Having failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup, the USMNT look to be in a phase of transition. Rather than keeping players who were part of that qualification stage in the team, fresher faces are coming to the forefront.
One of these fresh faces is that of FC Dallas defender, Reggie Cannon. As things stand, Dallas top the Western Conference. Very much because of the firepower they have up top but also because of their defence which Cannon is very much a part of at right back.
Despite being just 20-years-old, Cannon has made a great start to his MLS career, making 31 league appearances so far this season. (Dallas have played 32 games and reached the MLS Cup Play-offs). Not only that but after going to a few USMNT training camps, he finally made his debut this Tuesday against Peru.
In this tactical analysis piece, I’ll examine what Cannon brings to the Dallas defence and why he can be a staple of the USMNT as they prepare to host the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico.
Timing In Defence
Of late, because of what they offer in attack, many have dubbed the full back is modern football’s most important position. Especially after the way Pep Guardiola has used them at Manchester City. With that however, people often forget to look at the defensive work full backs do and this one of Cannon’s strongest departments as seen below:
As the modern game demands from most full-backs, Cannon also has a fair bit of pace. But what is impressive is how is to control at such a young age when going back to goal.
With most looking for what full backs can offer offensively, Cannon’s strength in defence can be what sets him apart from the competition. The maturity he shows when coming up against opposition wingers should be very encouraging when looking forward.
Although his defensive contribution is the main attraction, Cannon does get forward well as the modern game requires as seen in the heat map above.
However, he doesn’t just rely on his pace. He’s very comfortable with the ball at his feet and is able to advance up the pitch with skill as seen below:
Skill and trickery isn’t something you’d associate with most full-backs but when used correctly, it helps Cannon massively. Often he’s in tight spaces up against the touchline so his footwork is something that should be looked out for.
At just 20-years-old, although it’s clear that he is a talent in the present as well as for the future, there are some places Cannon can improve.
One area he can improve on is his end product. We’ve seen before that he likes to get up the pitch but what he does when he’s up there can change a little.
When on the ball, Cannon looks to be very confident. However, often once he beats his man, he looks for the next pass in the chain. Even though this will probably see him retain possession more often, going forward he should take more risks that can have a big pay-off.
Cannon has a good pass completion rate at 87%, making 35 passes per game. But with 0.5 key passes a game and two assists for the season, the improvements he can make are clear.
At such a young age, this isn’t a problem though. Growing as a player over the next few years will see his personal game adapt continually. But should he look to make a step up from Dallas in the future, he will have to become braver in the types of passes/crosses he’s making.
Overall, Cannon’s emergence this season should be refreshing for all. He’s a defender, who seems to like defending, and even better, can defend. He’s flexible in that he can play in areas further up the pitch. Also, he has scope for improvement in the future.
When watching Cannon, it’s very clear what he brings to the table at Dallas. His stability in defence has been the perfect springboard for them to release their attack from.
Going into the MLS Cup play-offs, that stability in defence can take his Dallas a very long way. With many play-off games being tight affairs, building off that defence and sucker-punching their opponents can be very useful.
With Dallas top of the pile in the west that may make them favourites to reach the MLS Cup final, so look at for Cannon’s performances at right back, it’ll be worth it.