The interruption of Major League Soccer season prevented us from seeing if Reggie Cannon could reach his goal of being transferred to a European club in the summer transfer market. The 21-year-old right-back who plays for FC Dallas established himself as one of the most promising American players. Cannon also became a National Team regular fighting for a starting spot with Newcastle’s Deandre Yedlin.
After a surprising playoff appearance last season, where they ended losing in the first round against champions Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas made a strong 2020 start and are expected to be MLS playoffs animators whenever football resumes this year.
In this scout report, I will discuss Cannon’s role under Luis González’s tactics, while also describing his attributes, answering why this young player has been under the radar for some Premier League teams.
In terms of his position in the pitch, Reggie Cannon plays the right-back defender position on Luchi Gonzalez typical back four formations. Whether it is a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, Cannon’s role is almost the same. As we can see in his heatmap, Cannon has a complete moving range on the right side of the pitch. He can be considered a box-to-box full-back, as his territorial coverage shows his impact both in the defensive and offensive phase of play.
When he plays for US National Team, it is a familiar environment for him as they play a 4-3-3 almost always, in which he has a similar role than the one he has in FC Dallas.
This aspect plays a great part in allowing Cannon to make an impact on both ends of the floor. He is quick in his actions, he is fast-paced and has great stamina. As a whole, Reggie Cannon is a well-balanced player and that affects his tactical approach. Defensively, he can be proactively pressing his opponent with the ball up in the pitch, or strong enough to go after a defensive duel or defending 1v1. Offensively, he is quick at making runs or progressing in the pitch with the ball.
One of Cannon’s favourite moves, when he is doing a progressive run, is using his speed to cut from right to centre so he can have two diagonal options with the wide attacking midfielder or directly to the centre-forward.
From a tactical analysis standpoint, it is a habit for FC Dallas to advance the ball with a quick combination of passes. Regarding this phase, when he is off the ball, he usually stands wide and up the pitch if a central defender or defensive midfielder has the ball. Sometimes, Cannon can be seen rotating and moving to the centre space while the right attacking midfielder stays wide, as they try to occupy different channels in terms of width. If he is the one with the ball, he will aim first to make a vertical pass and connect with a teammate in the next line.
During the build-up, the two players that receive more passes from Cannon are Michael Barrios (RAMF) and Zdeněk Ondrášek (CF). He averages 11.02 forward passes per 90 minutes, with 80.9 % accuracy. Another stat that shows Cannon’s vertical intentions is that he makes 3.85 passes to the final third per 90 minutes.
Reggie Cannon other ability that helps FC Dallas bring the ball up in the pitch is how he makes progressive runs. He is fourth in the league among lateral defenders in that area and we can see below how his runs are frequently long. This is pretty common to see when Dallas drives the ball from left to right and find Cannon open to run and break the opposition midfield line.
Role in the final third
When it comes to finalizing the team’s attacks, the 21-year-old has different tools to make damage. He can get near the end line wide and take crosses (averages a solid 2.83 per 90 minutes).
We can see above that he follows a common pattern when he takes crosses. If he gets to the end line, probably that cross will be a ground one and to the space in front of the defenders (who are running in the opposite direction in that situation), while if it is taken from a more open position, it will be a high-cross to space in between the goalkeepers and the central-defenders, like in the previous image.
Despite being right-footed, we can see below how Cannon also likes to cut to his left and get into centre channels with the ball to find a combination with an attacking midfielder or forward to get into the box. If he has the opportunity to run into the box and be a receiver running from behind, he will be there. Cannon scored against Minnesota United last season that way. He makes 3.43 passes to the box per 90 minutes.
After Colombian teammates Mosquera and Barrios, Cannon is third in the team in total offensive duels and is fourth in the league among lateral defenders, while also having the third-best success rate in that top-8 list.
Key recovery in defensive transitions
As FC Dallas under Luis González tactics is a team that always try to do an energetic high counter-press, Reggie Cannon plays a pivotal role in that task. He is the player with more recoveries in the final third of the team during 2020 matches. Two of those recoveries (in five matches played), preceded a goal for FC Dallas.
The game-style of the team helps because it requires Cannon to be constantly hounding rivals immediately after a ball loss. Also, the physical aspects mentioned before in this scout report, are allies to do that effectively. In the following image, we can see Cannon’s quickness to click into counter-pressing after a ball loss.
Like with his defensive transition duties, he keeps the same conduct when the opposition has the control of possession. He is often asked to go higher on the pitch than a regular lateral defender uses to be, in order to press the opposition build-up play, as we can see below.
This habit is a clear sign of the team’s aggressive pressing style, which also fits right with Cannon’s physical characteristics. If it is well done it has a great impact on the game, but it also brings other defensive challenges to Cannon and the rest of the team. Even if it is a transition or a controlled offensive play by the opposition, if that counter-press or high-press is surpassed, it is very difficult for the team to adjust. In those cases, the territorial coverage of the pitch becomes much more difficult as there are many players already overcome just like we see in the following image.
Cannon is maybe the most affected player in this situation, as he has to run lots of meters back to regain his position. It also makes central defenders play constantly man-to-man and it is important that players that are on the weak side close space to the centre. In the following image, we see how this impacts the 21-year-old both in FC Dallas and the US National Team.
This scout report let us catch a glimpse of the reasons why Reggie Cannon is already a solid player with international experience and has the potential to keep developing. If that is the case to him, he will have the opportunity to take his talent to another, more competitive league. Cannon is actually the first and best player in the MLS lateral defenders INDEX Wyscout ranking.
Through this tactical analysis, I showed a complete map of Cannon’s impact in every phase and aspect of the game. With other milestones as being seventh in the best under-22 MLS list in 2018, and fifth in 2019, he seems prepared to take a forward step in his young career. Time will tell us when football resumes.