In the last match of the USL Championship regular season, Loudoun United FC snapped their three-game losing streak, in which they allowed 13 goals with no goals of their own, by drawing Charleston Battery away from home. Loudoun United played in a 4-3-3 formation in this match and played many young players, the most notable being Matai Akinmboni, Theodore Ku-Dipietro, and Tyler Freeman. These three all had notable performances to end the season—Ku-Dipietro dominated the middle channel on the attack creating both on and off ball and Freeman was an immediate threat from the wing after subbing on for Akinmboni, who I analyzed below.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, rewatch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: United States
- Age: 16 (15 at the time of the game)
- Date of birth: 17/10/2006
- Club: DC United
- Career: DC United
- Position: Left Back
- Preferred foot: Left
- Other Position: Center Back
Matai Akinmboni made the third youngest debut in MLS history this season for DC United. But on this night, he started for their second team at left back and was subbed off for more offense at half time. Akinmboni is a natural center back, so he was playing out of position in this match, and it was noticeable. His towering 188 cm frame stood out on the wing and used it well. Akinmboni had a good knowledge of how to use his length and preferred that over physicality in duels. His length also translated to long strides which showed in his above average pace. Altogether, Akinmboni has the physical profile you want at center back already.
The tall academy graduate’s defensive duties kept him active on his left wing and in the box. Akinmboni kept good position and stuck to his line, ready to cover or rotate. The Loudoun United back line was narrow and deep and aimed to keep its young core safe. This goal was achieved aside from the equalizer allowed late. Akinmboni’s solid defensive play was key to this. In the first half he was solid defending in 1v1s. He used his length and good positioning with bend to keep the attacker moving back, eventually sticking his foot in for a physical stand tackle or forcing an off balance back pass. One time his use of length did not work along the wing and pushed his marker forward into more space to put in a dangerous cross in the box. When defending in the box, Akinmboni was calm and attentive. His good positioning worked well in and around the box, too, by getting in the way of passes with good anticipation making interceptions and making near blocks, affecting ball trajectory along the way. Akinmboni cleared the ball when needed and got good distance. He did this with his head as well and used his height to be dominate in the air in this match.
Distributing the ball, Akinmboni was decent with both feet in short and intermediate distance passes. He was mostly left-footed, though, and preferred his dominant foot when dribbling and passing. He had a few mishits down the left to begin the match but got going and was very accurate the rest of the way, too. It seemed like he was suffering growing pains as such a young player out of the academy and in an unfamiliar position. But Akinmboni improved with time and became easily one of the better defenders out there. He played a mainly defensive role and stayed back wide in the midfield to support during attacks. This maximized his passing range and minimized his potential to make mistakes trying to be technical on the ball. His technical ability with the ball at his feet under pressure was inconsistent at best. Akinmboni played within himself, though, and had a solid half of offense wide left.
Rating – A1
Matai Akinmboni had a nice performance out of position at left back. At only 15 and already not just playing but competing against grown men in the USL and MLS, the sky is the limit for Akinmboni. He has all the physical traits and base technical skillset to succeed at a senior level in the United States and keep growing more. Akinmboni should get more minutes with DC United next season and establish a starting role with Loudoun United with the performance he had against Charleston. Akinmboni has a trajectory that will surely lead him to European offers after his 18th birthday.