Nottingham Forest completed the signing of Richie Laryea from Toronto FC last week. The 27-year-old signed from the MLS outfit and was in attendance as the Reds beat Arsenal at the City Ground on Sunday.
Laryea is a right-back who can also operate on the opposite side. He will bolster the full-back ranks at an ideal time, with injuries starting to stack up.
The Canadian international was sought-after. Forest beat a host of other clubs to sign Laryea, whilst the player also rejected a new deal to stay in the MLS.
Djed Spence is the main right-back but is only on loan. Mohamed Drager is yet to appear for the club, whilst on the other side, Max Lowe is injured.
We confess, that we know very little about Laryea here at Nottingham Forest News. One man who is in the know, however, is Canadian football analyst Ryan Lindsay.
He has spent time writing for a site that covers Toronto FC and the Canada national team. The site is called Waking the Red and he’s been giving us the lowdown on Forest newcomer Laryea.
Nottingham Forest News (NFN): Who is Richie Laryea?
Ryan Lindsay (RL): Richie Laryea is a Toronto-born defender who was drafted by Orlando City S.C. in 2016 out of the Canadian talent-factory Sigma FC. He was initially drafted and utilized as a centre-midfielder, making his MLS debut as a substitute for Kaka. After stints between Orlando City’s B team and their main squad, Lareya moved to Toronto FC in 2019 where he has thrived as an attacking fullback through his 84 appearances for the club, scoring 9 goals and contributing 7 assists. He has also become a regular contributor to the Canadian national team, making 22 appearances since his debut in 2019.
NFN: Where does he typically play?
RL: Laryea is primarily a right-back, but he is extremely competent and comfortable operating as a left-back, or in more advanced roles as a wing-back or winger. With Toronto FC, Laryea was most often playing in a back 4, but with the Canadian national team, he has looked extremely comfortable operating as a wing-back in a back 5. At times with Toronto FC, Laryea was used in a more attacking role on the wing in midfield where his pace and dribbling ability allowed him to cause issues for many defenders.
NFN: What has Laryea achieved so far in his career?
RL: Laryea was a part of the 2019 Toronto FC team that were runners-up in the MLS Cup final and the 2019 and 2021 Toronto teams that made it to the final of the Canadian Championship. In his two years playing in college at the University of Akron, Laryea was named to the Al-Mid American Conference Second Team in 2014, and to the All-Mid-American Conference First Team in 2015. He was then selected 7th Overall in the MLS SuperDraft in 2016.
NFN: What are the players main strengths?
RL: He is an incredibly pacy and a very tricky player on the ball, with him regularly out-pacing defenders on the dribble. His dribbling is one of his greatest strengths; making him a threat in 1v1 situations, especially when combined with his pace.
These attributes have allowed him to be a regular threat on the counter-attack as well – he will look to drive the ball forward to catch an opponent before they can reorganize. Laryea is very confident on the pitch and is willing to take risks offensively to try and create opportunities, often in very creative ways.
He is also a very tenacious player who never gives up on a play on either side of the ball. He is never truly beaten by an attacker in space as he will use his pace to quickly hound them once again, and no ball is ever a “lost cause” in his eyes. Laryea also reads the play quite well, picking out developing attacks to intervene in passing lanes often and spotting lanes and space to exploit through his own movement, on the over/underlap or presenting as an option for a through-ball or cross, or through a pass to a teammate.
NFN: At 27, there must be some room for improvement? Where can he still develop?
RL: Every season has seen Laryea improve his game in some aspect. Toronto had a very tough season in 2021 where the team struggled in most regards, but Laryea saw improvements in influential parts of his game like “lost ball” statistics, ball recoveries, key passes, challenge % won, and expected goals (xG).
Defensively, his game could certainly continue to improve as he has only truly been playing in defensive positions since 2019, but he has shown that he is a consistent, reliable contributor at a higher level defensively through his performances with Canada. Laryea is a committed, hard-working player that has risen to the occasion every time he has taken a step up in his career and every indication points to this continuing.
The biggest drawback to Laryea is his temper. He can be a fiery presence out on the pitch, picking up 17 yellow cards throughout his Toronto FC career and 4 for Canada, and being a part of his fair share of “dust-ups” on the pitch. That edge does work for him as well, however, with Laryea regularly drawing players into reactionary fouls or bookable offences. He walks the line, but so far he has walked it well as he has never been sent off.
NFN: Which current player in world football is Laryea most like?
RL: If we look at contributions in 2021, many aspects of Laryea’s game are very comparable to Croatian International Josip Juranovic – then of Legia Warsaw, now at Celtic.
The two players are very versatile, being able to line-up at both right and left-back as well as in wide positions in midfield, both were efficient passers (87% accuracy for Laryea in 2021, 86% accuracy for Juranovic), contributed similar key passes per match on average (0.97 v 0.93), recovered the ball at a similar rate per match on average (4.3 v 4.7), and contributed a similar average xG per match (0.08 v 0.07).
Laryea is more aggressive defensively than Juranovic, attempting and winning more challenges than the Croatian, and utilizes his pace to take players on and to drive into dangerous areas to create opportunities both on and off of the ball, whereas Juranovic is more of a crossing threat. In that sense, Laryea trends more towards players in the vein of an Achraf Hakimi-type with his speed and skilled dribbling being utilized to get him into dangerous areas to create from and allowing him to press and close down attackers quickly.