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New player profile: Richard Eckersley

Background:

Richard Eckersley, 24, began his professional career in the Manchester United academy system. Unfortunately, his career at United stalled after only two appearances in the first team. Despite the failure, his name still became recognizable to the prestigious club’s fan base worldwide with regular, consistent starts as a defender for the reserve team, according to his player profile.

Brian McClair, the former co-manager of the Manchester United reserve team, praised Eckersley for his performances in 2008 and subsequent nomination for best reserve team player.

“Richard Eckersley is another one who has been asked to play in a multitude of positions all across the park,” McClair said to manutd.com. “He’s very much an enthusiastic and determined football player, and when you look at him you see what determination and belief in yourself can get you in football, and in life.”

Richard Eckersley eventually won the Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year, according to a press release on manutd.com. The award ultimately proved meaningless as the fierce competition for fullback positions in the first team from international players like the Da Silva twins and Patrice Evra saw him sign with Burnley in their maiden Premier League season.

He actually fared worse than he did in his United career and failed to make any appearances for his new club. Multiple loan moves were reached with lower division sides to find Eckersley playing time.

Finally, in 2011, he found a home in MLS with Toronto FC. A debut season of 22 starts in 23 games led Eckersley to mutually cancel his contract with Burnley and sign permanently with the Canadian club in 2012. He played in a further 49 games before being traded to the New York Red Bulls during the 2014 preseason in exchange for a 2017 fourth round draft pick, according to mlssoccer.com.

Potential Impact/Expectations:

Eckersley certainly was an unexpected and peculiar trade among observers of MLS. With a salary of reportedly more than $300,000, it is questionable how his signing will benefit the budget issues the Red Bulls organization have repeatedly preached were plaguing them this off-season.

Reports state that Toronto will pay a significant portion of his salary, but one must wonder if he is a considerable upgrade to Brandon Barklage. If Toronto is paying part of his salary, a best case scenario might still see Eckersley receiving more money from the Red Bulls this season than what Barklage made in 2013.

Eckersley provides more versatility than Barklage as he is capable of playing anywhere along the defense, most importantly at center back. That is an option of need that Barklage did not offer (even though he excelled at left back in a few games at the end of last season).

In addition, Eckersley is an international player. Using an international spot on him might hinder the team’s ability to sign more higher profile players from abroad in the future.

Also, the question remains of whether he will start over Kimura. If Kimura wins the right back postion, which he is poised to do, then why sign Eckersley? Roxbourgh, Petke, and their staff chose to address depth at right back through picking Chris Duvall in the Super Draft.

As mentioned previously in a the post profiling the Wake Forest player, the Red Bulls staff had the opportunity to address center back depth by drafting highly-touted players like Kyle Venter or Kevin Cope at the 22nd pick. Picking one of those two, along with signing one of the many fullbacks on trial, may have eliminated the need for Eckersley’s versatility at a much cheaper price.

Has Eckersley’s prestige as a former Manchester United player influence decisions to sign him once again? Only positive performances in the upcoming season can help dispel this theory. The notion is not outrageous considering Andy Roxbourgh’s, a Scotsman, wealth of experience and connections in Europe, especially within Great Britain.

I am sure Roxbourgh was aware of Eckersley as he burst onto the United reserve team. As an avid career mode player in the FIFA video game franchise, his name always remained in my periphery.

Video Analysis:

Eckersley recorded two lone assists in MLS as a Toronto FC player. Signed as a defender, play-making is not necessarily a trait the Red Bulls are expecting of him but starting plays from the back is a valuable asset nowadays.

Both of his assists were diagonal, long passes from a right center back spot around the center circle. However, the two assists varied in the way he struck the ball and demonstrated a nuance to his passing ability and vision.

Assist at 3:00

For the first one, Eckersley utilized the time and space he had in midfield to carefully weight a pass onto an unmarked Ryan Johnson lurking behind Sporting right back, Chance Myers. The vision to spot the run was impressive but the execution of the pass was even better.

Instead of floating a ball toward his striker (which a Sporting player would have time to readjust and defend), he chose to delicately curl it away from the defender into Johnson’s path, which also made the striker’s first touch easier.

“Hockey style” secondary assist at 0:40

The second assist arose from a similar situation. From almost the same position in center midfield, Eckersley found the space and time to drive a long ball toward his left back, Ashton Morgan, on the run along the touchline. From there, Morgan played a beautiful cross onto the head of Danny Koevermans (remember him?) for the finish.

Eckersley realized the pace of pass needed to reach Morgan on the run and he once again executed perfectly. Since this was a MLS game, and MLS likes to be different, Eckersley earned a secondary assist for his initial pass to Morgan. He definitely deserved one.

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