Nashville SC

Boys in Not Gold: Leal impactful in Costa Rica loss

BiNG is back, baby! Very weird that, for the most part, these posts will be about international duty going forward. Today, it’s Randall Leal’s appearance in a 1-0 Costa Rica loss to out beloved United States Men’s National Team.

Randall Leal

Last game: Leal came on at halftime and played 48 minutes in a 1-0 friendly loss for Costa Rica against the United States. He took one shot on goal:

The movement and spacing here are more important than the quality of the shot (which wasn’t great), IMO. It does jump off his foot a bit, but the placement was never going to trouble Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately, he also made the single most-impactful play in the game, chopping down Reggie Cannon in the box. The resulting penalty was converted by Ulysses Llanez for the game’s only score.

Applaud the desire and physical ability to make the tackle. The technique and situational awareness are definite areas for improvement.

There were a couple items that don’t show up on the scoresheet that I want to briefly talk about as well. I’ll start with something that looks like an area of improvement: the first-touch backpasses the popped up on the recipient. This wasn’t the only one, but the most obvious example of it.

Screen Recording 2020-02-02 at 3.09.26 PM.2020-02-03 10_14_29
It’s sort of a nitpick, but this wasn’t the only instance, so I think it’s important.

Mostly, they relate to his tendency to tuck inside and play as a creator (while he was unable to make any serious chances in this one, the skillset is still important as we project to the Nashville SC season). With Nashville SC, he’ll primarily be a “bomb the channel and get behind” winger – or at the very least someone creating from deeper and serving as more a crosser/shooter in the offensive third – but he does have that skillset to get on the ball, control it in traffic, and use his vision to find open teammates.

As the trailing runner, he makes a couple 1-2 passing combinations before moving into a more traditional positioning for a winger. The run that he’s making when the clip cuts was solid, too, though the teammate didn’t find him.

This next one I like a lot because it not only demonstrates his ability to be flexible across the width of the field, but it also shows a bit more of his intelligence defensively and the vision:

He positions his defensive run to take advantage when Servania’s first touch is poor, walls him off and gets on the half-turn, then dribbles through traffic looking for options – with his head up enough to see that one such option falls down and he aborts the pass.

In past Costa Rica games, he’s played as something of a No. 8 in a 4-4-2 (he was a left winger in a 4-2-3-1 for Saprissa, and will likely be the same with Nashville), but here he was a left wing in that same 4-4-2, given the freedom to cut inside while a fullback or CDM replaced him wide, and even play as a second striker as one of the players up top shifted over to the left to cover the position he was running out of.

It’s not exactly a breaking news story, but there’s a lot to like in Leal’s game. We continue to learn that versatility is going to be one of them.


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