As the Daily Mail continues to report the potential move of Matthew Olosunde to Manchester United, perhaps it is time for fans of New York Red Bulls, Manchester United, and the US Men's National Team to get to know one of the top American youth prospects.
Who is Matthew Olosunde? A scouting report.
Born: March 7th, 1998 - Trenton, New Jersey
Height: 6' 1" Weight: 158 lbs
Position: Right Back
Olosunde started as a right winger before converting to right back in recent years; he has played center back occasionally, but rarely features there anymore. He has spent multiple years in the New York Red Bulls Academy, however most of 2015 has been passed at the USYNT Residency Program at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which the likes of Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, and Arón Johannson have gone through.
Prior to coming to the Red Bulls Academy, Olosunde played club soccer for the remarkable Mooch Myernick Academy. The academy was founded in memoriam of the former US Youth National team coach, US Soccer Hall of Fame member, and Trenton native as those closest to him hoped to continue his legacy after his passing of a heart attack in 2006 at the age of 51. The academy serves to provide underprivileged children in the city of Trenton with a quality soccer experience, as well as a positive environment to encourage growth and success off the field. The board of directors includes Rick Meana, director of coaching for New Jersey Youth Soccer, and former USMNT coaches, Bruce Arena (LA Galaxy) and Bob Bradley (Le Havre).
Over the last U17 youth national team cycle, Olosunde has registered 30 appearances, starting 8 out of the 10 games in 2015, and logging the most minutes by any outfield player in the player pool this year in the process. During the 2012-2013 season he played up an age group, as a ‘98 playing with the U15/16 team made up of mostly ‘96s/97s, scoring once. In the 2013-2014 season he played only 5 times in the U15/U16 NYRB academy set up, scoring 1 goal once again, as he missed a large amount of time with youth national team duty. Playing in Florida with the YNT Residency team in 2015, Olosunde met with the New York Red Bulls along with fellow residency player Tyler Adams while the team was in preseason. Tyler Adams chose to sign with NYRB II for 2015, and has recently been promoted to the senior team, while Olosunde ultimately chose to remain with the residency program for the year.
Now what type of player is Matthew Olosunde?
He is one of the top fullback prospects in the US. In fact, it was his consistent and remarkable play at right back that forced Tyler Adams to center defense and then defensive midfield for both club and country, as neither team could afford to not have both players in the lineup.
He is tall for his age at 6'1", which gives him a long, lanky stride. This allows Olosunde to have a very high top speed, but his agility and acceleration is still lacking. He does not possess the same rare, unteachable hip movement that makes Matt Miazga and Tyler Adams so exciting; it allows them to change their momentum and movement at a moment's notice, reacting to fast changes in the play of the game. Unlike those players, Olosunde can occasionally be slow to react to quick switches of play or fast 1-2's that require instant acceleration.
Olosunde is a fullback that is willing to join the attack, as is required of most modern fullbacks, where he prefers to stay very wide. He is more willing to attack on the counter, since the open field allows him to reach and utilize his top speed. Here Olosunde provides a valuable overlapping option that can stretch an already thin defense even thinner. However, once the play is established within the final third he prefers to withdraw to a deeper position. From this deeper position he will rarely offer himself as an option for the midfielders to reset the play, even when the team is maintaining possession. Only when the team resets to the middle third of the field does he re-enter the flow of the game. Olosunde's crossing is average and raw, but that is a technical skill that can be improved with the right coaching and attention.
As far as the defensive side of the game goes, Olosunde is solid in almost all aspects. He is strong in the tackle and possesses above-average positioning, especially for his age. His ability to track runs is superb in the run of play, but he can occasionally lose his marker as the game slows down because he can occasionally be caught flat footed due to his sub-optimal agility. There are a few other holes in his positioning, as one flaw in his game is that he likes to pinch towards his center backs a little too much when the ball is on the other side of the field, which results in him being caught out of position occasionally on a switch of the ball, especially when combined with his aforementioned agility issues. Additionally, one final critique of Olosunde is he is a little quick to turn his back on the play once he thinks the game has shifted momentum, though this issue has become less and less frequent as time has gone on. That last point perhaps hints at the greatest quality any young player can hope for: potential fulfilled by responsiveness to coaching and experience.
Overall Olosunde is an absolutely fantastic player for his age. All of the critiques mentioned are minimal, and can either be fixed, or built around to mitigate those shortcomings. His coaches over the next few years will deeply influence how his current weaknesses are addressed. His strengths - speed, positional sense, and knowledge of his role - are rare for his age, and will serve as a very, very good base to for his further development as a player.
Prognosis: If Matthew Olosunde is given the environment and coaching to develop properly, he could be as good as DeAndre Yedlin is now, by the age of 19. A player in a similar mold to Yedlin, he has a much higher ceiling than any other fullback prospect in the US national team pool, physically and technically, and - based on the current assessment of his attributes and achievements - he would not be out of place playing for a top European club in the future.