiel, 2002

Nico was one of the final snubs for the last top 50 list.  I am a big fan of Nico’s game.  Nico can distribute from the back, he can defend well, and he is a very physically imposing center back.  The only issue I have with Nico’s game is that he often lacks composure and tries to play too quickly on offense and on defense when he has time to settle down and play his game.  I left Nico off the last list because I was not confident about his club situation and thought he was going to Ingolstadt who are in a rut currently.  However, Nico decided to shock everyone when he announced that he was signing for Holstein Kiel in the 2 Bundesliga which I think is the perfect level for him to break through to as a young center back.  Nico will develop well at Holstein Kiel and I am optimistic about his future. 

  1. Brandan Craig – Center Back, Philadelphia Union, 2004

Do you see what the Philadelphia Union are doing with Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie?  Well I do, and it only makes me more excited for the future of Brandan Craig.  As a 2004, Brandan is already starting to get USL minutes with Philadelphia Union 2 and he is doing well in those minutes.  Why Brandan is low in this list is because of his athleticism and 1v1 defending.  Both are in the category of needs improvement.  On the athleticism side, you can tell Brandan has grown a lot in a very short amount of time because he is a giant but very skinny and has below average speed.  Both of these are issues that Brandan is currently working to address and typically get fixed as a player is done growing.  The issue with Brandan’s 1v1 defending stems from Brandan not being a natural center back for very long, he was just thrown into the position a year ago and lost out on key development time due to COVID.  As he gets older, Brandan will develop athletically and his defending will improve so I am not concerned.  Brandan is also a notable leader as he has already captained a USL match at just 16 years old. 

Brandan also possesses a European passport which means that if he wants to head over to Europe, he can leave at any time now.  Brandan has trained with clubs in England before so we could see him move to Europe before signing a homegrown deal which no doubt is being prepared to be offered to him by the Union. 

  1. Justin Che – Center Back, FC Dallas, 2003

I am a big fan of center backs who are very well rounded and can do it all.  Justin may not be the biggest center back (he is around 6ft currently) but he is strong, can distribute the ball, and is solid defensively.  Whether Justin rises or falls on this list all depends on what he decides to do over the next year.  Justin is a guarantee to become the next FC Dallas homegrown if he chooses to but Justin can also move to Europe at any moment because he has access to a German passport.  Both options would be great for Justin.  I think the young center back will have a great career and should make it over to Europe but I am unsure of how high of a level Justin will get to which is why he comes in at 46 on this list. 

  1. Zach Booth – Center Mid, Leicester City, 2004

Zach missed out on the list last time because he was at Real Salt Lake who have gone from being a homegrown factory to completely shutting out u20 players in their first team.  Well, now Zach decided to follow in his older brother Taylor’s footsteps and make the trip overseas and has recently signed for Leicester City FC.  At the start of 2020 I was not very impressed with Zach as a player.  He was pretty average in his performances in the DA when the RSL u17’s had him playing as an attacking mid or striker and he was consistently getting passed up for the u15 Youth National Team.  But everything changed at the first u17 YNT tournament in February when Zach played as an 8 and was fantastic.  Zach was the best player on the team and caught the eye of numerous scouts of major European clubs.  Now that Zach is at a club that is fantastic at player development and who will actually play him at his natural position.  Zach should be included in every u17 YNT camp unless he has an injury.  Expect to see him steadily rise up the rankings in 2021. 

  1. Leo Torres – Winger, San Antonio FC, 2004

I’m going to be honest, I completely forgot about Leo Torres making the last list and he should have been in the top 50.  Leo is a very slick winger who has every trick in his back.  He loves to play on the left and is a menace for opposing right backs.  Leo is at one of the best clubs for youth development in the country, San Antonio FC, who will quickly integrate him and hope to sell him to Europe when he turns 18.  Leo should be a lock for the u17 YNT and is a contender to start for them.  Leo hasn’t quite got as many minutes as I was hoping he would in USL this season which is why he is not higher on this list. 

  1. Leo Sepulveda – Center Back, UD Salamanca, 2001

Leo has fallen a from 29 to 42 mostly because other players are moving up, not because my opinion of Leo has fallen.  The biggest downside to Leo’s game is he still has not learned when to make the bone crunching tackles and is a yellow card machine which could potentially keep him off the field at his club.  Leo being at UD Salamanca is a positive and negative for me.  The positive is that he is not at the LA Galaxy who would most likely be playing him in the USL, the negative is that he is playing for a team in a league below the level of MLS.  If Leo can hit the ground running at the start of the season and get a winter move to a bigger club in Spain then USA fans can start to really consider this kid a serious USMNT prospect.  If Gregg Berhalter wants the u20 YNT to emulate the USMNT and build out of the back then Leo is almost guaranteed to be in the plans because he is the best distributing center back in the u20 pool currently.  Although, a new left footed center back has emerged who we will get to later who could steal Leo’s current spot.   

  1. George Bello – Left Back, Atlanta United, 2002

George is someone who a year ago would have been a lock for the top 15 in this list but had a 2019 filled with injury issues and looked bad in any games he was playing in.  The reason George was not in the last top 50 list was because I had not seen any improvement from him from when he was 15 dominating the DA to when he was 17 playing in the u17 World Cup.  He looked like the exact same player.  Someone who was pretty good on the ball and very athletic but had some serious tactical deficiencies and concentration issues.  The last three weeks have been very kind to George.  He has been playing better in games and has shown signs of improvement.  George is starting to revive the player who scouts and youth soccer fans were obsessed about which is very promising.  If George can polish up his 1v1 defending and can work on his positioning defensively then we are looking at a fullback who could play at a very, very high level in Europe.  But, the concern does not so much lie with George, it is with his club.  Atlanta United do not have the best track record with homegrown players which is why I did not rank George higher in this list. 

  1. Daniel Leyva – Defensive Mid, Seattle Sounders, 2003

Danny has taken a tumble from 24 to 41 in this update simply because he is not playing any soccer.  Danny is barely getting minutes for the Sounders or Tacoma defiance which is a concern.  Danny does have serious athletic limitations which hurts his chances of getting on the field but in his second year as a pro he should be building on the foundation but instead has only seen 56 minutes in 2 appearances this season.  In one of those games he came off as a sub in the 45th minute.  We need to see Danny get on the field more often and make an impact to stay on the list as other players in the 2003 age group start to break in as professionals. 

  1. Cade Cowell – Winger, San Jose Earthquakes, 2003

When Matheius Almedya uses a young player consistently you have no choice but to take notice.  Cade backed up his coach’s confidence in him by scoring a banger this past weekend against the LA Galaxy.  The positives for Cade are obvious, he is a player who has the build of an in prime 26-year-old and is very good on the ball.  The cons are that Cade was not as dominant as you would hope for a prospect of his caliber to be in the Development Academy or the USL.  With only one appearance in the MLS Cade really had not earned his place as a top 50 prospect in April but it is impossible to deny Cade a spot in this list.  The next step for Cade to progress up the list in 2021 is to get it done with the u18 YNT.  The 2003’s are loaded on the wings so if Cade wants to prove that he deserves to be in this list, he has to show that he is a top 3 winger in his age group and beat out guys like Dante Sealy, Kevin Paredes, Chris Garcia, Patrick Leal, Samuel Sarver, and Fabrizio Bernal. 

  1. Federico Oliva – Winger, Athletico Madrid, 2004

Fede has all the tools that Gio Reyna has with slightly less athleticism.  Fede is also getting it done over in Europe at the u17 level for Athletico Madrid.  Fede is a lock for the u17 YNT but really needs to show that he can take over games at the international level if he wants to progress up this list.  This kid has game but has to elevate it even further to show the very talented Athletico Madrid first team that he belongs. 

  1. Allan Rodriguez – Defensive Mid, Chicago Fire, 2004

Allan is one of my favorite players in this list but that is not because of anything he does on the field.  It is because he is from the South Bend area and is the only hope my hometown has for a top tier professional soccer player.  But with that being said, Allan rightfully deserves a place in this list.  He is one of the tidiest 6’s on the ball that you can find anywhere and he is a pitbull defensively who always wins challenges he is involved in.  Allan’s style of play translates well to almost any level and should break into MLS very early because of how good he truly is.  The major hole in Allan’s game is that he does not create chances offensively and plays it safe too much.  If he wants to move up this list, he has to start being a 6 who can progress the ball consistently instead of playing the easy pass. 

  1. 37. Brooklyn Raines – Center Mid, Barca AZ, 2005

I rated Brooklyn too high in the last list and came down to Earth for this update.  Brooklyn has to show that he is the same player at the u17 academy level and move to a professional club who can provide him first team opportunities.  Brooklyn’s ceiling is very high and he is a very good player but we have to see the type of player he is after he goes through a growth spurt and starts playing against older players consistently.  If he dominates the u17 level like he has the u15 level then he will move right back up the list.  Brooklyn should be in every 2005 YNT camp possible as he is easily one of the best center mids in the pool. 

  1. Matteo Ritaccio – Center Mid, Liverpool, 2001

Matteo Ritaccio is one of the most talented center mids in one of the worse club situations.  Matteo is at Liverpool and to be blunt, he has absolutely no chance of ever being a first team player for them.  Should he ever be expected to?  No, Liverpool’s midfield is too deep and will never rely upon academy players and instead will solve depth chart holes with transfers of top 20 players in the world.  Matteo should go on loan to get first team minutes wherever he can but it is unknown of if that is currently in the plans for him as no rumors are being made about a potential loan.  This is a crucial year for Matteo and if he wants to stay on the list as a top 50 prospect he has to move to a club who will actually play him and not just move on a loan, but get a permanent transfer. 

  1. Kevin Paredes – Winger, DC United, 2003

Kevin is one of the first players previously on the list who saw a big jump from 44 to 35.  If Kevin did not have Ben Olsen as a coach he would be even higher in this list.  Kevin is very athletic and has the skill on the ball to match his athleticism.  What worries me is that his coach is not playing him on the right wing which is by far his best position.  Kevin is being played as a left wing back and a center mid for DC United which is a complete waste of his talents.  Kevin is a lock for the 2003 YNT and has earned the first team minutes he is getting.  Unless Kevin has a severe injury, he will never get dropped from this list and he can only get higher from here. 

  1. Bryce Duke – Center Mid, LAFC, 2001

Is Bryce at a club which has been notable stellar at everything they do? Yes.  Does Bryce play for one of the best American coaches of all time who is great at developing young players?  Yes.  The combination of both of those factors are why Bryce has made this list.  Bryce is a very skilled player who has a very bright future and is in a better position to succeed than most of the players on this list.  Bryce needs to get a chance with the u20’s and show that he is a top player in his positon to move further up this list.  Like Kevin Paredes, it will be nearly impossible for Bryce to get dropped from the top 50 in the future. 

  1. Mauricio Cuevas – Right Back, LA Galaxy, 2003

Remember all of the things I said about what is keeping Cam Dunbar from being higher in this list?  Well, all of that applies to Mauricio Cuevas as well.  Mauricio Cuevas is a magical player and without a doubt is one of the three most talented right backs in the youth national team pool.  Mauricio has been fantastic in his USL appearances and is carved in stone into the starting lineup for the 2003 YNT.  Another reason Mauricio is so low on this list for a player of his talent is that he has an even more talented u20 player on this list who also plays his position at his club in Julian Araujo.  One of Julian Araujo or Mauricio Cuevas needs to be sold within the next 12 months or LA Galaxy will risk ruining the development of one of these players who are both incredibly talented. 

  1. Jonathan Perez – Attacking Mid, LA Galaxy, 2003

Do I need to say it again?  The LA Galaxy are not exactly the best at developing talent and from a ceiling perspective Johnny Perez is the second-best prospect in their system after Mexican youth international Efrain Alvarez.  The Galaxy have a history of filling their attacking position with brand name DP’s at the expense of their youth prospects which has a direct negative effect on someone like Johnny Perez.  If the Galaxy can bring in a youth friendly head coach then Johnny, Mauricio, and Cam will all shoot up the list immediately. 

  1. Chris Thaggard – Winger, Charlotte FC, 2005

I will bet my life savings that Chris Thaggard becomes the first homegrown for Charlotte FC.  Chris is a physical freak who is great on the ball and a great goal scorer as well.  In the DA Chris managed to score a whopping 132 goals in 98 games over 3.5 seasons.  Stats do not give the full picture but Chris also stands out on the field as the most technical player in any game he plays in.  Don’t believe me?  Then go watch his dominant performance at the GA Cup Qualifiers when he guest played with the very talented Atlanta United 2005’s and was their best player by far.  If Charlotte are seriously planning on leaning on youth academy players in their first team then this is a player that fans need to get used to hearing about because he will be around for a very, very long time. 

  1. Hayden Sargis – Center Back, Sacramento Republic, 2002

Hayden Sargis is showing all signs of being the current u20 cycle’s Chris Richards, a center back completely unknown during his u17 cycle who becomes a key player in the u20’s a cycle later.  Hayden has burst onto the scene with very consistently great performances for Sacramento Republic.  Hayden plays alongside former MAC Hermann award winner Tomas Hilliard-Arce and noticeably looks the better of the two rich is ridiculously impressive for an 18-year-old center back.  I will riot if Hayden is not on the team sheet for the next u20 camp because he has been playing that good.  This is a player who we could potentially see rise up the list in 2021 and start for the current u20 cycle as a much-valued left footed center back. 

  1. Reed Baker-Whiting – Defensive Mid, Seattle Sounders, 2005

Reed Baker-Whiting has been one of the more consistently hyped prospects among the 2005 age group over the last year.  He recently proved why he deserved the hype when he became the first American 2005 (and potentially the first 2005 on the planet) to make a professional debut when he came on as a substitute and put in a very good 15-minute performance against the Sacramento Republic who field a team of players almost all at least 10 years older than him.  Both Daniel Leyva and Joshua Atencio have to be grinding every day or Reed will surpass both of them in the next two years, this kid is legit. 

  1. Kenan Hot – Defensive Mid, New York Red Bulls, 2004

Kenan is one of the 2004’s who has recently made his professional debut in the USL for the NYRB2.  Kenny looked like a completely different kid when he stepped on the field because he is no longer the tall and lanky kid he used to be.  Kenny has put on a good amount of muscle and has not lost any speed either.  Kenny has not been playing as consistently in USL as I would like to see but I am not worried about this at all because he is so young and has looked good in the games he has played in.  Kenny is a player who will not take long to transition to the men’s game because of how he plays and the physical tools he already possesses.  Kenny should be a starter for the u17 YNT and with the ability to acquire a Euro Passport, Kenny will be the subject of numerous European rumors the more minutes he gets at the USL and international levels.  As long as Kenny gets more minutes in the USL his spot on this list is safe. 

  1. Evan Rotundo – Attacking Mid, Schalke 04, 2004

Evan was a player who I was actually expecting to slide when I made the original top 50 list in April.  Then I found out in May that he was going to Schalke instead of Borussia Dortmund and I was extremely satisfied with the move.  Evan has the highest soccer IQ, vision, and perhaps even the best passing ability out of any player in the u20 pool.  The reason Evan is so low at 27 is because of his athleticism.  Evan is not a fast or strong player and has to prove that he can handle playing against bigger and faster players before he can finally be anointed as a can’t miss prospect.  Evan has moved to Schalke and quickly made an impact for their u17’s by having a goal or an assist in every single game he is involved in but this should be expected of a player of his caliber.  Evan has not done as well against bigger and stronger players and needs to show that he can handle that and then he could potentially shoot into the top 10 in this list.  Schalke are very good at physical development so USMNT fans should have hope.  Evan does have the potential to be the 10 who takes the USMNT into the promised land. 

  1. Matko Milejevic – Winger, Argentinos Juniors, 2001

Matko is one of the most technically gifted players in this pool and has the physical tools to go along with it.  So, if he has that combination then why is he only ranked at 27?  The answer is because he is very inconsistent.  Numerous reports about the u20 YNT camp in January said that Matko was unbelievable in practices and then was not the same player in games.  Matko has had very good games at his club and very bad games as well.  Being one of the older players in this list, the allowable margin for error is thinner for Matko than it is for other players who have shown inconsistency like the next player we will talk about.  If Matko can show consistency in games then he could become a key player for the u20’s and even potentially get looks for the USMNT in the future. 

  1. Dante Sealy – Winger, FC Dallas, 2003

Dante Sealy has even more talent and is even more inconsistent than Matko Milijevic is.  Dante has had games in the DA where he has been one of the best players that I have ever seen and then he will follow it up by getting locked down by an average fullback in his own age group the next game.  Dante has also not had many impressive performances in the USL with North Texas SC.  But when the time came for Dante to show why he is a highly regarded prospect, he showed up and performed.  Dante was the clear best American player at the Nike Friendlies in November 2019 where he ran the u16 YNT’s offense and terrorized whoever was in his path.  Dante looked like he was not even being challenged and was calmly destroying the other team while having an impact on the scoresheet.  He then followed that tournament up with a training stint at PSV where he played up an age group with their u19’s and reportedly stood out and then followed up that by having a 4-goal performance in his very first game at the winter DA showcase in December.  Like Matko, if Dante can find consistency in his performances then the sky is the limit and Dante could even end up becoming a Champions League level player, he has the potential for it. 

  1. Elton Chifamba – Center Mid, Columbus Crew, 2003

Hey USMNT fans, do you get upset with how Darlington Nagbe rarely progresses the ball and is not a good defender but are happy with how he always keeps possession?  Do you want someone who can do all three?  Well that is Elton Chifamba.  Elton is a tidy player who keeps possession, is an excellent passer, and is rock solid defensively.  The only reason that Elton is not higher is because he plays for the Columbus Crew.  If Elton was at almost any other club he would be receiving a pay check every single week by now and even potentially getting minutes in MLS.  But sadly, in Columbus he has Darlington Nagbe and now Sebastian Berhalter to beat out now which will be very difficult… especially with a manager like Caleb Porter who does not like to rely on younger players.  If Elton can get minutes in the next 12 months then he will show why many YNT super fans rate him so highly. 

  1. Gage Akalu – Winger, Sporting Kansas City, 2005

Who is the most talented attacker in the 2005 age group?  In my opinion, that player is Gage Akalu.  Gage is one of the most skilled players on the ball that I have seen in thousands of hours of watching the DA.  Gage can play with both feet, he rarely loses the ball, and he is a constant fixture in the score sheet.  Once Gage hits his growth spurt he should turn into a player that should terrify defenders who even have to think about going up against him.  Gage may be good enough to play up with the 2004’s for the u17 YNT.  This is a kid that Sporting Kansas City should have offered a homegrown deal to already or will be before the end of 2020, he’s that good.  The only reason he is not in the top 20 is because we have to see how he performs as he physically matures over the years.  This is an elite talent. 

  1. Indiana Vassilev – Striker, Aston Villa, 2001

Indiana Vassilev was a player four months ago that I had a lot of questions about.  The very first question was if he was a player who got a first team look because of a lack of depth and would never get another shot or was he a player who they would consistently bring up to the first team?  Well, since the Premier League resumed we got our answer.  Indy made the bench numerous times and in almost every bench for Aston Villa.  On top of that the games that I have seen Vassilev play more than 5 minutes he has been very good.  Whether Indy becomes a Premier League player or not long term is still unknown.  We still need to see him play a full game against men and get more data before we can confidently project that and move Indiana up into the top 20.  But it is a big deal when a player consistently makes the roster for a Premier League team that didn’t get relegated.  We should see more of him next season and I can’t wait for it. 

  1. Gianluca Busio – Defensive Mid, Sporting Kansas City, 2002

This was the most unexpected player to make the top 50 for me but I certainly am not sad about it.  Plain and simple, Gianluca Busio the 10/winger was not good enough.  Gianluca did not create chances, he struggled to get on the ball, and he only affected the scoresheet after meme worthy terrible defenses.  It just was not good enough and he had 2000+ minutes of minimal improvement which was seriously concerning. 

Well, Gianluca Busio the 6 is completely different.  Busio has been fantastic playing as a deep lying playmaker.  He has been getting on the ball, leading the team in touches and passing percentage, creating chances, breaking lines, asking consistent questions of the backline and goalkeeper, and he also has shown that he is a goal threat from deep.  This is a player who is deserving of the rumors of getting looked at by Juventus, Inter Milan, Fiorentina, and Feyenoord.  Busio was a player who struggled but this looks like a thing of the past.  This is one of the best renaissances that I have seen from a youth player and I could not be happier to see it.  This is a player to watch and if he keeps improving, a top 10-15 prospect. 

  1. 20. Cameron Harper – Winger, Celtic, 2001

Cam Harper is one of the most underrated player in the entire youth national team pool.  When people think of promising wingers they often say Gio Reyna, Uly Llanez, and Konrad De La Fuente but never include Cam in that group and that is a crime in my opinion.  Cam showed at the January u20 camp that he is one of the best attackers in the YNT pool.  Cam is one of the fastest attackers we have and can glide with the ball which makes him almost impossible to defend.  At u20 World Cup qualifying he should be one of our best players and truly emerge onto the scene in a similar fashion that Alex Mendez broke out a year ago.  Currently Cam Harper has been receiving bench appearances for Celtic as they looked to qualify for Champions League as well as the early games in their season.  This is a special talent. 

  1. Caden Clark – Attacking Mid, New York Red Bulls 2, 2003

Do you see how everyone raves about Brenden Aaronson?  Well imagine a player who is 3 years younger and almost just as good and you get Caden Clark.  Caden is a playmaking 10 who buzzes around the field dissecting the team and creating chances.  Caden is one of the leaders for assists in MLS despite only being 17 years old.  He plays so much like Brendan Aaronson that he even is terrible finishing in front of the net.  If Caden can work on putting the ball into the corner of the net when he pulls the trigger then he can be the best attacking mid that we have in the pool.  Caden also has access to a Euro Passport so when the right offer comes he is gone to Europe.  I am expecting to see Caden either in the Bundesliga or in the Champions League. 

  1. Bryang Kayo – Center Mid, Wolfsburg, 2002

Bryang is a player who is loved or hated by fans.  I am a player who loves his potential.  When seeing how Weston McKennie just got a move to Juventus then expectations should be very high for Bryang who’s playing style is very similar to Weston’s except he is much better on the ball than an 18-year-old Weston McKennie was.  Bryang dominates the midfield with ease and drives by defenders at will.  He makes the game look easy.  Bryang also is consistently highly rated by his coaches.  DC United, the u17 YNT, Orange County SC, Wolfsburg, or Gregg Berhalter all have publicly spoke about how high of potential Bryang has and that is very significant.  Bryang should be involved with the u20’s but has a tough midfield to break into but I have no doubt that he will find a way. 

  1. Antonio Leone – Center Back, LAFC, 2004

The American Virgil Van Dijk, Antonio Leone is a beast in the back.  Antonio bullies attackers and makes it seem easy.  He rarely gets beat on the dribble, he is strong, and he can distribute out of the back.  Tony is your prototypical future center back that teams want who is an elite defender and can distribute out of the back.  Tony is a commanding leader as well and makes it a point to be a leader in whatever team he is in.  Most importantly, Tony is at LAFC coached by Bob Bradley and will be in the best environment for development that can be offered stateside while he goes up against elite players like Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and Bryan Rodriguez every single day.  Tony is a guaranteed starter for the u17 YNT and is a top priority dual national for us. 

  1. Taylor Booth – Center Mid, Bayern Munich, 2001

While Zach Booth is more of an attacking center mid, Taylor is a center mid who is a good connector and a good defender.  Taylor has been under the microscope of American fans for years now and consistently has shown that he deserves the to be one of the consistently hypes players in the pool.  Taylor Is progressing well at Bayern and should have a good year with their reserves in the 3 Liga.  Taylor will be a commanding presence in the u20 locker room and is a player that everyone should be excited about.  Taylor can be the deep-lying distributor who can hit 40-50 yard passes with ease while being a solid defensive presence and Taylor can also be the connecting midfielder who creates in the final third.  I am expecting Taylor to become a player who is a consistent starter for a top 10 Bundesliga team. 

  1. 15. Tanner Tessmann – Center Mid, FC Dallas, 2001

Remember the kid who Dabo Swinney said was athletic enough to start as a wide receiver for Clemson?  That kid he was talking about is Tanner Tessmann.  When a player has the combination of a massive frame, quick feet, and a very high IQ then you know they are going to be special.  Tanner stepped up filling in for an injured Paxton Pomykal and immediately became a difference maker in MLS in his very first game.  He can hang with anyone his age and could very quickly become a standout in MLS and get a move to Europe after a good showing with the u20’s.  Tanner will have a great career in Europe and I am expecting no less. 

  1. Julian Araujo – Right Back, LA Galaxy, 2001

Let me tell you, it is frustrating to watch our best right back prospect played as a winger in MLS.  Julian is one of the best defenders we have and is one of the best natural leaders in the pool as well.  This kid does everything right.  Julian can attack well, defend 1v1 well, win 50/50’s consistently, and dominate forwards all games.  It is only a matter of time until Julian is moved off to Europe and becomes a very high level right back. 

  1. Jose Gallegos – Attacking Mid, San Antonio FC 2001

Jose Gallegos is something of an anomaly now, he is a player who had no involvement in the DA or in a European academy but has become a prominent figure in the youth soccer landscape.  Every other player in this list and in my top 100 prospects either has played in the DA or has played in an academy abroad.  Jose is by far the best teenage attacking prospect in the USL and is an obvious standout every time he steps on the field.  Jose would also standout in MLS as shown when he dismantled FC Dallas in a preseason friendly where he was incredible.  Jose is going to quickly be Europe bound and once he has a standout performance at the u20 World Cup he should be the first major USL developed product to get sold to Europe.  Jose is going to be a baller and wherever he lands in Europe will be lucky to have him. 

  1. Nati Clarke – Center Back, Sporting Kansas City, 2005

The only reason that Nati Clarke fell out of the top 10 is because he is so young.  A lot will happen in between now and when Nati turns 18 and becomes a consistent first team player.  Once I see that Sporting Kansas City is really pushing to get him first team minutes he will move right back into the top 10.  But the talent of Nati can’t be understated, this is the most dominant defender I have ever seen at the academy level.  Nati is a physical freak who in normal situations in America would be getting offers from every SEC school for football because he is so athletically gifted.  But just being athletic is not why Nati stands out, Nati also has the best feet in his age group as well.  Nati dribbles by players with ease and connects passes often that very few u20 players even want to attempt.  The biggest question is whether Nati ends up becoming a right back or center back because it looks like Nati may not be very tall once he is done growing and already possesses speed that would be elite in the professional game.  No matter where he plays, he will be a standout player and at the rate he is going he will be playing in the Champions League. 

  1. Owen Otasowie – Center Back, Wolverhapton, 2001

Owen Otasowie is yet another physically dominating player in our youth player pool.  In England being physically gifted always helps you advance through the ranks.  Owen is a monster at 6’2 200lbs (likely taller and bigger than that) and is very quick as well.  Owen is very good on the ball as someone has to be to even get considered for the first team of a club that manages to qualify for the Europa League via the Premier League.  Owen should look to go on a loan to get consistent first team minutes but if he chooses the USA he is a guaranteed starter for our u20’s at right center back.  The only reason Owen does not break the top 10 is that he could be better on the ball and the margins between players above him are very thin and ultra-competitive as we have that much top end talent rising. 

  1. Ricardo Pepi – Striker, FC Dallas, 2003

Ever since Ricardo Pepi stepped into the FC Dallas u17’s and scored 19 goals in 8 games he has been regarded as one of the top striker prospects in the country.  Those 8 games were the last time that we have seen Ricardo Pepi play against players in his own age group.  Ever since he has played up in the USL, the u17 national team with the 2002’s, currently the MLS, and soon the u20 national team where he will start while playing 2 years up.  Ricardo Pepi has every tool a striker could possibly dream of being fast, strong, a good dribbler, a wicked accurate shot from anywhere within 30 yards, and is tall at 6’1.  His weakness is that he struggles with his back to goal against pro’s because he has not filled out yet because he is only 17 but as he gets older the muscle will come.  I would be genuinely surprised if this kid does not end up playing in the Champions League at some point in the future, he is that talented.  Ricardo will compete along with Josh Sargent and Malick Sanogo to become the 9 of the future for the USMNT.  Ricardo Pepi has the chance to play himself into consideration for the 2022 World Cup and could be involved in the USMNT all the way until the 2034 World Cup.

  1. Jonathan Gomez – Left Back, Louisville City FC, 2003

Jonathan Gomez is the first of two insanely talented left backs that the youth national team system has currently.  JoGo is the perfect modern attacking the fullback who is just as skilled as a winger and a very good defender.  Jonathan still is growing and putting on muscle and can get pushed around in the USL but this won’t happen for very long and once he fills out he is going to be one of the best, if not the best, left backs this country has ever had.  Jonathan turned 17 on Tuesday and the countdown is on until he turns 18 and will immediately sign for a club in Germany and quickly break into the team by winter 2022 priming him to be in USMNT consideration for the 2022 World Cup in November that year.  Jonathan may be one of the best left prospects in the world for the 2003 age group, he is that special. 

  1. Johnny Cardoso – Defensive Mid, Internacionale, 2001

Johnny Cardoso (aka Johnny Soccer) is one of the very few American dual nationals to successfully rise out of a Brazilian big 12 academy in Internacionale.  As someone who has trained at both Cruzeiro and Botafogo I have seen firsthand what it takes to make it in potentially the most competitive environment that exists on the planet.  Johnny has the grit that you see so often in aspiring Brazilian academy prospects who are fighting for their livelihood and he shows it every time on the field.  Johnny is a 6 who will break bones going into tackles if necessary and he can also pick out a pass anywhere on the field.  Johnny also has the ability to play anywhere on the field as he has experience as a 9 and winger from his academy days.  Johnny’s best game is playing as a destroying 6 who can keep possession and break up plays and he is excellent at this role.  Johnny Soccer is so good at this that Gregg Berhalter has stated numerous times that this is the young player to watch for to potentially break into the USMNT next which is a huge deal.  If Johnny can get good exposure from the USMNT then it will only be a matter of time before European teams come sniffing and move him abroad. 

  1. Konrad De La Fuente – Winger, FC Barcelona, 2001

When I created the top 50 list back in April I had no idea the next couple of months that awaited Konrad.  If a player who is not getting first team looks at the biggest club on planet Earth then that should speak volumes for the potential that I think the other players have.  Just because Konrad is ranked 7th does not mean I don’t rate him, I fully expect to see Konrad playing Champions League soccer someday.  On the ball Konrad has the sauce and can play with both feet.  The only reason Konrad does not beat out any of the players above him is his athleticism.  Konrad has average speed and average strength which hurts his game as a winger who has to beat fullbacks 1v1 down the touchline.  Konrad is a u20 player currently but at the rate he is going he will be a USMNT player by the time qualifying starts.  Kudos to Konrad for being the first American to potentially breakthrough at FC Barcelona and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. 

  1. 6. Uly Llanez – Winger, Wolfsburg, 2001

Imagine if Neymar was Mexican-American and that is Uly Llanez.  Uly is a truly gifted left winger who can filet a player by cutting in or beating him to the end line.  Uly can play with both feet but has a right foot that can create magic.  Uly also is very quick and strong which makes him very hard to dispossess as he runs at you with the ball.  It is mind blowing thinking about how Uly is not playing in every game for the Wolfsburg first team and makes me worried for the other prospects we also have there.  Once Uly breakthrough then he’ll finally become the consistent USMNT call up that we’ve begged the last year for. 

  1. Moses Nyeman – Center Mid, DC United, 2003

Moses Nyeman is my favorite prospect in the u20 pool.  Moses can literally do it all, he can create in the final third, he can hit long passes, he can play with both feet, he has an incredibly high IQ, and he goes into challenges with all of his body.  The only red flag for Moses is that he is only 5’5 120, he is tiny.  This will turn away coaches, like Ben Olsen, who favor athletically gifted players.  Once Moses puts on muscle it is over for other teams in the MLS because he will dominate games in a ifashion that will make fans ask why they even rated players like Brenden Aaronson and Paxton Pomykal, Moses has that much potential.  At the minimum Moses will be a Bundesliga player. 

  1. Malick Sanogo – Striker, Union Berlin, 2004

Malick is the best striker prospect in the youth national team system currently.  Malick was the second most productive player among all u17 eligible players in Germany last season (2003 & 2004) in goals and assists among all levels in Germany.  The only player who led him was ahead of him was Youssofa Moukoko who is the most talented youth prospect among all age groups in the world currently.  To be that productive in Germany is a massive deal.  Malick is so good that Union Berlin even went and hired his father as a striker’s coach at the club which is evidence for how well rated Malick is.  Union Berlin do not have a u19 team which means that in the next 2-3 years it is either first team or bust for Malick and at the rate he is going he is going to be a first team player in the next two years.  Malick is a good bet to be the early Bundesliga breakout for the 2004 age group.  Malick is also eligible for both Germany (he will be soon) and Nigeria so Ussoccer has to be on their game to get him to play for us. 

  1. Kobe Hernandez-Foster – Left Back, Wolfsburg, 2002

The perfect left back prospect.  Kobe is an elite attacker (he grew up as a winger), he is very athletic, he is one of the best passers in the entire pool, he can play a ball 60-70 yards on a dime, he can score from distance, he can defend 1v1, and there really is not much that Kobe can’t do.  The only negative aspect of Kobe’s game is that he is 5’6-5’7 and that really isn’t a deal breaker because he’ll be playing left back.  Kobe is such a good player that the u17 YNT had to play him out of position at center back and he still was the best defender on the time by a country mile.  It should not take long for Kobe to be ready for the Wolfsburg first team and hopefully Oliver Glasner integrated Kobe into the team better than he has Uly Llanez.  I expect Kobe to start for the USMNT in the 2022, 2026, and 2030 World Cups.  Anything less than that will honestly be a letdown for me.  I would not be shocked to see Kobe starting for the USMNT in 2034 as well because he will be 32 by then and still potentially in the pool just like Demarcus Beasley who was 32 for the 2014 World Cup. 

  1. Bryan Okoh – Center Back, Red Bull Salzburg, 2003

This is the best center back prospect that I have ever seen ever since Cameron Carter-Vickers started for the u23 national team at 16 years old.  Bryan is playing at one of the best youth development clubs in all of Europe and is arguable the best prospect at the club.  Bryan regularly plays with FC Leifering which is Salzburg’s reserve team in the Austrian second division.  Bryan is a left footed center back who is an absolute tank who bulldozes any player in his path to win the ball.  Bryan is capable of making major last-ditch tackles and can then pick up the ball and accurately find a teammate 30-40 yards away.  Bryan is on track to become a Red Bull Salzburg first team player in the next 2 years and on track to play under the lights for a major Champions League team.  Bryan’s game is a little raw and still has moments that could be better but so does every other center back his age and in this list.  The only red flag for Bryan is not anything to do with his on the field play, Brian is a quad-national.  Bryan is eligible to represented the USA, Nigeria, Congo, and Switzerland who he has captained their u16’s in the past.  It is really going to be a battle between the USA and Switzerland to convince Bryan to play for us.  This is the biggest dual national who I think we could actually convince to represent the red, white, and blue. 

  1. Gio Reyna – Winger, Borussia Dortmund, 2002

Who else would be number one?  I don’t even need to explain myself on this one.    

Club News

Winter 2023 Transfer Window Preview

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In a couple weeks we enter silly season. During the month of January, the global football market will open up to leagues across the world and we can expect there to be a lot of action involving American players. 

Why? There are lots of reasons for players to change clubs: 

  1. Not getting enough playing time to develop / stay sharp
  2. Not playing at a high enough level of competition
  3. Not a good tactical fit

Here is a list of players that I believe could benefit from a chance in scenery starting with the most urgent:

IT’S DIRE, GET OUT

WING, Christian Pulisic, Chelsea

Is really dire? Maybe not, but he’s clearly undervalued at Chelsea and Pulisic is too good to not be playing a significant role somewhere. Chelsea is once again linked with every attacker on the transfer market, so clearly he really isn’t in the plans. Newcastle seems to be the favorite to land Pulisic in January and I love the fit. 

WING, Konrad de la Fuente, Olympiacos

Konrad de la Fuente moved to Greece thinking he could get regular playing time after a managerial change at Marseille. Instead, Olympiacos signed a thousand foreign players even though only a set amount of foreign players (5) can make matchday squads, and de la Fuente has been an odd man out. Konrad isn’t in training with Olympiacos or Marseille right now and is instead looking for a new loan for the remainder of the season. 

AM, Richie Ledezma, PSV

Ledezma had the choice to stay at PSV or find a loan this summer and he chose to stay, likely thinking he’d get more minutes than he has. He has the same choice to make in January and hopefully this time he chooses to leave — he needs more minutes to grow. 

RB, Reggie Cannon, Boavista

Cannon is starting every week and that is good, but he is also playing center-back and I just don’t think he’s developed much since moving to Boavista. He didn’t make a World Cup roster which featured four right-backs, so maybe that is a sign that a change is needed? I think it is. 

CM, Gianluca Busio, Venezia

There was a brief moment in time when Busio’s move to Venezia looked like a great one. That seems like a long time ago and now he is struggling to find starts for a club in the bottom third of Serie B. I am sure the market for Busio has weakened, but there still might be interest in Serie A or other leagues where he could benefit from a career reset. 

CM, Eryk Williamson, Portland Timbers

I think it’s very likely Williamson played his last match in Portland. It’s been reported that LAFC would look to trade for him to replace Jose Cifuentes who is likely heading to the Premier League. There has not been a lot of reported interest abroad for Williamson, so a move within MLS is most likely. 

RB, Justin Che, Hoffenheim

Che’s 18-month loan with Hoffenheim looked promising last year when he was getting some appearances towards the end of the season, but with a managerial change he has fallen out of favor and has been stuck with Hoffenheim’s reserve team. I am sure Dallas and Che can end the loan early and hopefully find a better opportunity in Europe. Another half season in MLS wouldn’t hurt either, but I don’t think Che and his team want to go that route. 

THE RIGHT TIME FOR A CHANGE

LB, DeJuan Jones, New England Revolution

It’s not like his situation at New England is bad, he just hasn’t been able to get the attention of USSF. Perhaps a successful move overseas helps energize his stock.

LB, John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls

I don’t think Tolkin has anything left to prove at NYRB and he is ready to make the jump to Europe. Last summer he was connected Anderlecht in Belgium — that level feels like the right next step for him. 

CF, Brandon Vazquez, FC Cincinnati 

Vazquez had a breakout season last year and I think both he and FC Cincinnati should strike while the iron is hot. A top third club in the English Championship could be a great next step for him. 

CB, Joshua Wynder, Louisville City

Wynder was a full-time starter in USL at the ages of 16 and 17 last season and of the top American prospects born in 2005. In order for him to continue to push himself and develop I think he should look to move to Europe or MLS this season. There has been lots of interest reported from both. If it is Europe, he will have to wait until he turns 18 in May, but he could sign a pre-deal like fellow LouCity player Jonathan Gomez did. 

SS, Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union

Sullivan likely isn’t happy with his usage rates last season, but Curtin and company were in a tough spot trying to find their young players minutes while pushing for a MLS title. With Cory Burke gone, there might be more striker minutes available within Curtin’s two striker system. That could be enough to entice Sullivan to stay, but my hunch is that he’d like to get his European career started this winter. 

WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes

New San Jose Earthquakes manager and former FC Dallas manager and USMNT assistant coach Luchi Gonzalez says he has big plans for Cade Cowell. Are his plans to move him to right-back? Probably not, but I am not convinced another season in the South Bay is the right move for Cade. His development has stalled over the last two seasons and I think a change of scenery would be useful. Joe Scally’s club, Borussia Mönchengladbach has reportedly been interested as have some Premier League clubs. 

CB, Sam Rogers, Rosenborg

Rogers is a former Seattle Sounders Academy player that has spent the last two seasons in Norway. He had a breakout season of sorts for third place finishing Rosenborg playing as the LCB in a three back system, scoring an impressive six goals and one assist. It would be nice to see Rogers see if he can elevate his game to an even higher level of competition. 

DM, Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders

The Seattle Sounders will have Leyva, Obed Vargas, Josh Atencio and João Paulo competing for midfield minutes next season which leads me to believe that one of the younger guys should leave to get the time needed to advance their career. Vargas and Paulo are coming off serious injuries, so it’s possible that Seattle holds on to all of the guys until the summer when there are less health concerns, but one could go in January. My bet would be Leyva because he is a more attractive prospect than Atencio, but Seattle seems to rate Vargas more. 

CB, Jalen Neal, LA Galaxy

Neal is one of the most first team ready, young center-backs in MLS, but I am not sure he is going to get an opportunity from the Galaxy on the first team this year and it might not come next year either. I think it is time to move to another club within MLS or go abroad where he can play in a more competitive reserve league. Galaxy 2 won’t be in the USL next year, they will be in MLS Next Pro, a big step down in competition, so a loan to a USL club is also a decent option though I’d prefer a higher level than that. 

HEAR ME OUT

WING, Tim Weah, Lille

Weah does not need to be playing right-back and I think there are better clubs and better fits for him out there. I’d like to see him leave even though I don’t think Lille is keen to move him, nor does the market seem to be too hot on him right now. 

CF, Josh Sargent, Norwich City

I am tired of watching Josh play on the wing when he is the best striker on the team. It’s a waste. 

GK, Matt Turner, Arsenal

Matt probably stays at Arsenal to continue their FA Cup and Europa League campaigns, but I think Matt has proven he should be a starting goal keeper for a pretty good club. I’d like to see him do that sooner rather than later. 

CB, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic

CCV has achieved great success and stability at Celtic, but I also think he runs the risk of stagnating. I would like to see Carter-Vickers move to a better league as soon as he can so he can continue to grow. 

CF, Haji Wright, Antalyaspor

What more does Wright have to prove in Turkey? He clearly can rack up goals in that league. I’d like to see him move to a better league and see if he can continue to be an efficient goal scorer. 

I’M INDIFFERENT

All of the guys are in pretty good club situations because they all have key roles and the competition level is fine based on where they are at in their career. 

CM, Yunus Musah, Valencia

There are some big clubs after Musah (Arsenal, Chelsea, Inter Milan), but he’d likely take a hit in playing time initially so I am not sure that is best for him right now. The counter is that nothing is certain and maybe Musah needs to take this opportunity while it is here. 

CM, Weston McKennie, Juventus

Juventus seems like a turbulent situation and perhaps a move to the Premier League would be best for McKennie. Tottenham has been after McKennie for what seems like multiple years. 

LB, Jedi Robinson, Fulham

Robinson and Fulham have been a great story in the first half of the Premier League season, but will they be able to keep it up? Newcastle is reportedly preparing a 15M offer for Robinson and that could be a better long term play for him. 

CM, Johnny Cardoso, Internacional

Cardoso is coming off his best season as a pro and his club finished second in the Brazil. Spanish and Italian clubs seem in on him and a move seems inevitable, but another year in Brazil would not be the worst thing. 

DM, Tanner Tessmann, Venezia

Tessmann is playing some of the best football of his life right now and the new manager trusts him as Venezia fight for their lives in Serie B, but there is reported interest from Serie A clubs. My gut tells me Tessmann should stay and help keep Venezia in Serie B, ride the form that he is in and perhaps he will have even stronger interest in the summer. 

CF/AM, Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas

Ferreira and Dallas are in an interesting position. Ferreira had a great season last year and Dallas looks like an emerging side in MLS as well. Ferreira also signed a designated player contract last year so his options are more limited in finding clubs abroad that will meet his salary requirements, but Ferreira is at a very critical age for development and he may not be able to grow much more in MLS, so, he likely needs to leave at the end of the next season at the latest. My guess is Dallas is going to go for a MLS Cup this year and then look to rebuild in 2024. 

 

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Club News

Summer 2022 Transfer Window Preview

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The summer transfer window is a historically more action packed window where clubs tend to spend more than they do during the winter window. This year it will be an even more important window for players fighting for a spot on the World Cup roster. Gregg has made it clear that for players that are not considered “locks”, how a player establishes himself with his club during the preseason and early parts of the season leading up to the final September camp will be incredibly important. In this article we will look at three categories of US players:

  1. Players looking to take the next competitive step
  2. Players looking for situations that give them a chance to play more consistently
  3. Players who have been rumored to be on the move that I think should stay put

Before we look at potential transfers, let’s catch up on movement that is already planned this summer: 

Planned Moves

GK, Matt Turner, New England Revolution → Arsenal FC

Matt is moving to Arsenal on July 1. Will the move to the Premier League raise his technical level? Or will he get rusty as a backup that rarely gets time in competitive matches.

CB, John Brooks, VfL Wolfsburg → TBD

There hasn’t been a lot of news to report on potential destinations for Brooks this summer. The only credible news I have seen is John being linked with Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim will have a new manager next season and reports are that John’s agent has a good relationship with the club and he is well thought of there. Chris Richards likely won’t be back with Hoffenheim, but young Justin Che is (fellow German-American). Even if it is not Hoffenheim, I think John will have demand from mid table teams in one of the top 5 leagues, but the Bundesliga is where he’ll likely end up.

CB, Kobi Henry, Orange County SC → Stade Reims

This move had been rumored a while ago by ESPNs, Jeff Carlisle. I was starting to wonder if it was just agency smoke, but the deal has been made and Kobi will deliver the largest USL transfer fee in league history at 700K. Kobi is 18 and will likely throttle between the reserve team and the first team. I think he is a few years away from being first team ready. Physically he is close, but he still has a long ways to go tactically and mentally. Be patient with Kobi, it could be a while before we see him play first team minutes with Reims.

RB, Bryan Reynolds, AS Roma → KVC Westerlo

Bryan is headed back to Belgium on another loan from Roma, this time with recently promoted KVC Westerlo. It’s been reported that there will be an option to buy for 7M€. I thought Bryan would be able to get loaned to a slightly stronger club, but I do believe the Belgian top flight is a good level. He was pretty good for Kortrijk FC last year after a Winter loan. I am excited to see what Bryan can do with a full offseason and season with a club that has plans to play him. It can be challenging playing for a recently promoted club, but it looks like Westerlo is looking to make moves and the middle to lower half of the Belgian league is typically more competitive than other leagues.

CM, Luca de la Torre, Heracles Almelo → TBD

What was widely assumed has been confirmed, Luca has an agreement in place to be moved this summer from Heracles, with one year left on his contract so Heracles can get some transfer money from the move. We have learned that this was going to happen whether Heracles get relegated or not. It will be very interesting to see where Luca ends up. He is a player that you really have to watch to understand how good he is and you have to think that clubs in the Eredivisie, that played against him will be excited to have the chance to sign him. Additionally, clubs in top 5 leagues with smart scouting departments will also be interested in him. He is a very skilled player that will be a bargain signing. His G/A stats have never been impressive, but he does so many things to help a midfield.

CM, Taylor Booth, Bayern Munich II → FC Utrecht

This is the planned move I am most excited for this summer. Taylor did not get a loan this year after refusing to extend his contract, so he played at too low of a level with Bayern’s reserve squad. Fortunately, Utrecht saw the talent and signed him on a free. Taylor will have competition in the midfield at Utrecht next year, but if he can breakthrough, he could be a sleeper pick to make the plane to Qatar. 

AM, Brenden Aaronson, RB Salzburg → Leeds United

Brenden is joining former manager and fellow American Jessie Marsch at Leeds United. He is trading European competition for more consistent top level competition in the Premier League. Brenden and Jessie know each other well from their days in Salzburg. It’s a great system fit and Leeds will likely have a lot of roster turnover with pending sales of Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips.

CB, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic FC Tottenham Hotspur Celtic FC

CCV has decided to return to Celtic after having the best season of his young, but winding career. I love the decision. He’s highly valued im Glasgow (13M transfer!!!), he’ll be in European competitions year in and year out and he’ll be able to continue to develop on the pitch. He won’t be in the most competitive league, but a couple of successful years at Celtic could turn in to bigger offers during the prime of his career.

Players LOOKING FOR A HIGHER LEVEL

GK, Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire

Gaga’s move to Chelsea seems all but complete as the London club has out bit Real Madrid for young American keeper. It has been said that Gaga will be loaned back to Chicago for the remainder of the season or longer, similar to Caden Clark’s deal with RB Leipzig/NYRB. Gaga has struggled recently for Chicago, but clearly he has shown enough for the biggest clubs in the world to be bullish on his future potential.

LB, DeJuan Jones, New England Revolution

DeJuan is turning 25 this summer and he is one of the better left-backs in MLS. He has not been able to get a real chance from Gregg Berhalter and he needs to try something else to get on his radar. I think if he’s ever going to test himself in Europe, the time is now and New England seems to be in the middle of selling spree.

LB, John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls

John isn’t the splashiest prospect, but he’s really well rounded, mature and he is young. If he can string together some goal contributions this season, I think there will be a good amount of demand abroad. There has been reported interest from RB Salzburg. 

CM, Timothy Tillman, SpVgg Greuther Fürth

Fürth exercised their club option to extend Timothy another year. With Fürth heading to 2. Bundesliga, I am expecting mid-low Bundesliga clubs to come calling and for Tim to get a chance with another club this summer.

CM, Gianluca Busio, Venezia FC

I would be comfortable with Gianluca in this category or the “stay put” category. Venezia spent a lot of money on Busio, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him grind it out and help Venezia get back to Serie A for the 2023-2024 season. There has been reported interest in other Serie A clubs and I would also be happy to see him stay at that level and develop. Either way, Busio needs to continue to develop and figure out what role will be most effective for him. Is he a 6, 8 or 10? He played all of those positions with Venezia last year. I think he his best suited long term to play the 6 if he can manage the defensive responsibilities that comes with it.

AM, Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montreal

Next to Gaga Slonina, Djordje is probably the hottest American commodity in the MLS. There is a lot of reported interest from big clubs and it seems likely that Djordje’s time to go to Europe is now. He just received his first call-up to the USMNT, if the camp goes well, you have to wonder if now is the right time to move to Europe or if he should stay where he is a known commodity and move after the World Cup?

WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes

Cade is starting to get into a good rhythm for the post-Almayda San Jose Earthquakes. He is starting consistently at LW and contributing consistently. He’s still raw and the technical aspects to his game have not developed as quickly as you’d like to see. Does he need a move abroad to better develop those skills? Does MLS allow him to rely too much on his athletic ability? If he continues to put him numbers, I could definitely see big name clubs trying to facilitate a move and betting on his rare physical profile. There have been reported interest from Everton.

ST, Jordan Pefok, BSC Young Boys

I don’t think there is much more for Jordan to prove at the current level after winning the golden boot in first year in the Swiss Super League. Jordan is in his prime and needs to see what he can do in a top 5 league. There have been reported interested from Bundesliga clubs with Borussia in their name: Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Both moves would likely be for a substitute role, which I think is fine. I can see Pefok doing well as a 60 or 70 minute sub looking to poach a late goal.

PLAYERS LOOKING FOR MORE PLAYING TIME

GK, Zack Steffen, Manchester City

It’s become very clear that being GK2 at Manchester City isn’t benefiting Zack’s career. He needs to request a loan or permanent move where he can have a better chance to play consistently. 

GK, Ethan Horvath, Nottingham Forest

Ethan Horvath and Nottingham Forest are headed to the Premier League after a magical season. Ethan is the clear #2 at Forest behind Brice Samba. It has been reported that Forest is looking to move Samba, most likely because they are looking to sign a proven Premier League keeper. It would be better for Horvath and the USMNT if he was loaned out where he could be the #1 option, but I just don’t see that happening.

LB, Jonathan Gómez, Real Sociedad 

Real Sociedad B is getting relegated to the third tier of Spain. That’s not a great level for JoGo. Will he get a chance to have a role on the first team or will they look to loan him to a lower table LaLiga club, or potentially a LaLiga 2 club? A strong start to the 2022-2023 season at a good level could be enough to get JoGo into the September camp with an opportunity to take the LB2 job for the World Cup.

RB, Brandon Bye, New England Revolution

Brandon is having a very strong season in New England and has had a couple of nice seasons in the MLS. He is in the prime of his career and has yet to get a cap for the United States. Like DeJuan Jones, the time is now for Bye to test his skills overseas. There is reported interest from Fulham and Lille.

CB, Chris Richards, Bayern Munich

Chris Richard’s 2022/2023 club situation is one of the most important to monitor. Bayern is losing a starting CB, but will Chris earn the right to be a starter? It has been reported that Bayern is going to give Chris a strong look this offseason to have a bigger role with Bayern this year. If that does not manifest itself, Chris has options elsewhere for a loan or permanent deal in Crystal Palace, Southampton and Hoffenheim, where he has had two successful loan spells in the last two years.

CB, Kik Pierie, Ajax

After a solid year with Twente last season, this year has been brutal for Kik. He was injured for the majority of the season and struggled once he returned to the squad. He will be back with Ajax this summer and likely looking for a move. 

CB, Matt Miazga, Chelsea FC

Matt’s loan to Alavés was not a successful one. He had some bright moments early in the year, but lost his starting job and never really recovered. He’ll be heading back to London this summer and looking for a new loan or permanent deal. Is it time for him to come back to the MLS? Or does he go back to the Netherlands or Belgium where he has had the most success?

DM, Johnny Cardoso, Sport Club Internacional

So far this season, Johnny has taken a step back in minutes for Internacional. There has been reported interest in Johnny from the MLS and perhaps some interest from Europe. Maybe it’s time for a new start where he can potentially have a better opportunity to play more and develop?

AM, Malik Tillman, Bayern Munich

Malik is the newest dual-national player to commit to the USMNT and he received his first chance with the team in the June camp. Malik showed flashes of talent, but also looked like a player that needs more senior minutes at the Club level. Malik made his senior team debut with Bayern, playing in both cup, league and European competitions, mainly because of injuries in the squad. i would love to see him get a loan to a lower table Bundesliga team, perhaps one of the newly promoted clubs Schalke or Werder Bremen?

AM, Richard Ledezma, PSV Eindhoven

Richie had a very challenging season in 2021/2022 coming back from a torn ACL injury. He throttled between Jong PSV and the first team, but saw very few minutes with PSV. He did end the season with the longest run-out of the season and contributed his first goal. This is a big summer for Richie. His chances of doing enough to displace Paul Arriola for a World Cup spot, in Gregg Berhalter’s eyes, will be very difficult, but a great preseason with PSV and a key role with the prestigious club would turn some heads. If it does not look like Richie is going to be a key player for PSV next year, he needs to look elsewhere so that can develop on the pitch.

AM, Caden Clark, New York Red Bulls

2022 has not gone to plan for Caden Clark. Many thought he’d be a locked in starter for NYRB this year, but he was used as more of a super sub role early in the year. That was going okay and then he injured himself at a US U20 camp. He is just now getting back into fitness and playing for NYRB. It’s been reported that he isn’t happy with how much time he is getting and that RB Leipzig likely isn’t as well, so it’s possible that Caden goes to Europe this summer on a different loan deal where he can get a fresh start. I think that might be good for him. I am not sure the current NYRB system suits his game very well.

WING, Alex Mighten, Nottingham Forest

Alex Mighten, along with Horvath will get his first chance in the top league in the world. Mighten started the season as a starter when Forest was really struggling. He then was moved to the bench where he was regularly used. In the middle of the season Alex was injured and when he came back he had more diminished role. Alex will train and fight to become a more utilized part of the attacking rotation next year and Forest will likely look to make a lot of moves to strengthen their roster as they head to the Premier League for the first time in decades. It’s possible Mighten gets loaned to a Championship club where he has a better chance to develop on the pitch.

ST, Matthew Hoppe, RCD Mallorca

I don’t think any 2021 Summer transfer turned out worse than Hoppe to Mallorca. He has had 127 minutes in 4 appearances in LaLiga. I was very optimistic about this transfer when it happened, but clearly I was misguided. There have been reports of MLS interest, which I think would be fine, though I think he can play at a higher level. The most important thing for Matthew is to go somewhere and play and build his confidence back.

ST, Folarin Balogun, Arsenal FC

Folarin Balogun is a high priority dual-nat that is currently focused on England, but Gregg is in communication and will continue to leave the door open. Flo received his extended opportunity with a senior team during his loan to Middlesbrough. It was up and down but he showed flashes of his potential. He’ll be heading back to Arsenal this summer and he will most likely look for a new loan deal. There are rumors that Fulham is interested on a loan with an option to buy. 

PLAYERS WHO SHOULD MOVE FOR OTHER REASONS

RB, Reggie Cannon, Boavista FC

Reggie lost his right-back job last season and was moved to right center-back in Boavista’s back three formation. This role is better suited for his skillset right now, but it’s not helping him develop his offensive game. Boavista has also been in financial crisis for a few years. I am not sure if there is a strong market for Reggie, but I do think a move could help him develop a bit more. As of right now, his offensive limitations are limiting what he can bring to the USMNT. 

Players who have been rumored to be on the move that I think should stay put

RB, Sergino Dest, FC Barecelona

Xavi loves him. Xavi doesn’t rate him. Xavi rates him. Xavi wants to sell him. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Barcelona, but what we do know is Serg loves being a Barca player and he is going to fight like hell to be an important player there. It has been recently reported that Dani Alves will not return to Barca, but it’s possible that they are still looking to acquire Cesar AzpilicuetaI — thought I don’t think he would be tough for Dest to fend off for playing time. I think he should stay and continue to fight. 

RB, Shaq Moore, Tenerife 

Shaq Moore is the only American that hasn’t finished his European season. He has one more match to try and help Tenerife get promoted to LaLiga. They play at home in the second leg of the promotion final after a 0-0 draw on the road. MLS clubs tried to acquire Shaq during the Winter transfer window, with the most publicized club being Nashville. Those reports have persisted and it sounds likely that Shaq will be heading to the MLS no matter what happens in the promotion match. I do wonder if Tenerife and Shaq’s position would change if they win and get the promotion to LaLiga. Do they feel Shaq could help at that level? Shaq may never get another chance to test himself at that level. We’ve seen how tough it is as a bottom level club in a top competition. I don’t feel strongly either way. I do think Shaq is still in the mix for a World Cup spot after underwhelming performances in the June window by Reggie Cannon, DeAndre Yedlin and Joe Scally, so a summer transfer to the MLS where he can show what he can do might be the best move for him. 

DM, Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig

Tyler’s playing time took a significant dip when Tedesco took over midseason and pivoted to a more composed, possession based system. Many think Tyler should move on where he is more likely to be an every day starter. I agree, but his place on the USMNT is not in question, so I’d prefer he stayed at Leipzig, try to boost his stock at the World Cup, and then move in the winter. It’s also not the worst thing that Leipzig need him to be better in ball progression to get more time, that is where he needs to develop. As of now, Tyler has been linked to Leeds United and Sevilla. I really like the Sevilla option. 

CM, Weston McKennie, Juventus FC

Juventus is about to sign Paul Pogba, does that mean Weston is on his way out? Not necessarily, though there has been off and on reported interest from Champions League bound, Tottenham. Wes was in the midst of the season of his career before his leg injury. I’d like to see Wes stay with Juventus and play alongside Pogba. That midfield would be fun as hell and I trust Wes to fight and win minutes no matter who is there. 

WING, Christian Pulisic, Chelsea FC

I do not enjoy Chelsea fans as much as the next guy or gal, but they are a top club and I do not prioritize Pulisic being an every match starter. I prefer the load management he gets at a super club like Chelsea. Would I be upset if he want to say, Liverpool, absolutely not. Anytime you can play for a manager like Klopp, you do it, but if Pulisic does stay at Chelsea through to the winter window, I would be fine with it. 

WING, Konrad de la Fuente, Olympique Marseille

Konrad has immense talent, but does Konrad have the drive to be great? I have no idea, but he had an up and down first season as a consistent senior player and there were reports of a lack of work ethic and desire. Marseille will be in the Champions League next year and I would prefer Konrad work his tail off to get back in the rotation at the club that gave him his first big chance. 

ST, Haji Wright, Antalyaspor

Haji’s successful loan ends with Antalyaspor at the end of June at which point he will return to SönderjyskE, but that is almost certainly temporary. Antalyaspor will certainly be interested in retaining Haji’s services on a permanent move, but there will likely be competition. It’s been reported that one of the biggest clubs in Turkey, Galatasaray, has interest and will likely drive the price up. I would love to see Haji return to Antalyaspor and build off of a career year with one of the more promising young managers in Europe, Nuri Sahin. 

 

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Club News

Luca de la Torre

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In 2021, many USMNT players have upped their game to where every camp roster can be seen has having anywhere between 5 and almost a dozen “snubs” (depending on how mad online you get). One such player that has upped their game in my eyes has been Luca de la Torre. As someone who watches a lot of Heracles Almelo over the past 2 seasons, I think he has shown a skillset that could contribute to the USMNT either off the bench or as a rotational starter. Some might ask “Really? Heracles? You watch that club?” and the answer is yes. I think it started with about a month’s stretch of matches where there wasn’t a “top five league” USMNT pool player with a match the same time as Heracles, so I tuned in and kept tuning in.

RECENT HISTORY AND POSITION CHANGE

I’m always going to be perplexed why there wasn’t more hype around Luca post-2017 u20 World Cup. 1 goal and 4 assists (legit assists, too) are good numbers. Remember all the hype Josh Sargent had during that u20 WC? Luca assisted half of his goals. But there was no loan in the works or seemingly no interest of a transfer, just back to the Fulham reserves with an occasional cup appearance. He had small injuries here and there, but it feels like Fulham either didn’t take care of him or his agent told him to stay put. This isn’t a shot at the club as a whole, because some excellent players have come from there. But this specific situation doesn’t feel like either one of the parties did as much as they could.

He showed up to Heracles Almelo on a free transfer as a winger in the summer of 2020 after his Fulham deal ran down, but manager Frank Wormuth (former German u20 coach and DFB Head of Coach’s Education courses for 10 years) quickly decided his future was as an 8 and worked with him to catch him up to the level needed. He started lining up as an 8 around December 2020 and had positive outcomes. Some work was needed defensively, but the on-the-ball and in-possession things were clicking immediately.

RETURN TO THE USMNT AND TURNING DOWN THE GOLD CUP

His work did not go unnoticed. He received a callup from Gregg Berhalter to the March 2021 USMNT camp and looked very good in both substitute appearances. The calls for a look in the summer got louder but club commitments made things complex.

Heracles started preseason *very* early. One of the earliest in all of Europe. They played a dozen preseason matches. If Luca went to the CONCACAF Nations League, he would’ve had a 15-day offseason after the Costa Rica match instead of a 5-week offseason. Going to the Gold Cup meant he would’ve missed the majority of Heracles’ preseason and potentially lost his spot in the starting XI. I don’t think it would’ve happened, but the only opinion that matters here is Wormuth’s and he’s very particular about certain details for his team.

HERACLES’ CURRENT SEASON

The preseason for Heracles didn’t start well as they lost their center back captain to crosstown rival FC Twente. When asked, Wormuth bluntly said “They could pay him more and we could not.” A 4-3-3 against PSV on opening day resulted in a 2-0 loss. Wormuth quickly switched to a 4-2-3-1 and it started to look better. Had some good results early, but the team has had mostly bad luck and poor finishing since their draw against Ajax.

Leading attacker Rai Vloet was suspended by the club while under police investigation for being involved in an alcohol-related car crash (where a 4-year-old died). He was reinstated on January 10th with the investigation still ongoing. 2nd best attacker Ismail Azzaoui tore his ACL for the third time and is out for the season. And Delano Burgzorg, who is a very-frustrating player to watch but is still their leading scorer, is out “until early 2022”. That’s a lot of goals (22) from last season that have been unavailable.

LUCA’S CURRENT SEASON

We are one match over the halfway point in the Eredivisie season, so it would be a good time to evaluate Luca de la Torre’s performance so far.

On matchday 1 he played what looked to be a “rotating 6” with Kiomourtzolgu in a 4-3-3 and it didn’t go well. Heracles were without their best defender, Marco Rente, and had to play their true 6, Lucas Schoofs, at CB. Not optimal when playing PSV in your first match. But over the course of the season, he’s typically played in a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1. However, he has recently been the “10” for the club through multiple attacking injuries. His style is one of progressing the ball quickly to the wingers/strikers or combine with the fullbacks when the play has slowed down. There are many passes I’ve seen him give to left back Giacomo Quagliata and thought “that would be a money pass to Antonee Robinson” as many of those passes have put an overlapping fullback into a good position of attack. Recently, a long switch to LB Quagliata and back heel to RB Fadiga in the match vs. Groningen are great examples of Luca making passes that put players in positions of strength.

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As far as *who* he has completed the most passes to, Quagliata and Fadiga are #1 and #3 on the list with CB Knoester at #2 The passes to Knoester are usually to either reset a possession or a quick switch. The left-footed Knoester is one of the better ball-progressing CBs in the league, so it’s rarely a pointless back pass from de la Torre. He does well to position himself as cover when the fullbacks are released, especially on the left side.

For a box-to-box player, the numbers are all there. High number of duels, dribbles, and has a lot of distance covered.

Current Eredivisie rank:

Duels won – 21st with 97 (10th among midfielders)

Dribbles completed – 9th with 31 (73.8%), 2nd in % completed among those w/ 30+ attempts.

Distance covered – 2nd with 209 kilometers while playing the lowest number of minutes of anyone in the top 10 (Note: the distance data from the Cambuur match hasn’t been added yet).

Pass completion in opponent’s half (min. 500 total passes) – 7th at 84% and is the first player not from the top 3 of PSV, Ajax, or Feyenoord.

MORE STATS

Now to really get in the weeds, he has an Open Play xA of 1.64 (ranks 42nd and leads Heracles) and has an xT (Expected Threat) of 1.01 (ranks 77th). Considering his team, good numbers, not great.

However, his xT Through Carries is 0.46, which is 34th in the Eredivisie and above players such as Steven Berghuis, Albert Gudmundsson, Joey Veerman, Frankie Midstjo, and Riechedley Bazoer. He is one of the better midfielders at progressing the ball through carries in the league.

The question I hear most is “If he’s so good, why doesn’t he have any assists?” I made a YouTube video that gives a bit of an answer to that question while showing other things.

Stat site Soccerment gives his overall passing performance a score of 60. Which is good enough for 8th in the Eredivisie. It comes with 8 factors:

Passes own half p90, Pass accuracy own half, Passes opp. half p90, Pass accuracy opp. Half, Long passes p90, Long pass accuracy, Forward passes %, Possession losses p90

This is some good Eredivisie company for a player in the bottom half of the table to be in.

BALL PROGRESSION

His ball progression is impressive in both the eye test and the statistical analysis. Thanks to Robin Wilhelmus, he’s attempted 156 progressive passes with 138 completed (88.5%). Only two of those were in his defensive third. That’s 8.19 progressive passes in the middle and final thirds per 90. Here’s how that number compares among other USMNT midfielders:

de la Torre – 8.19

Acosta – 5.13

Adams – 4.12

Lletget – 3.79

Roldan – 3.66

Busio – 2.67

McKennie – 2.50

Note: The data for Luca is from a Dutch stat site and the other players data is pulled from fbref which doesn’t count the defensive 2/5th of the field. Luca’s numbers don’t count the defensive 1/3, so there’s a 6-7% difference in counting progressive passes via field positioning. It’s not a perfect comparison but it’s the best I can do with the resources I have.

He’s also had 43 progressive runs so far, which is 2.6 progressive runs per 90. He’s had 113 passes or carries into the attacking third in 17 matches, or he gets the ball into the attacking third 6.8 times per match.

So that’s a combined total of 199 progressive runs and attempted progressive passes in 17 matches.

He’s known as a dynamic, ball-progressing 8, but he’s also able to ride out windows of pressure from the other team and defend space or even straight up man mark a player. In the match against Ajax, Berghuis had trouble getting the ball in the right middle third and it’s no coincidence Luca’s role was as the left-sided pivot.

He’s also extremely effective at pressing. He has 388 pressures, which is 23.4 per 90 and he ranks in the 90th percentile in the Eredivisie in pressure regains.

I just gave a lot of numbers because the eye test shows he’s having a good season and the numbers more than back it up.

He’s given away two penalties this season. The one against NEC Nijmegen was not good. Giveaway and untimely/freak-out tackle while down a goal and a man. The one against Vitesse? The more I watch it, the more I’m surprised the official called it. In re-watching the whole match, the official let a lot of physical play go in the 1st half (with an outright shove on Luca by Bazoer) yet called a soft hand from behind on the shoulder in the 18. On one hand, you can’t give attackers the chance to go down, yet the call didn’t go with the tone the official set both before and after the penalty.

As far as Heracles goes

They’ve been very unfortunate with injuries, but even when healthy they’ve had trouble simply putting the ball in the net. The most recent match v. Cambuur is their season in a nutshell. 3.52 xG for Heracles vs. 0.44 xG for Cambuur and it ended in a 1-1 draw.

In matches against Vitesse, Heerenveen, PEC Zwolle, Sparta Rotterdam, and Go Ahead Eagles, they earned 1 point. Why is that significant? Heracles’ xG for those matches is 5.61 to their opponents’ 5.39. While it’s a somewhat small sample size for xG, the fact they have just 1 point and couldn’t snatch a win at some point shows their performance in front of goal.

The 2nd half of the season will be interesting to watch. He’s one of Heracles’ top performers (CB Rente being the other). There have been pundits taking notice of what he can bring and there’s a feeling he’s on the radar of most Eredivisie clubs.

Heracles have an option for another year, but in the Eredivisie that would mean a 25% salary increase. Heracles supporters think it will happen and want it to happen. I do think he will be valued as long as he’s there. When Heracles lost to the nine men of Go Ahead Eagles 4-2, that was the only match Luca did not play in because of traveling back from the US. After the game, Wormuth said “We did not look like a real team in the last 15 minutes.” The fact Luca was not available 100% factored into that statement being made.

SO…WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE USMNT?

First, I’m not going to turn this into being “anti-This Player”. There are a lot of players who haven’t played particularly well for the USMNT that still get paid a lot of money to play soccer as their job. They make more money in one year than I do in five years. I view that as an overall success in life. Now that I’ve said that…

I personally think Luca can do a job better than other players who’ve had well over 1k minutes in the Berhalter era and for that, I’m disappointed he only has 13 WCQ minutes. I think going forward he should be in the WCQ group (hopefully as early as January). I think he would be a great off-the-bench option if midfield ball progression isn’t happening with the starters. Even if he doesn’t do anything that wows the crowd, he’s fairly ball secure and usually keeps the play moving within 3 touches. And he knows some of the core from the CONCACAF grind of the u17 and u20 level. He spent time in u17 residency with Pulisic, Adams, and McKennie. Familiarity is already there.

He’s also shown he’s fine defensively. 6.87 tackles, interceptions, and passes blocked per 90. He’s much better at off-the-ball positioning to make the ball go elsewhere this season, too. When he wins the ball, he does so in a way that either gets it up the field quickly or gets it to the LCB so he can start the possession.

If you asked for one sentence why Luca de la Torre should be in the WCQ picture moving forward, it would be: “A ground-covering 8 that constantly looks for quick progressive passes to overlapping fullbacks.”

Strengths

  • Plays quickly
  • Combines with fullbacks well
  • Covers lot of ground; Called “Superfit” among TV pundits in the Netherlands
  • Can hold the ball until a progressive opening develops
  • Can do a job defensively and in the press

Weaknesses

  • Finishing
  • Can be “too safe” w/ passing in the opening 10-15 minutes
  • Struggles in duels against players much larger than him
  • Rarely defends set pieces, usually in a one or two-man wall or cleans up outside the 18 on corners

 

If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find Eredivisie stats since they are harder to find than the top 5 leagues. The original idea of this article is to help those USMNT supporters that don’t watch Heracles Almelo weekly. And since the Venn Diagram of USMNT supporters and Heracles supporters is basically two separate circles except for me, I figure I’d get to writing. Thank you @lambertsmarc, @RobinWilhelmus, @JohnSpaceMuller, and @CarlonCarpenter for all their help with statistical data and how I can/should interpret it.

 

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