19 Striker FC Utrecht USA
Oregon-born Rubio Rubin burst onto the youth soccer scene at the age of 16 and became a regular fixture for the United States Under-17 team, where, over the course of a few years, he amassed a Milnerian pile of 37 caps, scoring 14 times in the process.
When he reached the age of 18 he was snapped up by FC Utrecht in the Netherlands, where he quickly earned a place in the first team by impressing throughout the close-season in 2014. Rubin caught the eye in the Eredivisie and in a national team shirt, but was this the beginning of a trend or a simple case of alcohol-free Dutch courage?
2015 has been…
A dip. Rubin has been cautiously managed by Utrecht after his impressive start to last season and he’s featured less regularly in 2015/16. Last term he made 21 starts and featured another seven times as a substitute, contributing well as Utrecht finished in mid-table.
Despite featuring heavily in the first half of 2015, Rubin’s calendar year hasn’t matched the heights of the second part of 2014. This season he’s started just once, coming on five times as a substitute in the Eredivisie campaign. He’s been out since the middle of October with a stress fracture in his foot, an injury that could keep him inactive well into the new year.
Although his progress has been managed with restraint and his form less impressive than in 2014, this year hasn’t done much to install a significant level of doubt when it comes to Rubin’s long-term potential. Players who finish instinctively and get assists are worth their weight in gold. Players with the added plus of Rubin’s professional attitude blow them out of the water.
A poacher and creator in one, Rubin’s grounded determination is bolstered by his down-to-earth nature and his faith, one he shares with the player he idolised as a teenager and hopes to emulate: Javier Hernandez.
Like Hernandez, Rubin can finish ruthlessly. The footwork and roofed finish that made his winner at the Under-20 World Cup against Colombia in June were testament to his technique and instincts in that regard.
Rubin has good strength and hold-up play but he also likes to run at defenders and force them to commit. In full flow, he’s exciting to watch on the ball. His vision and mid-range passing add another dimension.
Rubin’s 2016 will begin in the treatment room at Utrecht, and the fullness of his recovery from that foot injury will define his year. A step up in consistency and productivity is a must if he’s to force Erik ten Hag’s hand in the Utrecht dugout and reverse Rubin’s drop in profile since this time last year.
He’ll want to lock down a place in the national team reckoning, too. As well as his Under-17 appearances Rubin has played for the Under-20s and Under-23s, teams for which he remains eligible. But a player with his drive is unlikely to be satisfied with that level even at 19 or 20 years of age. He might even have one eye on a place at the Olympic Games.
D No need for panic but an ordinary year and less of an impact than we expected
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