Is the USA the next soccer super power?
Football or soccer, as you call it in the USA, gets more and more popular in the United States. With the likes of Giovanni Reyna, Sergiño Dest or Zack Steffen playing for the biggest clubs in Europe and several top talents playing in the Top 5 leagues on the "old continent", the question is, if the US-boys are able to become the next super power in soccer.
Lukas Brandl gives his debut for Global Soccer Network, analysing three rather unknown talents in the current USMNT, Konrad de la Fuente, Yunus Musah & Antonee Robinson.
Read everything here.
Konrad de la Fuente:
Konrad is a typical winger, providing extraordinary abilities regarding acceleration and speed. This enables him to escape the limited spaces when receiving on the sideline, where he often manages to get behind the back of the opposing defender diagonally. He’s using his first dribble touch thereby very smartly, playing the ball as far as his opponent’s steppingrange and provoking an attempt to get the ball, then accelerating and interrupting this attempt by getting fouled (or actually escaping). This is kind of Konrad’s signature move, he is therefore very useful when positioned wide and being searched when isolated. Unfortunately, this can not be shown well using screenshots, as the scene from the game against AE Prat shows, but there are two scenes from a game vs. Sabadell which can be found on YT.
What has to be mentioned also when analysing his behaviour in possession is his lack of orientation in situations when there are more action possibilities and directions. So, in the following scene, Konrad got the ball in the center in a moment that held a counter possibility, but was a bit overchallenged by the amount of action possibilites, and lost the ball. This is not unusual for him in such settings.
Still, it should not be forgotten that his thrustful and straight dribble style is very beneficial regarding space exploitation out of narrow starting points, and that Konrad still holds a certain amount of movement/direction flexibility, despite being quite linear in general. But, in some situations – again those which contain some kind of openness – he seems to act fatalistically determined, e.g. not being able to decide where to put a flat cross after breaking through, having some very good options. In the scene below, he put the ball diagonally in front of the first CB.
When it comes do defense, Konrad is a player who can excellently be used in high pressing approaches, which is due to his athletical giftedness, but also because of his good awareness for his cover shadow. This lets him oppose the first build up line also spontaneously when e.g. the body position of a player suggests to do so, and without having his back covered. Moreover, Konrad uses these attributes to manipulate his opponent’s decision when (counter-)pressing, using feints and changing directions, as can be seen below.
Here, Konrad pressed from the outside as the player checked his shoulder, but went inside after, aiming for the pass to the CB/GK. To sum up: With Konrad, any team keeps a very good solution to gain advantage out of narrow situations, which he solves reasonably and straightly. His deficits in more open situations probably deny him a more central role. In defense, Konrad is a very powerful and smart pressing player.
Yunus Musah’s most important and most obvious attribute is his comfortableness in tight spaces and his very good, neat ball control. As he is used as a winger in Valencias senior team, he used to play as a central midfielder (even as deep 6) for their U19. Especially in that role, he provided a huge advantage to his teams in build up, being able to attract the ball under pressure, keep it there and open spaces elsewhere.
In this youth league scene against Chelsea, he often picked the ball up very deep, being able to escape Chelsea‘s man-marking. Acting overall well oriented and calmly, he could fulfill a similar role also at senior level. Musah seems to make very reasonable dribble decisions, recognizing when there’s a chance to escape the opponent’s defensive structure, no matter the position.
But as advanced Musah seems to act in possession regarding his age, as
undeveloped his defensive decision making seems to be. Musah is not (yet) able to
locate himself properly in context to his own team’s pressing shape and the
opponents offensive structure, same when pressing as front line and when
For example, he does not recognize that he would be able to raise pressure on Elche’s receiving player, due to his missing awareness of his 6 behind him who closes a diagonal option, and his rightback, who moved up.
A similar situation can be seen in the following scene against Real Madrid, this time defending deep.
In conclusion, Musah holds outstanding abilities in possession, providing advantages in build up, when he is allowed to move and dribble freely. In defense, also in transition moments (O→D), he often struggles to locate himself properly, and therefore hardly gets access to defensive 1v1 situations.
The 23 year old leftback is a very good athlete, especially in terms of speed and
acceleration. These attributes are the main factors that enable him performing his
In possession, this means the omnipresent possibility of support by deep runs from
Robinson, with the reduced risk of a lack in the defensive structure due to his ability
to find his place again in it very fast. When this happens (when his team has to defend
a counter), Robinson tends to closes his inner side very strictly, with an angle that
invites the opponent not just to try to find a way along the outside, but even suggests
him a possibilite of crossing diagonally inside again. This might seem dangerous, but
brings a lot of clarification in the whole defense structure, and because of his
athletical advantages, Robinson barely loses a sprint duel in these situations, but is
able to tackle his opponent. This happens not just when defending counters, but
regularly when defending the opponent winger. His inviting angle can be seen in the
following screenshot, where Fulham did not even defend a counter, as Robinsons body
orientation might suggest.
When his team sits rather deep in defense and the opponent finds a free player on the
wing, Robinson is able to get out of the structure fast enough to force him to play
backwards again. This requires an overall good timing and orientation next to an
permanently attentive stance, which he is able to provide.
As one can see on the next page, he even recognizes the possibility to do this
succesfully when he is not the nearest player to step out of the structure, but still the
best option regarding the current game dynamic.
But as good his overall timing and orientation might be, Robinson sometimes seems
to lack creativity in possession. So, when he gets the ball in build up holding a
forward-oriented position (which he mostly does), he struggles when his seemingly
first plan can not be performed. If the opponent is able to interpret this early enough
and find a good shape against it, Robinson will likely search for a backpass and not
for a forward-oriented „plan B“. Still, if the opponent is not in that shape, he is able to
transfer the ball very fast and directly. The following scene shows Robinson turning
after dribbling forward, when Brentford was able to shift and close his obvious
Another constraint is his clear left-footedness; Robinson seems uncomfortable when
he actually has to create something with his right foot. In the next scene, he decided
to dribble into the center. When doing so, there were some options to play diagonally
with his right foot, but Robinson rather played to his goalkeeper with the left (passing
lane between his own CBs) with the left.
All in all, Antonee Robinson is a leftback with very good athletical attributes, which,
in combination with his direct and forward-oriented stance, enable him to provide
huge advantages in clear situations (such as counters). But as situations get more
open (creativity-requiring), he struggles sometimes.
These are only three examples of great players in the making, currently playing for the USMNT.
Want to know more about these players? Or the US national teams down to the Under 15 level? Contact us via email - firstname.lastname@example.org.