As everyone enters the New Year with a spring in their step and an eye towards the future, it is time for New York Red Bulls fans to get to know Mael Corboz, the former Rutgers, Maryland, and academy midfield king.
Who is Mael Corboz? A scouting report
Born: September 6th, 1994 - Mobile, Alabama
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 165 lbs
Mael Corboz joined the New York Red Bulls U18 academy team in his senior year at the Pingry School. After attending Pingry, Corboz went onto Rutgers University. Here he dazzled everyone, recording 3 goals and 7 assists, while being named as the team MVP as only a freshman, and named team captain going into his sophomore year. He had a successful sophomore year at Rutgers, before transferring to Maryland at the end of the year in search of a new challenge. At Rutgers, Corboz started all 35 games over his two years, scoring 10 goals, and assisting on 13 more.
Corboz, being a transfer student, is a rarity on the soccer powerhouse that is Maryland, however, he continued to excel in his junior and senior years of college, scoring 12 goals and recording 15 assists over 45 games for Maryland. Much like other the other homegrown players signed this year, Corboz featured for New York's U23 team during their NPSL Championship win in 2014, and PDL finals run in 2015.
A midfielder by trade, Corboz featured mainly as a #10 for Maryland and Rutgers, driving the offense forward with his passing and runs from deep. Unlike Chris Thorsheim, Corboz's offensive game doesn't revolve around these driving runs, and is instead supplemented by them.
In Corboz's case, his main weapon is his passing ability. He sees the passing lanes of the game well, and consistently hits his man, be with simple tick-tock passes, or a complex ball. A real skill that Corboz possesses is his ability to hit long, floated, over the top balls to men on the run. He does so consistently, and with an accuracy that is unexpected for player at the college level. He also displays a versatility in these balls, as he is able to utilize them as long, sweeping, cross field balls, that change the field of play, as well as throwing a ball over the top, immediately changing a play on the back foot into a scoring chance.
On the ball Corboz is confident. Not cocky in that he dawdles and overplays on the ball, but confident in that he prefers to play his way out of trouble instead of booting the ball long or out of play. Corboz maintains strong close control, proficient with both feet, though his right foot is clearly stronger in most facets of the game. His footwork plays a big role as he can pull out a number of different little tricks to get out of pressure and into the open field. Be it a Cruyff or L turn, or a cross body foot chop, Mael Corboz keeps with him a bag of tricks at all times. Much like Lloyd Sam, Corboz loves to use a little chop with his opposite foot to set himself on his right foot for a cross or shot, opening up the field ahead of him while also masking the deficiencies of his left foot.
Additionally, his footwork, when combined with his intelligence on the field, opens many new avenues for Corboz. He thinks ahead of the game, knowing how and where he wants to take his first touch before even receiving the ball. This, in turn, opens up much more space for Corboz to play into, giving him a greater vision of the field and more time on the ball to pick a pass. For a midfield play maker, time and space is key, and Corboz's ability to create it with ease is a significant addition to his game.
The strong right foot that allows Corboz to hit passes with such consistency also translates to his free kick ability. For the Terrapins, Corboz took free kicks, corners, and penalties, displaying an icy calm in the last task. He is composed and consistent on his penalties, always slotting them home side footed and with plenty of power, usually into the lower left corner of the net. From the dead ball position Mael Corboz is capable of generating plenty of whip and speed with his set pieces. The accuracy on his crossing appears to be in need of some work though, as the ball is often too close to the keeper. Honestly though, this could be due to coach's instructions, as he may want to pack the area around the keeper and put the ball in the mixer.
Overall, Corboz is a #10, who's capable of playing deeper in the midfield when asked. However, he's not outright attacking enough, not multifaceted enough, to be a true 10 at the pro level, and as such shades towards a #8, much likes Sean Davis. This in turn presents a new set of problems, as the idea of playing Corboz in the back 2 of the midfield reveals Corboz's weaknesses as a player. He simply doesn't track well enough or have the positioning to be an 8 in New York's midfield setup. As the best creator on the team throughout college, Corboz has been pampered into not having to do the two-way play and defensive heavy lifting that would be required of him in New York's high press system.
Defensively, Mael Corboz is a capable tackler and okay at tracking runs, but his positioning as play turns prevents him from being top quality in either category. Additionally, the style of his game has led him to not possess the innate defensive hunger, the need to win the ball back as soon as it's lost, that made New York's midfield so proficient this past year.
Is Corboz capable of developing these aspects of his game and fitting into New York's Gegenloving midfield? Completely, but he'll certainly need to evolve as a player before he is ready to be starting regularly New York.