Injuries can devastate a career, with players unable to match their previous level following long rehabilitation periods. A year after an ACL tear, Richard Ledezma returned to the field for PSV Eindhoven, continuing to demonstrate his immense potential. The 21-year-old midfielder – considered one of the most-talented prospects for the national team – extended his contract with the Dutch giants and is on track to become an Eredivisie regular this season.
Ledezma was born in Phoenix, Arizona and played for Club Tigres, Sereno Soccer Club, and Valparaiso United. He joined the Real Salt Lake Academy in 2016 and was promoted to the reserve team. While competing on an amateur contract, the midfielder scored his first goal against Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, earning a spot on the league’s Team of the Week. His youth accolades included being selected the Development Academy Western Conference Player of the Year, but a torn metatarsal “kept him sidelined for four months.”
Turning down Major League Soccer and an offer from Barcelona, Ledezma signed a one-and-a-half-year deal with PSV Eindhoven. “Hard work and the support of my teammates have brought me here to PSV,” he shared. “I was a bit surprised when PSV showed interest, but I’m really looking forward to playing here. I feel very welcome, the club is beautiful, and the city is beautiful. I am really looking forward to coming to the Netherlands for good in the new year.”
The Dutch super-club was chosen due to the “culture and style of play.” Ledezma started his PSV journey with the U-19 side coached by Ruud van Nistelrooy, making four appearances and scoring against NAC Breda. An intense focus was placed on his development, making his diet and nutrition a priority, while also helping him “find a home and get a car.”
"When I arrived, I was a little chubby - they called me fatty!" #USMNT youth international Richard Ledezma tells us about Christian Pulisic's Fortnite advice, and Ruud van Nistelrooy tells us about PSV’s next promising talent pic.twitter.com/xclNXTg8zs— GOAL (@goal) July 22, 2019
In August of 2019, Ledezma was promoted to the reserve team. He made 25 appearances in the second-tier Keuken Kampioen Divisie, contributing four goals and three assists. The standout performance came in September, when his brace and helper secured a 3-2 victory over AZ Alkmaar. His production increased throughout the course of the schedule, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a cancelation. The club signed him to a two-year contract extension, impressed by his progress.
The next season, Ledezma split time between the first team and reserves. He made his senior debut in a November Eredivisie fixture against ADO Den Haag, contributing an assist in the 4-0 victory. Training with the first team and learning the Dutch style made him “faster, stronger, better with his weak foot, and not scared of fighting for the ball.”
Ledezma made six combined Eredivisie and Europa League appearances but suffered a devastating anterior cruciate ligament rupture after colliding with an opponent. He was ruled out for the rest of the season and forced to miss Olympic qualifying. “We have to think that this is a big injury, it’s not a small one,” said manager Roger Schmidt. “The win tonight was for Richy, because he’s a really good person, really good player, and we all will help him come back very soon.”
After a successful surgery and year of rehabilitation, Ledezma made his return for the reserves, playing 45 minutes in a 3-2 loss to De Graafschap. He subsequently appeared as a substitute in KNVB Cup and Eredivisie fixtures, allowing him to “feel like a footballer again.” His hope for the next few months is to play as “many minutes” as possible and score his first goal for the senior team.
Continuing the upswing, PSV extended his contract through the summer of 2024. “This feels great after all I went through last season,” Ledezma told the club’s official website. “I am delighted to be starting this new chapter in my PSV career. I am excited to be part of the team again and look forward to developing my skills. I have fought back but now I have to be patient.”
At the international level, Ledezma – occasionally referred to as the “Mexican Pulisic” – is also eligible for El Tri through his parents. He featured prominently in the U.S. youth set-up. His assist in the Round of 16 at the 2019 U-20 World Cup helped secure a head-tuning 3-2 victory over France.
Ledezma made his senior debut in November of 2020, appearing in the 6-2 friendly victory over Panama. Entering the match as a substitute, he assisted on two goals to Sebastian Soto. Gregg Berhalter came away impressed, describing him as a “nice technical player” with a “really positive attitude” that is “good in between the lines.”
A “dynamic distributor in the midfield,” Ledezma is noted for his quick passing, movements, scoring ability, and chance creation in the final third. He is capable of playing at the defensive, box-to-box, and attacking midfielder roles, while also lining up at winger, describing assists as “his thing.” Berhalter views the “player with nice talent” as a central-lying playmaker that can be an asset around the box.
At the age of 21, he is still relatively inexperienced, having dealt with the injury and spending most of his time outside of the first team. Despite the lack of top-flight playing time, Ledezma is a player with a high level of technical ability and the vision to see the entire field, often hitting one-touch switches. His driving runs through the opponent’s formation (sometimes starting in his own half) are punctuated with incisive short-range and long-range passes. A creative presence is welcome on any squad, with individual difference-making ability perhaps more valuable in the higher-stakes nature of international competition.
For now, Ledesma has made a promising step in the right direction after a long-term injury layoff. He returned to the field and is reestablishing his place in the PSV rotation. With increased played time and continued development, his impact could extend to the USMNT, potentially during the current World Cup cycle.