Jason Kreis has been traveling the globe in search of players that can improve Orlando City’s roster for the 2017 season.
“We are scouring the earth — MLS, NASL, the college ranks, and obviously the rest of the world,” Kreis said. “It is about finding the absolute best players for the positions we need.”
With the 2017 MLS SuperDraft set to take place in just over a month, coaches and scouts alike are bound to be watching as much film as they possibly can to ensure that they can lock up an impactful player come January. The draft will take place on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles during the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention.
The Lions conceded 60 goals in 2016 despite a career year from goalkeeper Joe Bendik. It came as a surprise to nobody that the defensive personnel quickly changed when the club announced that it opted not pick up the option on four players along the back line.
While Kreis and his staff will continue to look at all of their options to bolster their roster as a whole, I broke down some film on a player plying his trade right here in America. Tim Kubel just wrapped up a stellar junior season at the University of Louisville and will certainly be getting a long look from the OCSC technical staff before they make a selection with the eighth overall pick in January’s SuperDraft.
Who is Tim Kubel?
On July 12, 1993 in Boeblingen, Germany, parents Martin and Christian welcomed twins Tim and Anna Kubel into the world. Most notably, Tim has spent time with the reserve teams of Borussia Dortmund and FC Shalke 04 from 2010-2014. In 2013, he was a member of Dortmund’s U-19 and U-23 championship sides.
Since joining Louisville, he has been named to the All-ACC academic team twice, All-ACC second team as a freshman, and All-ACC first team as a sophomore. In addition, Tim was named the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2014.
What the Numbers Say
After making 41 starts over the course of his first two seasons at Louisville, Kubel made 21 starts as a junior in 2016. Kubel started his collegiate career in great form, tallying seven goals and five assists as a freshman. Louisville Head Coach Ken Lolla, however, had different aspirations for the talented German. In his next two seasons at Louisville, Kubel found himself attacking out of the back as the team’s starting right back.
The transition was not as seamless as Lolla may have hoped in his sophomore year. Kubel managed to find the back of the net five times while handing out three assists. As a junior, however, Kubel showed maturity and composure, scoring just three goals but serving up 11 helpers.
Kubel is the epitome of an attack-minded fullback. In 2016, he averaged 0.5 assists per game or an assist every two games out of the right channel. Even more impressively, Kubel nearly averaged a goal or assist in every game, managing 0.77 points per game in his 22 starts.
Passing Quality and Range
If by looking at his numbers, you assumed that Kubel whipped in wicked cross after wicked cross, you are absolutely correct. Bombing forward out of his right back position, he has the ability to hit every type of cross, both in the run of play or from dead-ball situations. His passing range out of the back is unmatched in college soccer.
Despite it being just a small glimpse of what Kubel has contributed to the Louisville program, you can tell from our breakdown above that he has the quality to hit just about any pass.
Come January, Kubel will be a hot commodity as more and more teams are looking for fullbacks that can get forward and add another dimension to the attack.
As is the case with most attacking fullbacks, there are times when Kubel’s propensity to get forward leaves his center backs exposed in isolated situations. Let’s be clear: Kubel is so far up on most clubs’ draft boards mostly due to that right foot of his, but if he is to be a regular contributor in MLS, there are a few kinks defensively he will need to work out.
Both in isolated and group situations, Kubel seems to lack some of the basic principles of defending. He has a tendency to ball watch causing him to lose track of runners. It may not have hurt Louisville in the long run, but if it continues at the next level he will quickly become the Achilles heel for any team. MLS players will make more intelligent runs, not to mention they will be bigger, faster, and stronger than his opponents in the ACC.
Kubel also is late to close down space or simply does not do it at all as you can see in the above footage. Again, MLS-quality players will make him pay. Whether it be whipping in a deadly cross, combining to get in behind him, or simply putting the ball in the back of the net, space needs to be hard to come by for any players that he is defending against.
Where Does He Fit?
It would be easy for me to say that he could simply slide into the right back position that he has made his own in college, but for the sake of challenges, I will elaborate. With his strengths lying in the attacking of the field and his lack of defensive acumen, many view him as a wing back in a three-back system. What most people fail to realize is that with most teams running out four backs in addition to wide midfielders, wing backs are often forced to defend two players. In the very best-case scenario, they may defend 2-v-2 with the aid of a center back that typically is not as comfortable defending in wide areas.
Kubel seems to lack the pace to be a real threat out of the midfield at the nation’s highest level, but he would fit right into a system that gave license to fullbacks to constantly get up the line. It just so happens that I wrote an article on the 4-4-2 that Jason Kreis used so successfully during his stint with Real Salt Lake.
“When looking at this set-up, it appears to be extremely narrow. If pinned in deep, that is most certainly the case. With that said, it was crucial that fullbacks got into the attack at every opportunity possible to give the necessary width.”
Playing with what is essentially four central midfielders in the 4-4-2 diamond, which became Kreis’ bread and butter, frees up the fullbacks to apply the width in the attack. It remains to be seen whether or not Kreis will make the necessary personnel changes to implement his favored system in his first full season st Orlando City, but if he finds himself in need of a fullback willing to pin opposing fullbacks in deep, Kubel may very well be that player.