Chase Gasper is a 24-year-old left-back who plays for Minnesota United in Major League Soccer. The young American has been capped twice for the United States Men’s national team and is touted to become a future star for the national team. His entrance to the league came in 2019 when he was drafted fifteenth in the MLS Superdraft.
His national team journey has spanned the U-18 and U-21 national teams, with nine and twelve appearances respectively. His progression through the national team set up makes Gasper a player that could make a claim for the left-back position in the future. He is certainly a young player to watch.
After coming through the college development system, Gasper is one of the few college players who have a chance to immediately prove himself in MLS. Gasper joins the like of Robbie Robinson as a young professional who made his way to the top level with the help of college soccer. Gasper led the Maryland Terrapins to their 2018 NCAA Division 1 National Championship.
This tactical analysis and scout report will break down Gasper’s strengths and weaknesses in the tactics of the Minnesota United team.
Gasper’s positioning is a key point of emphasis during this scout report. Positioning in football, particularly in the defence, is crucial to one’s success. The defenders need to be in sync with each other to make sure the offside line is not skewed, as well as not leaving any major gaps open for opposition players. In Gasper’s case, his average positioning is extremely high and wide. Despite those adjectives being common among full-backs, Gasper is an extreme exception. This is because of Adrian Heath tactics. Heath is a former player of Manchester City and Everton – being an attacker himself, he loved to get forward. It is clear that Heath likes his full-backs in a wide position in order to receive the ball and move forward, which will be shown later in this analysis.
In the heat map below, you can see Gasper’s activity on the pitch. Despite being a left-back, Gasper’s positioning is concentrated in the middle of the pitch. This is because he is stationed there during the build-up play developed by Heath. The coach confidently allows his centre-backs to hold possession of the ball and encourages his full-backs to push forward.
An example of this occurs in the analysis below. Minnesota United are in possession of the ball. Both full-backs, Gasper and Romain Métanire are circled. They are even with each other in terms of positioning on the pitch. They are extremely high up the pitch and leave a considerable amount of space behind them, susceptible to the counter-attack.
While in this case, the action worked well for United, one area of Gasper’s game which is worrisome is the number of defensive losses while in dangerous positions, which could have happened if the ball was given away. This will be covered again later in the analysis.
Progressive balls and runs
Another key part of Gasper’s game stems from his high positioning encouraged by Heath’s tactics. When building possession and moving forward with the ball, the full-backs are very important in his system. Specifically, Gasper excels in this category. He averages 8.46 progressive passes per game, and many of those passes are down-the-line balls. When passing the ball 40m or longer, Gasper has a 94.4% success rate. These statistics highlight his ability with his left foot. Despite being one-footed, Gasper makes up for it with his strong dominant foot.
The chart below shows Gasper’s progressive balls and runs. Many of these passes are going into the final third as the forwards from Minnesota United run into space down the line. In regards to Gasper’s relation to other players in the league, Gasper is in the 60th percentile for average progressive passes per 90 minutes. While this is not the highest number, it certainly shows his ability to progress the ball forward is above average.
An example of Gasper progressing the ball forward, and an action that was seen a lot while analyzing, is below. Due to the positioning discussed in the first part of this scout report, Gasper is high and wide while his team possesses the ball. When receiving, Gasper’s first thought is to get his head up and move the ball forward. It may be common for full-backs to go back to the centre-back who played them the ball, but the young American does not fall for that comfort.
After getting his head up and identifying the forward run of the striker, Gasper plays a wonderful curving through ball right into his teammate’s path. Again, this scenario highlights Gasper’s ability to progress the ball forward in an effective manner. For someone so young, the American left-back plays with grand vision and composure in order to pick out passes like this example. This action resulted in an opportunity created for Minnesota United, with Gasper completely unlocking the Timbers defence with one pass.
One aspect of any player who decides to make a living protecting the goal is their defensive capabilities. This is an area of the youngster’s game that can improve. Gasper performs at an average level compared to the rest of the players in the MLS. However, what is impressive is the fact that he keeps a moderate defensive duel win rate while being involved in so many duels.
Gasper faces 10.48 duels per 90 minutes while winning 52.28% of these duels. The win rate is a key area from improvement, but again, he faces so many attacks. There is only one other player in the league, Jordan Harvey of LAFC, who faces more duels per match than Gasper. There may be a reason as to why this happens to Gasper. It is likely the opposition managers target his defensive frailties by overloading an attack on his side of the pitch. If a player shows defensive fragilities, it is important to try and expose them – to make them work harder than the other, perhaps more successful defender. It is likely the analysis team of the opposition points this out to the head coach. While it is unclear as to exactly why he faces so many duels, Gasper must improve his defending.
Gasper’s defending gets worse as we analyze the losses made in the final third for the young American. He averages 3.41 losses in his own third per 90 minutes. This is one of the highest in the league for the wrong reasons. As the chart below shows, no defensive loss resulted in a goal scored while Gasper was playing, but it is an area that is too close for comfort. He averages 0.59 dangerous losses per match, which is a loss that leads directly to a shot on goal. This is not as poor as the losses in own third statistic, ranking in the 60th percentile in that category. When they do get past him, the opposition has an xG of 1.58.
While it is easy to point out the major downfall in Gasper’s defensive game, what the analysis does show is that he is a consistent player. Considering he is 24 years old, falling in the average percentile in many different defensive categories may seem impressive. Many coaches or fans who may protect Gasper from these criticisms could say that “on the eye,” Gasper defends well. Evaluating a player should never rely on numbers, but it is clear that especially in his own third, the American has some work to do.
Chase Gasper is still an incredibly young talent playing at the highest level of American soccer – no one expects him to be the finished product this early on in his career. His ability to get into the right positions and his vision to progress the ball forward demonstrate a strong footballing intelligence that will serve him well as he continues to develop. He is a consistent player who has a tremendous left foot with reputable passing ability.
Where Gasper has room for improvement is in the defensive side of the game, particularly in his own final third. More one-on-one training for Gasper may be beneficial as he looks to perform better in defence of the goal. In order to become a regular call-up for the national team, Gasper must improve defensively.
Luckily for Gasper, Minnesota United has been in tremendous goal scoring form, scoring three and five goals respectively against the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes. If they keep up that attacking production, Gasper may have less pressure on him as the season resumes. With the prospect of the MLS tournament on the horizon, it will be an exciting continuation of his second season as an MLS player.