Rubio Rubin with FC Utrecht
Courtesy of FC Utrecht

American Exports: Stacking up Rubio Rubin's chances to deliver in sophomore season with FC Utrecht

AMSTERDAM – Any time an American attacker heads to the Eredivisie, there are bound to be expectations. When you have a promising rookie year like FC Utrecht's Rubio Rubin did last season, the expectations will rise.

After all, it's the Stanford medical school of passing, the Missouri journalism school of authoring chances and the Northwestern law school of tactics all rolled into one for soccer prospects. If Rubin notched three goals and five assists as an 18-year-old neophyte, what can he do with a year of precious Eredvisie experience under his belt?

Regardless of the league, that is the life of a second-year pro. While young aces like Rubin may not quite get the "What have you done for me lately?" treatment during their second go-around, people do like to see growth. Visible progress feeds the tantalizing hopes of clubs, supporters and us lowly media scribes alike. Sports second acts are famously fraught with struggles; the pressure mounts and the opponents know your moves now. Going from "who's that?" to a target for markers is often harder than making that initial big league splash.

As you can see in the corresponding charts listing the top 15 all-time second-season goal and assist sums for Americans playing in Europe, maintaining production in year two is not a perfect indicator of future success. But it's a pretty good one, and observers on both sides of the Atlantic will be watching Rubin like a hawk in 2015-2016. 

So... how will he fare in his second full year?

This can be a rather complex equation. For example, DaMarcus Beasley, Mix Diskerud and Brian West all saw production drops in their second season with the same team in the same league. Utrecht have added a few strong players to the attack stable since January, so Rubin has more of a fight on his hands, erm, boots for playing time. Perhaps more of a monkey wrench is the team's system change to a 5-3-2. Whereas Rubin was quite capable of seeing action at four positions (both wings, the No. 10 spot and center forward) last season, he has now effectively been reduced to a depth chart item at two places.

The good news is Rubin is quite highly thought of at the Galgenwaard, especially since he returned from his Under-20 World Cup summer with the Baby Nats with a bit of a muscles upgrade. The formation switch looks as though it may keep the young American playing as a forward for most of the campaign, so a little extra heft on his lower center of gravity could go a long way against all the Dutch giants he'll battle in Eredivisie areas this term. He will get playing time, even if last season's total of 1,928 minutes played may prove out of reach in the improved squad.

Considering that Rubin has probably learned a few new tricks to go with his added strength, this space will go out on that limb to predict a season that sees him put up year-two numbers in the Beasley/Andrew Wooten range. In fact, let's say the Utrecht shirt edges those Run DMB stats from a decade ago by chalking up seven goals and four assists. It may not seem like a big jump, but given his still-tender age and the added degree of difficulty ahead, we'll take it and continue day-dreaming about what he can become in the future.

Chart Notes: We won't bore you with all the precise parameters for what constitutes a second full season, but league strength does matter, those with a sophomore year hijacked by injury get delays and those with experience in MLS prior to reaching Europe pass the rookie season threshold in fewer games. That means Michael Bradley's 16 goals for Heerenveen came a year late and Aron Jóhannsson's 12 for Fjölnir Reykjavík won't count because Iceland is outside the top 25 leagues in Europe. And because we're only including second-flight totals from England, Germany and Spain, Earnie Stewart's even dozen for VVV Venlo is not on the list.

20       Boyd, Rapid (13/14)
15       Davies, Hammarby (2008)
13       Wynalda, Saarbrücken (93/94)
12*      Wagner, Mainz (92/93)
10*      Moore, Nürnberg (95/96)
14*      Casey, Karlsruhe (03/04)
7*        Convey, Reading (05/06)
7*        Wooten, Sandhausen (12/13)
6*        Buddle, Ingolstadt (11/12)
6          Dempsey, Fulham (07/08)
5          Beasley, PSV (05/06)
5          Gatt, Molde (2012)
4          Diskerud, Stabæk (2010)
4          McBride, Everton (2003)
4          Rolfe, AaB (11/12)
4*        Ramos, Figueres (91/92)
4*        Vermes, Figueres (92/93)

* = 2nd flight league

10*      Convey, Reading (05/06)
7          Altidore, Hull (09/10)
6          Diskerud, Stabæk (2010)
6*        Wolff, 1860 (07/08)
5          West, Fredrikstad (2005)
4          Boyd, Rapid (13/14)
4*        E. Johnson, Cardiff (08/09)
4          Gatt, Molde (2012)
4          Rolfe, AaB (11/12)
3          Beasley, PSV (05/06)
3          Bedoya, Örebro (2010)
3          Davies, Hammarby (2008)
3*        F. Johnson, 1860 (07/08)
3          Wooten, Sandhausen (12/13)
3          Bradley, H'veen (06/07)

* = 2nd flight league