Minnesota United drew 1-1 against Toronto F.C. in MLS action. The match took some time to get going. Toronto F.C. scored a goal early in the second half and then looked to hold on for a gutsy road win. but Minnesota was significantly energised when talismanic playmaker Emmanuel Reynoso made his season debut after an extended period away with unspecified personal issues.
- 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: South African
- Age: 22
- Date of Birth: 20/06/2000
- Current Club: Minnesota United
- Career: Maritzburg United
- Position: Winger
- Preferred Foot: Right
Bongokuhle Hlongwane played as a right-winger in this match. I think the best way to conceive of his role is “wide poacher.” He is very good at appearing unmarked at the back post to get a shot off. This is where most of his shots come from. He is tall for a winger, at 6’0 which further helps him to be a presence in the box. Since he starts from a wide position he can physically bully smaller fullbacks. In this match, he was playing directly against the 5’6 Kobe Franklin and was able to bully him a bit at the back post.
However, in possession, he is a bit limited. He is not that effective as a dribbler. He certainly runs at defenders a lot and always looks menacing. But he struggles to keep the ball under control when faced with pressure. He did pull off one nice dribble in this game but that seemed like it was more through sheer perseverance than any untapped ability. Hlongwane has some passing ability. He did a good job of linking up with teammates with quick 1-2s around the box. But he is not going to split a defence open on his own. Hlongwane puts a lot of defensive work in. He presses defenders, tracks back to make tackles, and on several occasions put his body on the line to block shots.
Could Hlongwane play at a higher level? Perhaps. There is always use for guys who work really hard and have strong off-the-ball movement. But I don’t know if he quite has what it takes to be in a top-5 league. He could certainly be useful to clubs in Europe that are at a similar level to MLS. I think big clubs in those leagues would do well to draw talent from MLS on the principle that good performances by a player in a league with relatively even teams should only improve when that player is on a team that is much stronger than all of their opponents. But the relatively high wages in MLS mean only a thin stratum of clubs would be able to tempt players away.
- Nationality: South Korean
- Age: 21
- Date of Birth: 01/04/2002
- Current club: Minnesota United
- Career: Suwon Bluewings, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Grasshoppers (loan)
- Position: Striker
- Preferred foot: Right
Sang-Bin Jeong played as a centre-forward in this match. However, he is much more of a facilitator than he is an out-and-out goal-scorer. Jeong frequently drops very deep into the midfield to get on the ball. He is very good at being a pivot point for the attack. He has a strong first touch and is surprisingly strong for someone who is only 5’8 and 159 pounds. This makes him very good at holding up the ball, even against much larger opponents. He can then turn and make outlet passes or run at defenders.
Jeong is a reasonably strong dribbler with strong technical skills to go with his first touch. Here is where things get a little shaky. Jeong’s end product needs some work. It’s not like he produces nothing. But there are a lot of situations where he either failed to get a shot off by not acting quickly enough or took a less-than-ideal shot, snatching at a chance too soon. Better and more consistent decision-making would improve Jeong’s effectiveness tremendously. He has not played a huge amount of competitive football since his move to Europe from Korea, so I suspect with more game time this will improve. Jeong is very quick. Even though he spent a lot of the game dropping into deeper positions, he did still latch on to through balls in behind Toronto’s defence a number of times. He also put in a lot of defensive work, pressing Toronto’s backline and goalkeeper.
If Jeong can improve his decision making I think a successful move back to Europe’s top-5 leagues is a distinct possibility. He is 21, which is a bit late to develop that sort of thing, so it’s far from a guarantee. But all of the technical and physical skills are there to make him a really special player. It’s just a matter of building consistency.