USMNT Rising Star - Reggie Cannon eyeing permanent spot in US squad

By James Nalton, Football Whispers

New United States Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter recently announced his first roster since being appointed to the role.

It's very much an experimental group which tests several uncapped players and some with less than a handful of caps; it’s a chance for those selected to convince their new coach they deserve a place in the side 

Right-back Reggie Cannon will be one of those hoping to secure a regular spot on the roster going forward and, after an impressive season in Major League Soccer, he will be looking to take his career to the next level.

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Who is Reggie Cannon?

Cannon was born in Chicago, IL, but grew up in Grapevine, Texas, where he was first noticed by the FC Dallas Academy.

He won two national championships with the academy before moving to Los Angeles to join UCLA for his freshman season. Having starred for UCLA, Cannon’s move into professional soccer initially saw a big drop in his playing time.

"Everyone wants to go straight from academy to the first team, but a lot of factors go into that," Cannon told MLS

"Personally I wasn't ready to get to that next level professionally, and I think UCLA really helped prepare me in all aspects for that professional career.

"Coming home from college and playing with the academy was kind of a kick in the face. It felt like no-one really believed in me at that time, not even the coaching staff. 

“There was a point where I needed to find and believe in myself, to show that I can get my game to that next level."

It’s at this period of a career that players can fall by the wayside and struggle to break into a pro side on a regular basis. But Cannon was resilient and battled through the tough times when many players might have seen this as rejection and moved onto something else.

“At one point I didn't even believe, it was tough last year. Getting loaned to OKC [Oklahoma City Energy FC] and not even playing there. It was a rough year but I kept in my mind that I had to keep going,” Cannon said.

He made his debut in 2017 against Tulsa Roughnecks in a 2-1 U.S. Open Cup victory on June 14.

This year Cannon's patience and hard work were rewarded; he became an important part of the FC Dallas lineup, becoming first-choice right-back.

He was unlucky to miss out on our MLS team of the Year, almost pipping Graham Zusi, but if he continues improving there’s no doubt he’ll be the standout right-back in the league next season – that’s if he’s not snapped up by the many clubs from other leagues chasing his signature.

Key Stats

Cannon’s stats are good to look at in that they almost immediately show you what he needs to do to take his game to the next level.

In terms of keeping possession, he boasts an 88 per cent pass accuracy which is an impressive figure for a full-back.

Defensively he stands out in one particular area, and he made the third most tackles among defenders in MLS in 2018, averaging 2.8 per 90 minutes.

The area for improvement, as suggested by the stats, is shown in the number of times he was dispossessed — 0.89 times per 90 minutes. This might be because he’s an adventurous full-back who likes to take on the opposition. The flip-side of this is that he also completed an average of 0.95 successful take-ons per 90.

Scout Report

Cannon is right footed, as you might expect given his position, and is tall for a full-back, and even looks like he might be a touch taller than his 180cm billing.

He’s eager to press in the opposing half if asked, and the acceleration which allows him to be effective in this area is also useful when tracking back in defence.

That pressing was even more noticeable when playing as a right wing-back for the USA against Italy, with former interim coach Dave Sarachan opting for a 3-5-2 formation which allowed Cannon to get further forward in attack. 

For his club he’s usually part of a more traditional back four, though this doesn’t mean he isn’t able to get forward in that system too.

Aggressive in the tackle – which can sometimes lead to over-committing – on at least one occasion last season this led to a goal as Cannon motored infield to win the ball, creating a chance for his side by gaining possession in a dangerous area high up the pitch.

International  - USA

Cannon has two senior caps to his name and will now get the chance to add to those in friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica in January as the USMNT begin preparations for their CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign.

There is a potential opening in the squad for a backup or alternative to DeAndre Yedlin – someone Cannon is not dissimilar to in style and will be hoping to emulate.

He has been in the international set-up at youth level, appearing regularly for the under-19s, also turning out at under-17 level.

Now Cannon will be hoping to establish himself as a regular in future squads from, even if not yet a regular in the starting XI. He definitely has the quality, and now the reputation to be included.

Potential

The 20-year-old is already attracting attention from Mexico, as well as from clubs outside North America.

CBS Sports recently reported that a number of Liga MX clubs are interested in Cannon, and several have gone as far as making an offer for the full-back. 

His next move will be important, and what matters most is that he is able to continue to be a regular starter. Moving to a club where he doesn't play regularly could affect his national team chances.

Cannon has the potential to replace Yedlin in the USA lineup, but that moment is still some way off. He has shown in his interviews and the way he carries himself on the pitch that he has a competitive mentality which should lead to a successful career at the top level.

How far he goes could depend on his next move.

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