With Mats Hummels entering what could well be the final season of his playing career, Borussia Dortmund will need a new centre-back soon. One player they should monitor is Jalen Neal.
A 19 year old centre-back at LA Galaxy, Jalen Neal has locked down a starting spot and ranks in the top one percentile of central defenders for pass completion percentage. Playing for a bottom four side, Neal has struggled to demonstrate his full range of passing, completing just under 2 progressive passes.
Watching Neal in the Gold Cup, he has managed to show his ability to progress play and drive his team forward. Neal also showed his defensive prowess in the quarterfinal against Canada, as Canada did not register a shot on target while he was on the pitch. He also changed the game against a Jamaica team with a core of English Premier league attackers, allowing the USMNT to play their way into proceedings and pull off a 1-1 draw.
The most important trait of a defender is to not make mistakes and this can’t really be fully portrayed statistically. But Neal has shown an above average ability to read the game and intercept passes. While Neal sometimes struggles in the air, at 6’ 3”, this would be expected to improve significantly as he gains more experience.
Jalen Neal will likely be available for a cut-price fee and is certainly worth a look. Although spending some time with the U-23s or a loan back to the MLS might be needed, 19 year old centre-backs ready for first-team football at any level is rare.
Neal would likely not be a starter right away, but would be a cheap squad option with plenty of upside. Having already shown the technical attributes required to play for a better side, the United States international could be set for a European adventure soon and would be a very low risk signing.