NAC Breda announced the signing of Manchester City defender Erik Palmer-Brown to a season-long loan. The Eredivisie club posted a video interview with the 21-year-old United States international discussing the move and his familiarity with the Dutch style of play:
“Erik is a player with speed and he is also strong in the one-on-one duels,” NAC Technical Director Hans Smulders said in an interview with the club’s official website (via Google Translate). “He naturally has a drive forward and thanks to his good passes he can be an important link in the build-up. We are happy that he will come to Breda for a year.”
Palmer-Brown joins The Pearl of the South after spending the second half of the 2017-2018 season on loan with Belgian club KV Kortrijk, where he made nine league appearances. He joined Manchester City on a free transfer in January after four seasons with Sporting Kansas City in MLS and a 2016 sojourn at FC Porto. Palmer-Brown should have ample opportunity for playing time at his new club; he appears to be a direct replacement for fellow Manchester City center back Pablo Marí, who will be with Deportivo La Coruña in La Liga this upcoming season.
NAC finished the 2017-2018 season in 14th place out of 18 teams with 34 points from 34 matches, narrowly avoiding the relegation play-offs. They open their schedule against AZ Alkmaar on Sunday, August 12th at AFAS Stadion. The club began a five-year partnership with City Football Group in 2016. They receive “four to six players between the ages of 18 and 21 every season” and City pays “a development fee for any player that spends time there” while not asking “for any contribution to player wages.”
According to City Watch, Palmer-Brown will likely be joined in the Netherlands by Luka Ilić, Aro Muric, Aminu Mohammed, and Paolo Fernandes. Past Manchester City players on loan to NAC include minor notables such as Manu García, Thierry Ambrose, Angelino, and Enes Ünal. The majority of players who have gone this route the past two years have not broken through in the Premier League and a significant amount have already permanently departed the Etihad. Being expendable and development not being a priority is the harsh reality of being young and unestablished at a super club, but the trade-off is that the pedigree after spending any time on the books can frequently buoy future moves and contracts.
Palmer-Brown is at a crucial point in his career. He recently made his USMNT debut in the team’s 3-0 victory over Bolivia on Memorial Day and followed it up with a 30 minute substitute appearance in a 1-1 draw with France last month. After a standout youth career, he should be one of the young bedrocks of the USMNT back line – along with Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers – as the program attempts to move forward following the disastrous 2018 World Cup Qualifying.
Palmer-Brown carries all the expected hype and accomplishments of a highly-touted youth prospect: signing a professional contract at 16, winning the Golden Ball at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, and receiving reported interest from a multitude of top clubs (including Juventus, PSV Eindhoven, Borussia Dortmund, and Ajax) before ultimately signing with Manchester City. Now he has to make the difficult professional jump and turn all of his potential into quality performances for club and country.