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Jason Kreis: Justin Braun is still behind tactically, technically

Sep 4, 2012, 9:05 PM EDT

Real Salt Lake v Colorado Rapids Getty Images

Mea culpa time for me on Justin Braun. I suppose, anyway.

I wrote a couple of years ago that Braun was a Brian Ching starter kit. He looked like a striker with bags full of potential. He was faster and more athletic than Ching – and obviously younger, too.

He looked to me like a guy who could play as a target and find goal, go bang a little with center backs, fight for second balls and do the little things. And when Bob Bradley called Braun into a January national team camp, I felt a little vindicated.

But Braun is, roughly, the same player then that he was now. He simply hasn’t progressed much.

That helps explain why Chivas USA was willing to let him go at the end of last season. Braun went to Montreal, which made some sense. Impact coach Jesse Marsch had played alongside Braun for two seasons, so he saw something there, too.

So I thought perhaps Braun would regain his feet and potentially rise for the Impact the way I always thought he might for Chivas USA. But two months ago Braun was shipped off to Real Salt Lake for a conditional pick in the 2014 SuperDraft. Considering he hasn’t played much for RSL, that conditional pick probably won’t turn into too much.

So … where are we now? (Besides my mea culpa, that is.) Because it looks like I was wrong. For now, at least.

RSL manager Jason Kreis did offer something of an explanation today. Essentially, he said, Braun got a late start with higher level coaching, so he’s behind on the game’s finer points. What he told MLSSoccer.com:

He works extremely hard. He fits into our mentality with his character as a person and with his work rate, but tactically and technically he needs improvement.”

We all know about Justin’s history. I don’t think he’s come from the most organized and the highest levels of youth and college soccer. Some of that he still has to learn. To look at him, and to look at his age, I think he is still a younger player than what his age says – if that makes sense. To me, I still look at him as a young player who is finding his way in our system.”

Braun, 25, played at a small junior college in Utah and was 20 years when he was spotted playing on an amateur team and offered a trial with Chivas USA.

  1. wesbadia - Sep 5, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    I think people have been pegging Braun as the wrong type of player. You weren’t the only one that said he reminded them of Brian Ching. But I think the key difference between Braun and Ching is that the latter is technically proficient down low in the box, back to goal. While Ching has scored some phenomenal headers, I always thing of him as more in line to Wondolowski than a Brian McBride.

    Braun isn’t a Brian Ching. He’s a “hold up the ball until the more technically proficient striker gets open for my pass” type of player. On top of that, he’s scored some pretty nice goals from mid-range (12 to 20 yards). For these reasons, I think Kreis picked him up to be a protege of Alvaro Saborio. Even their stature and frame are similar to one another. Sabo is profoundly more deft with his touches, and I think this is where Braun needs to focus his development on. He needs to realize he’s working directly underneath one of the best target strikers to come from Central America in the past decade. If Braun takes the next year to get the kinks worked out of his ball handling and finishing techniques, he could very well become the US version of Saborio.

    • Steve Davis - Sep 5, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      That’s good analysis. I hope you are right. There’s always room in my world for another good, young (well, you know … relatively young) American striker.

      • wesbadia - Sep 5, 2012 at 12:48 PM

        Indeed! The senior national team always needs options. If Klinnsman isn’t going to call in Wondolowski for important matches (or insert ANY of the other strikers there at any random time), then the talent pool needs to get bigger. Braun developing into a “different” type of striker will give us much needed flexibility up top. Connor Casey 2.0, maybe. Just better :-)

  2. diamondbro43 - Sep 5, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    I hope Braun figures things out, he has shown so much potential in small spurts. I am really waiting to see if Nagbe gets his citizenship now that would be a great option for our national team.

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