US Men's National Team Rising Star: PSV Eindhoven prospect Richy Ledezma

The German Bundesliga has perhaps proven the most popular breeding ground for the United States Men's National Team's future generation. 

Yet, while several of USA's rising stars are learning their trade in Germany, others have chosen the Netherlands as the environment in which they can break through into senior soccer. 

They include Richard Ledezma, the gifted young midfielder who joined reigning Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven at the end of 2018. 

In the latest instalment of our Rising Stars series, we've taken a closer look at Ledezma to discover what kind of player the US Men's National Team have on their hands.

READ MORE: Christian Pulisic and 30 other future USMNT stars

Who is Ricky Ledezma?

Like most Americans around his age, Ledezma has always recognised Europe as the essential springboard to greater things. 

Major League Soccer is in rude health, underpinned by the emergence of talents such as Alphonso Davies and Miguel Almirón in 2018, who were sold by Vancouver Whitecaps and Atlanta United respectively for a combined $49million.  

However, there is an acceptance that while the MLS is thriving, the appeal of well-run European clubs is extremely strong for USMNT starlets looking to make the move that will launch their career. 

And the training and resources available at an elite Eredivisie club like PSV proved irresistible to Ledezma. After all, they have in recent years produced top-level talents like Memphis Depay and Andreas Pereira and in Steven Bergwijn currently possess one of the most exciting young players in European soccer. 

Having started out with Real Salt Lake City, Ledezma quickly established himself as one of America's top prospects. 

The Arizona native broke into the first team at Real Monarchs, Salt Lake's United Soccer League side and scored one goal in his five senior appearances. 

But, having stood out with his passing and composure on the ball, he was invited for a trial with PSV last summer. 

Offered a professional contract in December, we know now that he made a lasting impression.

And the Dutch champions were not the only side to express an interest in his signature. His father, Jorge, recently revealed his son turned down an offer from Catalan giants FC Barcelona to sign for PSV. 

"The scout spoke to me personally and told me that they wanted to take Richard there [to Barcelona]," Jorge told Marca. "He [Richard] was very enthusiastic regarding that possibility, but in the end, we decided, together with his agent, that the best thing for his development was for him to go to PSV.

"We believe that he will receive more opportunities here than in Barcelona."

He's probably right. A prospective move to Barça would excite any teenage soccer star but in choosing PSV he has already shown his is an old head and young shoulders; he picked the club, he feels, will best help him further his career, not merely the biggest club.

Key Stats

Given he is just starting out, insightful data on Ledezma's performances to this point is thin on the ground. 

Luckily, we do have some stats from his time with Real Monarchs. In five appearances he averaged 4.77 passes into the final third and 3.75 passes into the box, illustrating his natural creative tendencies. 

He also averaged 5.45 dribbles per game. Having studied his play, this isn't surprising; Ledezma's long, powerful stride helps him move past opponents without seemingly breaking a sweat. 

Scout Report

An intelligent, well-rounded midfielder, Ledezma is comfortable operating in an attacking role or further back, either as a deep-lying playmaker or in a more box-to-box role. 

He loves linking up with team-mates via a crisp one-two, a move which really helps push the play high up the pitch.

Injury interrupted a promising 2018 though. A foot problem put him on the sidelines for a few months but he has worked his way back to full fitness. 

Now fitter and stronger, he is targeting a big year at club level (although it's unlikely he will break into the senior squad until next season) and on the international front. 

International - USMNT

Speaking of, Ledezma was handed his first international call-up when he was selected for the USA's Under-19s in January 2018. 

However, it wasn't long before he moved up a level, earning his first start for the Under-20s in a 1-0 win over France. He went on to earn a further three caps for Tab Ramos' young Stars and Stripes before injury set him back and forced him out of his country's triumphant CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in November. 

While compatriots Alex Méndez and Ulysses Llanez stole the spotlight at the tournament in Florida, Ledezma is keen to make up for lost time and force his way back into the reckoning ahead of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May. 

Like many of his Under-20 team-mates, Ledezma is eligible to represent Mexico and has remained coy on his long-term international future. While that will be resolved in time, he is determined to help the USMNT Under=20s continue their success with a strong showing at the World Cup in Poland. 

Potential

Not only does Ledezma have a very high ceiling, he's with a club that will foster his talent and develop him as a player. 

While his international future remains unclear, his immediate objective post-injury is to break into the PSV Jong side and, eventually, get to a point where he is an option for senior team coach Mark van Bommel. 

We reckon that's a matter of when and not if though and, when he starts making waves in the Netherlands, we will be watching with interest.  


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