The first weekend of Bundesliga is done and dusted, we watched our pals across the ocean play and saw some fun results. Soccer, or to be more to the point, fussball was and is back. Hopefully you’ve read our prior pieces on RB Leipzig and learned a bit on the surface of what the club is and some of the names and places associated with them.
Yet it is tough to impose any sort of fandom without being able to identify with those on the field doing the work. We’ve covered the badge and the Red Bull emblem, but what about the men playing for it. With the similar tactical attitudes of the two clubs in mind, it was fun to compile a list of some of Leipzig’s key men to tell you who they are and to compare them to similar players on the current roster of your 2020 New York Red Bulls.
Timo Werner (forward)
One of the most talented strikers in the Bundesliga, young Timo Werner has been the straw that stirs the drink when it comes to the intense attack that Leipzig have deployed since joining the Bundesliga. Perhaps you may be familiar with Werner if you’ve followed the German national team over the past few years, with him having featured on the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup winning side, winning the tournament’s golden boot trophy.
Comparable RBNY Player: Tom Barlow
Barlow, who is a few months older than Werner, holds similarities in his style of play if you are looking for a comparison. Both are fast, powerful forwards who can thrive on the break running straight at a panicked defense. While neither are going to do all the dirty work on defense, their pressure and pace allow them to wreak havoc on any back passes that don’t have that extra oof. Barlow has even managed a better goal rate per games played than Werner, across his current professional career. Albeit with a smaller sample size.
Yussuf Poulsen (forward)
The heart and soul of the Leipzig attack, and the longest-tenured player currently with the club, Poulsen has been pounding away in Leipzig since the 3. Liga days. The Danish international is always willing to do whatever it takes on the attack and his tireless energy and skill at implementing the controlled chaos of the RB press has made him invaluable. Still barely entering his prime and turning twenty six in June, Poulsen has seen it all and succeeded in every task given to him by successive managers.
Comparable RBNY Player: Alex Muyl
Could there be another? Much of what Poulsen has been asked to do for Leipzig, Muyl has been asked to do in New York. Alex has been at the forefront of the high-press movement that Jesse Marsch sought to implement once he took over in 2015. Like Poulsen, Muyl’s primary gift is his relentless engine and ability to run down others and exploit breaks for his teammates. Neither Poulsen nor Muyl have been prolific attackers over the course of their history’s with their respective teams, but they’ve never had to be.
Marcel Sabitzer (winger)
Another long term servant of RB Leipzig, Marcel Sabitzer has helped the team rise up with dependable and consistent performances holding down the right wing on the attack. Capable of creation and scoring, Sabitzer has been forced into a more versatile role in midfield this year but his preferential spot has been the right wing. This current season has seen the Austria international break out into double digit goals for the first time in his entire professional career.
Comparable RBNY Player: Florian Valot
In a perfect world, we’d be talking about how the production of these two would be near mirror images. Instead, we’ve been forced to lament the unfortunate injury issues suffered by Valot across his tenure with the senior RBNY squad. On his day, Valot can be the best player on the pitch and has turned in two fantastic shifts on the right this season before the situation altered. His creative vision and clinical finishing helped RBNY jump start to their record setting 2018 season, and for that and his tenure in USL, he looks most likely to replicate what Sabitzer does in New York.
Willi Orban (defender)
The Hungarian international is currently squad captain in Leipzig and has been a stalwart custodian of the backline since 2015. Orban has shown a consistency and level headed approach during his time in the squad as well as an eagerness to join and integrate, believing in Ralf Rangnick’s message. Sidelined for the majority of the 2019-20 season due to injury, Orban is often organizing and setting up Leipzig’s defense and in his absence the team has carried on, but recent fixtures have seen the backline waver. On the bench for the last fixture against Freiburg, it is hoped Orban will be back on the field for the end of the campaign.
Comparable RBNY Player: Aaron Long
While not the captain of the Red Bulls, Aaron Long has been the same stable and directing player. Long is another case of a player buying in and turning heads with their performance, and much like Orban, had transitioned from defensive midfield into making himself a talented and competent center back. Both Long and Orban missed swathes of their seasons with injury and are keen to make a comeback into a squad calling out for their leadership and ability to defend in big game situations.
Christopher Nkunku (forward)
Nkunku has been a welcome revelation in his first season at RB Leipzig. The French youth international, eligible to represent both France and DR Congo on the senior level, was brought into the fold from French titans Paris Saint-Germain in an unusual move for Leipzig. Normally Leipzig pride themselves on trawling throughout lower leagues or smaller clubs to fill out their roster of prodigies. Nkunku was a different signing, coming from a much larger team and being already a made man in some regard. It’s lucky for them that they did, Nkunku has been all over the field and performing whatever task is required and doing it at a star making level. Be it as a traditional 10, or filling out across the attack whenever required.
Comparable RBNY Player: Kaku
Nkunku reminds me of what we saw from Kaku at the height of his powers in the halcyon days of 2018. A young star brought in from an established brand who was ready and willing to do anything the club needed to push forward and dominate the attack. While Nkunku has been utilized in different formations and positions to a level that we haven’t seen with Kaku, the ability and potential as well as the human quality of excitement is the drawing point for me.
Tyler Adams (midfielder)
Comparable RBNY Player: Himself! You had watched him play with our club since 2015 (if you loved yourself some RB2)
The fresh faced youth that we as a fanbase fell in love with for his crunching tackles and situational awareness is now becoming a man. Adams joined RB Leipzig after the record setting 2018 season and hasn’t looked back since. Although beset by injuries throughout his tenure in Saxony, Adams has never once looked out of place on the field when deployed by Ralf Rangnick or Julian Nagelsmann. Recently you may have seen Tyler Adams filling in as a wingback/fullback but overall Adams is still fulfilling the same role you remember him performing while he patrolled the half way line in Red Bull Arena.