Jonny Dean has become one of the USL Championship's top full backs over three seasons at Birmingham Legion FC, and is now on his way to Chicago Fire FC for his first MLS campaign. | Photo courtesy Birmingham Legion FC
Birmingham Legion FC announced on Thursday the departure of defender Jonny Dean to Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire FC ahead of the 2023 season, marking the latest player move to the top flight from the USL this offseason.
Here are three things that have made Dean a standout in Birmingham and that could carry over to his new club.
There are a lot of valuable attributes players bring to the field, but none of them matter if you’re not available for selection. That’s not been a problem for Dean, who has only missed one regular season game and 120 minutes of action for Legion FC across three seasons. He was the lone outfield player to play every minute of the 2022 regular season in the USL Championship and delivered career highs in Chances Created (56), Big Chances Created (9), tackles won (30), duels won (146), interceptions (45) and recoveries (197).
As physically capable as Dean has proven, the Fire are getting someone who’ll certainly be ready whenever he’s called upon.
There can be few statistics more befuddling than the assist. It’s the one major total that relies on teammates for success, and because of that sometimes a player might not get what he deserves. Through time and underlying numbers – what on average a player should expect to earn – can give us a guide as to the fortune, or misfortune, a player has had. For Dean, the story is he’s basically earned what he’s deserved over three seasons with Legion FC, posting 15 assists on an Expected Assists mark of 13.37xA.
This past season, Dean posted the highest Expected Assists mark among Championship defenders in the regular season at 6.68xA while accounting for five assists – a potential balance to overperformance in the first two seasons. Either way, the quality he brings in the final third should result in opportunities for his new teammates to take advantage of.
His consistency in effort game-in and game-out has made Dean a fan favorite for the Magic City Brigade since his arrival before the 2020 season, but the 25-year-old has used his experience in Birmingham to build himself into arguably the best attacking threat at the full back position in the Championship. This past season, he was deservedly voted to the Championship All-League Team for the first time and led all full backs in the Championship with +4.35 G+ Above League Average at his position according to American Soccer Analysis, fully 2.13 ahead of fellow All-League honoree Edgardo Rito of Oakland Roots SC.
The consistent progression Dean has shown since being selected in the Second Round of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC should give Fire fans room for optimism there’s more to come, and that he’s ready for his first MLS campaign.