Scouting America: Rubio Rubin can be a versatile weapon for the U.S.
After teenage forward Rubio Rubin made his United States debut in the recent friendly against Colombia, ESPN FC asked a scout who currently works for a Champions League club in one of Europe's top leagues (England, Spain, Italy or Germany) to assess the potential of the 18-year-old.
Here is his scouting report:
"Rubin is technically gifted, smart, and physically capable of holding his own and put in a steady and mature performance against one of the world's best sides in Colombia. He showed throughout the game he is capable of working alongside another striker or doing things and creating space on his own.
"In Holland, Rubin plays quite a versatile role with Utrecht. He can play across a front three but is technically sound enough to drop in and get the ball to his feet when the situation calls for it. When he does find himself in deeper areas closer to a midfield role, he is confident enough in his ability to turn and look to play forward. He is full of energy, something coaches love to see from youngsters keen to impress, and he is both tactically and technically capable of mixing things up when it comes to his movement.
"Another massive strength of Rubin's is his strength and his ability to use his body the way he does. Even some of the biggest target men in the world aren't capable of using their size and strength to their greatest potential, but he was able to handle the physical battle of Colombia well and even helped earn the U.S. a penalty by standing his ground in the box."
"American fans have been dying for a natural goal-scorer for years and whether or not Rubin will be the answer to their prayers is still yet to be seen. Top goalscorers manage to find the net regularly regardless of their situations, but the good news is that Rubin is really just getting his professional career underway.
"He's played nine league matches in Holland already and could've opened his Utrecht account after finding himself in on goal with just the keeper to beat against Willem II but missed the shot. With his confidence and ability both on and off the ball, it looks as if it'll only be a matter of time before he gets off the mark.
"As with most young players, Rubin will also need to work on staying concentrated throughout games. His giveaway against Colombia ultimately resulted in Los Cafeteros grabbing their equalizer, but eventually he'll learn just how important keeping the ball and easing pressure, especially against top teams, will be for whatever team he plays for.
"Rubin will also benefit from working on his weaker foot more as he gets his professional career underway. The talented youngster clearly favors his right foot, and adding another dimension to his game when both facing the goal and playing with his back to it will only help him down the road."
Why He'll Make It:
"One of the exciting things about Rubin is that he's 18 and already playing first team football in a competitive league. He'll mature quickly in his role at Utrecht and gain valuable experiences both on and off the pitch as he adapts to life in Europe.
"On the pitch, Rubin's versatility makes him quite an exciting and interesting player. He's got good size (5-foot-9, 161 pounds) and strength which affords him the luxury of holding off strong central defenders, but he's also good enough speed and agility to quickly leave his marker and burst into space.
"His decision to go join Utrecht in Holland must be applauded as it is already paying dividends. While some may argue he's not playing in the best league in the world or on the best team in the league, he's getting regular playing time as a teenager learning how to deal with the pressures of first team football at a young age. With the right attitude and guidance, Rubin will be able to nurture the tools he already has to hopefully have a long career in the game.
Why He Won't Make It:
"As with many of the players reviewed here, it is more of an issue of how far can he go rather than if he will actually make it or not. While versatility on the pitch can be a good thing, Rubin should look to master the skillset required to play one or two positions really well.
"The coaching staff at Utrecht are still likely trying to figure out Rubin's best position, but he's shown throughout the season that he is comfortable playing centrally as a target man, getting wide into channels, or dropping in and creating things on his own.
"Rubin will also have to remain fully focused and grounded as he continues his journey with both club and country. Players worldwide consistently get their chances at 18, 19 and slowly fizzle out of the game or the top level by 22 or 23 for various reasons. By staying focused and really working on his shortcomings, Rubin should continue along the right path."
Similar Playing Style: Wayne Rooney
"Rooney exploded onto the scene as a teenager at Everton and has gone on to enjoy an incredible amount of success. Though the Englishman spent a majority of his career playing as a striker, he's now become a versatile option for any manager he plays for.
"Rubin was often deployed as a striker throughout his career in youth national teams, but he's immediately shown in Holland he's capable of playing anywhere in the attacking third. Like Rooney, he's comfortable dropping into the midfield and receiving the ball on the half turn to create things himself. Though he's clearly not on Rooney's level yet, its exciting seeing a young player eager to get on the ball and make an impact, especially when he is new to a team.
"Rooney is also a threat around the box, both when the ball is in the air or on the ground. Rubin showed against Colombia he is capable of getting into dangerous positions, but he'll definitely have to become more clinical in the box as he matures."
Rate this player out of 5 for each:
First Touch: 3
Passing and Vision: 3
Aerial Ability: 4
Defense (Marking, Tackling): 3
Score: 33 out of 50
0-10: Not even NASL level
10-15: Average NASL player
15-20: MLS role player
20-25: MLS starter
25-30: MLS All-Star
30-35: Starter on mid-, low-table EPL side or role player on top team
35-40: A solid starter on a elite club in Europe
40-45: A legit star player
45-50: Messi, Ronaldo
Current Transfer Fee: $3,000,000
Future Transfer Fee: $9-$12,00,000
Alex Labidou is a General Editor at ESPN FC. He previously worked at Goal.com USA and made appearances on CNN International. Follow Alex on Twitter.