USMNT Positional Analysis: Right-Backs

Dating back to last summer, many of us believed that our RB depth was going to be much better than it has been. Sergiño Dest is far and away the most talented of the group and the clear first choice RB. It seemed like Reggie Cannon was solidifying himself as the #2, while DeAndre Yedlin was the reliable veteran that could fill in when needed. Julian Araujo was also viewed as an up and coming RB prospect, but he chose to commit to Mexico. Bryan Reynolds was a player that a lot of people were excited about after signing with Roma. 

Reggie was scheduled to be the starting RB in the Gold Cup, but injuries limited his availability and Shaq Moore was given the opportunity and played well. 

Additionally, Joe Scally, a 19 year old that was not expected to impact Borussia Mönchengladbach, had a very successful start to the 2021 – 2022 season after injuries thrust him into the starting lineup. 

All of these events led to a somewhat jumbled mess and now we have a clear competition for RB2 heading into the summer before the World Cup. 

Look Like Locks

Sergiño Dest (Barcelona)

Without a doubt Sergiño Dest is the starting RB. He’s had some brilliant moments in WCQ, most notably the golazo against Costa Rica and locking up Tajon Buchannon in Canada. He’s also had some not so great moments, but overall, he’s been a real bright spot. His creativity in the attack is a dynamic element that USMNT needs. There is a noticeable gap when he is not in the lineup. The biggest challenge has been his availability. His reemergence at Barcelona is also a reason to be optimistic heading into the World Cup. 

WCQ Stats:
436 minutes played
1 goal
1 assist
3.1 crosses per 90, 33% accuracy 
9.1 dribble attempts per 90, 52.3% success rate
31.79 ground duels per 90, 46.1% success rate

In the Mix

DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami)

DeAndre is one of two players that are in the mix from the 2014 World Cup squad. DeAndre is one of the few “veterans” in the pool and Gregg has relied on that during qualifying. He’s participated in a lot of big matches, including both Mexico matches in WCQ. DeAndre is what he is at this point in his career. He’s not a game changer, but he’s reliable and tough on defense. To me, if none of the younger, more talented RBs emerge over the next several months, Yedlin is your reliable contingency plan that will bring World Cup experience and grit. 

WCQ Stats:
393 minutes played
1 assist
2.52 crosses per 90, 54.5% accuracy 
1.2 dribble attempts per 90, 40% success rate
19.47 ground duels per 90, 62.4% success rate

Reggie Cannon (Boavista)

Reggie has had a pretty rocky past 9 months dating back to the 2021 Gold Cup where he was supposed to be the starting RB, but was limited by a knock. That knock stuck around and limited him at Boavista for the first few months of the season. During that time another RWB emerged and Reggie has since predominantly played at RCB in a three back system. He’s been in and out of the USMNT setup during WCQ and hasn’t stood out, good or bad. Reggie still has a very good chance to make the World Cup roster, but I think it will take a strong finish to this club season and a strong start to make it happen. 

WCQ Stats:
113 minutes played
4.78 crosses per 90, 16.7% accuracy 
0.8 dribble attempts per 90, 100% success rate
13.5 ground duels per 90, 47.1% success rate

Shaq Moore (Tenerife)

Shaq is a very interesting player for me and how his club situation pans out over the next several months will be interesting to evaluate. Shaq impressed me in the Gold Cup. He had a poor performance against Panama in Panama and an impressive performance at home against Panama. His club season has been up and down. He’s been in and out of the starting lineup for a second division Spanish club, Tenerife, who are fighting for a promotion to LaLiga. MLS teams were in hot pursuit of Shaq this winter, but Tenerife wanted to keep him around for the promotion push. What I am curious about is what will happen with Shaq if Tenerife gets promoted? Do they keep him around for LaLiga next year? That would be a great challenge for Shaq. Do they upgrade and that means Shaq pursues MLS interest? If they don’t get promoted, you have to think a move for Shaq is inevitable. 

Like Reggie, Shaq will really need to impress from now until November for him to win a spot on the World Cup roster. Rumor has it that Shaq will head to Nashville this summer, which will give him more of a chance to impress this summer leading up to the World Cup. This is a trend you might see a lot of with players looking to get on Gregg’s radar ahead of the World Cup.

WCQ Stats:
217 minutes played
4.15 crosses per 90, 10% accuracy 
2.1 dribble attempts per 90, 80% success rate
20.3 ground duels per 90, 61.2% success rate

Keep an Eye On

Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

I think it’s fair to say that the number one complaint of USMNT fans, at least on Twitter, is Gregg’s evaluation of Joe Scally. Let’s be real, Joe was ahead of schedule in terms of having an impact in the German Bundesliga. That caught a lot of us by surprise. Joe was called into one camp and apparently Gregg was not impressed, and he hasn’t been called back since. 

I don’t always agree with Gregg’s evaluation of players, but to his credit, he doesn’t usually give up on players forever, especially young players and I think we’ll see Joe get another chance. Anyone can have a bad camp. My hope is Joe gets a chance with USMNT this summer and at that point it is on him to change Gregg’s opinion. He can’t completely rely on his performances in Germany. He has to show up in camp as well. I think he needs one big time performance this summer to have a shot. 

Joe has shown the highest level of play within this group outside of Dest, so hopefully he can rise in the eyes of Gregg this summer.  Gregg usually takes a little longer to get to player evaluations that are aligned with the fanbase, but he does usually get there. Let’s hope that happens here.

Bryan Reynolds (Kortrijk / Roma)

Offensively, Bryan might have the highest ceiling at RB outside of Sergiño Dest. Unfortunately for Bryan, the Roma transfer has not been positive and so Bryan wasn’t able to show Gregg much for the entire first half of the season. Bryan was loaned to Belgian side, Kortrijk and has been a positive player for them. Bryan was invited to December camp, but did not start over Brooks Lennon, which was concerning, but did come in and look bright. 

I would imagine Bryan and his camp is looking for a permanent move out of Roma this summer and with the right move and strong growth, Bryan has an outside chance to make some noise. 

Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United)

I wouldn’t keep my eye on Brooks Lennon because I think he is a pretty limited player and below the quality of the rest of the guys in this group, but he has been called in recently so I feel compelled to have him on the list. 

My way too early prediction: Sergiño Dest, DeAndre Yedlin, Joe Scally