|Neal's attributes (click to enlarge)|
Not awful, but not good either. He has decent pace and flair, can do a bit with the ball but doesn't seem to have any really special qualities. Looks like pretty standard high-end USL fare. Indeed, a peek at the editor reveals that his ratings for potential and current ability put him firmly in that range (eg. sub-hundred for current, just above for potential). Frankly, he'd be on the chopping block on any MLS team I managed in FM, particularly since he takes up an international slot.
|Neal's positions & moves (click to enlarge)|
Positionally (see above), he's very left sided, preferring left flank dribbling runs and keeping the ball on his left peg despite having a decent right one. Again peeking beneath the database's skirts, we see that he's professional and ambitious, and not liable to cause much controversy: a model pro.
But what about in comparison to the two players who are (presumably) ahead of him on the depth chart?
|Neal vs. Pontius (click to enlarge)|
|Neal vs. DeLeon (click to enlarge)|
He brings slightly more to the table defensively than Pontius, but suffers in pretty much any other comparison outside of pace, where they're roughly the same. With DeLeon, he holds a speed advantage, but is rated the same or lower in every other category.
Frankly, I'm not sure what to make this signing. Clearly, United need -- at the very least -- another left back, even if it's just a backup for Woolard. Instead, we pick up a aging veteran left wing where we already have Pontius and DeLeon and can call upon Najar, Cruz, and Boskovic at minimum for reasonable alternatives. Likewise, we have four defensive midfielders (Kitchen, Rozeboom, Saragosa, Morsink) when it looks like Benny wants to set up with just one in the starting lineup.
Why so much depth in these areas when there's precious little at fullback? I suppose you could say that one of our army of d-mids could also slot in at fullback (granted, that's where Kitchen has most of his MLS experience), but even then you've still only got one "natural" left back on the roster. The rest are chewing gum and toothpick solutions. Other possible reasons for the signing? Frees up Pontius to play up top? Or perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to DeLeon getting the come-hither eyes from T&T for Olympic duty?
I stand ready to be proven wrong, but I'm going to pre-check the box in the FO's "miss" column. Am I placing too much faith in a computer game? Perhaps. But the fact that he's been plying his trade in the fourth division of English football and the third division of the stateside game for the last few years leaves me suspecting I'm not.