How good can Bryan Reynolds become?

Bryan Reynolds is the latest hot property to come off the Dallas production line that produced Chris Richards and Reggie Cannon. About four hours down I-45 from Dallas's home base at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, are the headquarters of The Friedkin Group, which happens to be one of the biggest Toyota distributors in the United States. As you may have heard, the Friedkins are also the owners of AS Roma, the club now reportedly interested in the services of Dallas's smarterscout young prospect.

And why not? Reynolds is coming off a tremendous breakout season for a 19-year-old. Here are his stats from MLS adjusted to a Serie A standard:

Reynolds is already an excellent attacker, with oustanding ball retention, compared with fullbacks in Italy's top tier. He's a reasonably avid defender, but the quality of his defending may still be mediocre for Serie A. He's just a shade below average both ways in ground duels, and in the air he looks like he'd leave something to be desired despite his 1.85m frame.

The thing that sticks out about Reynolds's game is his dribbling. Among fullbacks who like to dribble, there's usually some sort of pattern – for example, they might prefer to start their dribbles on the edge of the final third, or just before reaching the corner of the penalty area. Not so with Reynolds. As his smartermap shows, he can dribble from anywhere along the flank, particularly when he's come inside a tad:

This mix of actions may make Reynolds more difficult to predict; he can pass or go by you no matter where he is. And Luchi Gonzalez trusted him to do just that for almost every minute of the 2020 season. Gonzalez's Dallas had a pretty balanced attack in terms of spacing on the pitch, and Richards was involved in a little more than a third of the club's most dangerous attacks. Here's a view from our Pro members' Search by club:

Those numbers were just shy of what Reynolds's opposite number, Ryan Hollingshead, put up at LB. But they still looked very promising, especially for a teenager. So what's not to like?

Well, Reynolds's style may be a bit too dribbling-centric. If we look for RBs in Europe's top five leagues with a similar way of playing, these are the closest names:

It's not the most star-studded list we've seen, suggesting that there may be a ceiling for RBs who play this way among Europe's elite. Regardless, two players appear twice: Dimitri Foulquier and Adam Smith. Here's a side-by-side comparison placing Reynolds in between, as his style seems to sit in the middle:

Reynolds looks like a better attacker than either of the others, but they do have higher-quality defending. That said, Foulquier and Smith are 27 and 29 years old, respectively – will Richards really look like them when he's at his peak?

As an experiment, we wondered what would happen if we took ten points in our style ratings off Reynolds's dribbling and added them to all his other ratings. What sort of players would be like him yet with a more balanced style? The answer is... pretty much the same players. Joseba Zaldua, Smith, Mitchell Weiser, and Patrick Burner are still at the top of the list, along with Ibrahima Mbaye.

So it may take a good dose of coaching to shape Reynolds into a versatile Champions League fullback. That's no bad thing, of course. Reynolds has plenty of ability already, and it won't be surprising if there's a top club willing to buy the lottery ticket with his name on it.

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