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Opinion: Breaking down the qualities Bryan Reynolds is bringing to Rome

We asked our tactical columnist to run the rule over the newest addition to the Roma squad: American full-back Bryan Reynolds...

Roma's acquisition of Bryan Reynolds is definitely one for the future, for the talented American has evidently got so many of the desired basic attributes that could see him develop into an elite full-back and/or wing-back.

Having impressed heavily in the MLS with FC Dallas throughout his two years in the first team, it is Roma who moved to the front of the queue to bring him to Europe.

While he's still quite raw and has plenty of room for improvement, there's no doubting Reynolds' tremendous potential. Indeed, this is something his manager at Dallas, Luchi Gonzalez, aptly pointed out. 

“I would say some of his best performances are on par with any top right back in the league. And he’s still learning,” he explained.

“He’s still young. He’s still understanding the game tactically, his defensive positioning and his responsibilities without the ball and ball recovery, but certainly with the ball, I think he’s as good as it gets in MLS and he’s still only a 2001 [birth year]. Bryan has shown he was clearly our starter second half of the season, as an ‘01 – that creates that value and that attention or that hype.

“That’s fantastic, and our league needs that, our young players need that.”

To start with his offensive threat, and Gonzalez's comments are spot on, for Reynolds is a force to be reckoned with going forward.

Neat and tidy on the ball, his proficient first touch and control serve him with a fine foundation to wreak havoc on the dribble. Having started out as a winger, this shines through, as he loves driving at opponents and looks very comfortable doing so.

Playing as a right back often provides him with acres of space to run, with him especially dangerous in such scenarios, where he can use his blistering pace to quickly join attacks and be isolated against his man.

Aside from beating opponents using his electric speed and acceleration, he's shown he can outfox them with his slick skills too, which include clever body feints, shimmies, stepovers, hesitation moves and agile changes of direction.

Enhancing his success in dribbling duels is how he uses his rangy frame to shield and protect the ball from his marker while waiting to find a passing option, draws markers to generate space for others or figuring out if he can turn them.

Handling being pressured admirably, he usually remains calm to execute his actions calmly, which sees him patiently maintain possession before making good decisions.

The aforementioned transfers over to his passing, where he contributes nicely to build up even when under pressure, as he recycles possession cleanly and is happy to provoke pressure to create disconnects that can be exploited by him or a colleague.

Weighting his passes ideally and accurate at hitting his targets, he helps connect and construct play coherently, with his ability to play first touch passes inside to a nearby midfielder especially notable.

Although it seems simple, by quickly finding the free man centrally, this is key towards opening up the far side of the pitch or to penetrate through the middle.

Another basic principle that he performs brilliantly is using one-twos to bypass his opponent. Timing his initial pass well, he then quickly marauds forward to gain momentum over his back to goal facing opponent to then receive the return pass in full flight in an advantageous forward facing posture.

Reynolds' crossing certainly deserves mention, as the prospect is adept at pinpointing targets in the area. A clean ball striker and quick to assess his options, he's set up many a chance with his tailored balls into the box.

Usually beating the first defender, it's impressive how he smartly adjusts how much power, dip, curl and the trajectory of his crosses depending on the situation.

The below images offer fine examples of aptitude in this regard.

The fact he's competent at striking solid cutbacks into the box, can hit raking through balls over the top and crisp switches of play are also important weapons in his distribution arsenal.

Tying it all together with his movement, the US youth international picks his moments shrewdly when to surge forward and join in attacks. Whether overlapping to add width and depth or underlapping to get central after rotating with a winger, Reynolds picks his moments well.

Gaining territory so quickly, his explosive running power sees him get beyond markers and subsequently unbalance stopping structures by forcing defenders out of shape to track him.

This department of his game duly ensures he gets into promising areas to use his progressive ball carrying and passing in and around the final third.

By the numbers, he stacks up handily among MLS fullbacks who played at least 650 minutes, as he recorded 2.70 expected assists per 90 (sixth best in MLS), 6.79 progressive passes p90, 3.03 passes into the final third p90, 1.51 accurate crosses p90 at 48.21% (fifth best), 2.65 progressive runs p90 (sixth best) and 1.91 dribbles p90 at a 59.65% completion rate.

Meanwhile, on the defensive end, there's much to admire too, for the athletic, jet heeled full-back has many traits desired for the modern game.

Blessed with that previously mentioned speed, this enables him to track runners swiftly, recover his position if his man gets the jump on him, support a colleague in need of help or get back quickly to stop or slow down counter attacks.

His mobility and decent reading of the play also holds him in good stead when he's pressing or counterpressing, allowing him to sharply get to his opponent or the ball to stop passages dead in their tracks.

When it comes to applying his interventions, his sizeable frame sees him use his long legs to reach in to recover possession while making him an imposing figure to overcome 1v1.

Furthermore, his size and springy leap means he's competent in aerial confrontations. Due to him usually enjoying a height advantage over traditionally smaller wingers, this gives him an edge more to win his headers, especially in cases when attackers embark on back post blindside runs.

Reynolds does, however, recognise the need to improve defensively, for he can sometimes be flat footed and get beaten when isolated against his marker, thus making it hard for him to move laterally. In addition, he can at times look quite relaxed in his battles and get caught on the back foot. But most of the time he takes up a strong crouched position that allows him to react accordingly.

Although he's not the finished article yet, time is definitely on his side to improve inall areas, which he will surely have to do while working under the tactically meticulous Fonseca.

Given Roma use wingbacks, this should benefit him wonderfully, for it may lessen his defensive responsibilities and highlight his terrific offensive game.

With Roma currently sitting in the top four and with the team reasonably settled, this should mean Reynolds will have plenty of time to adjust to life in a new country while he adapts to Fonseca's demands, a new language and his teammates.

After that valuable time integrating and getting up to speed, Reynolds will offer an interesting option for Roma on the right side of defence.

One for the future as much as the here and now, only time will tell how he fares in the capital, but all the signs point to Reynolds having the attributes required to develop into a dangerous player in the Italian capital.

 
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