Friday, February 24, 2017

Final Stop

At last, we reach the left wing. This is the end point, be sure to de-board the train.

Christian Pulisic
Sebastian Lletget
Julian Green

In a rather short time, Pulisic has become an obvious starter for this team. Lletget showed in the recent friendlies that he can push up the flank. Green is the emergency bench killer, though I'd probably be more inclined to turn to Arriola or Zusi first at this time.

And with that, we have my current "A" group for the vital March World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama.

As promised, I also have an alternate idea for if we really want to control the proceedings in either of those upcoming contests (the idea of which I know often makes folks in our bubble uneasy).

Finally, I also have one version of an "everybody fully fit and in form" XI to chew one. It's not out of the question for March 24th, but also not exactly likely.

Of course, playing Nagbe in that #10 role means the wingers would be the main "half-court" playmakers, which I could be fine with. It also means Nagbe would run the break, which you have to admit is a bit mouth-watering.

- Greg Seltzer

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Round Up To #10

We've arrived at the #10 slot. Frankly, I'm just glad the new boss is dedicated to using one. This was a very difficult call between two veteran hands.

Benny Feilhaber
Sacha Kljestan
Lee Nguyen

Under close watch: Clint Dempsey

I'm giving Benny a razor's edge over Inspector Kljouseau™ today, but in all honesty, I could change my mind if asked tomorrow. It's that close. Either way, it's great to see Feilhaber back in the fold and (alternate line-ups spoiler alert) I actually would not be even slightly opposed to a line-up that featured both.

Nguyen is the emergency option... for now. All eyes will be on Dempsey as the MLS season begins. We all know he could flip this depth chart around real quick. I also would have liked to see Rowe get a little look here in January, but oh well, that shipped has passed.

- Greg Seltzer

Monday, February 20, 2017

Strike A Match

Today, we move on to the #9 spot. I tend to keep this one more crowded in the wings because forward is such a fickle position. Someone can turn torrid or go to the shelf in a matter of weeks. Even so, the top two remain the same.

Jozy Altidore
Bobby Wood
Juan Agudelo

We shall see: Terrence Boyd
A lot can happen in a month: Aron Jóhannsson
On fitness watch: Gyasi Zardes
Emergency numbers: Alan Gordon, Chris Wondolowski

Much to my continued surprise, so many fans (including some longtime regulars here) would prefer to ditch Altidore from the starting line-up. Of course, it will come as no shock to anyone that I would have no intention of doing that. He's our most complete lead striker, the US Soccer player of the year, top returning scorer, etc. Yeah, the idea of benching him sounds crazy to me. Cushioning him in bubble wrap until March, not so much.

Wood is a terrific change-up that can do major damage to a tiring defense. Another thing to consider when promoting him to usurp Altidore in the US line-up: he's also not exactly hot at the moment. The HSV man has scored but twice in his last 15 league games. Agudelo has the skills to rise above the third slot here, but needs to put it all together for an extended run like last season's with New England. That said, the fragile state of our other choices make him the obvious stand-by.

Boyd is still getting back to former business at Darmstadt, Jóhannsson gets injured (or oddly sent off) every time he starts to heat up with Bremen and Zardes is on the mend yet again. Because of all this - and Agudelo's international inconsistencies - I'd keep a couple CONCACAF-capable vets in the glass box on the wall, just in case. Like I said, there's nothing wrong with keeping a deeper stable up front, as goals (and knees and hamstrings) tend to come and go.

- Greg Seltzer

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Eights Are Enough

Okay, I am feeling myself again and ready to get back on the Clipboard program. And so we turn to what is in my book easily the toughest spot to call on the entire field. Were Geoff Cameron healthy, that would free up Michael Bradley to be the sixth player I could happily start in this slot. In fact, when we're all done, I will share a couple of alternate line-ups that hinge on who takes the #8 spot that might seem radical at first - but may also just knock your socks off.

But that's for later. Today is for these guys:

Darlington Nagbe
Jermaine Jones
Alejandro Bedoya

Yeah, Nagbe can pressure defenses from the wing, but he's not a go-to playmaking type. He is, however, a possession monster, a sneaky-good defensive recovery man, a shot of extra speed at a field location where we are often overmatched in CONACAF and a guy who will make sure traffic flows in a positive direction without hurrying it. What more could you ask for, right?

Well, how about a pair of killer veteran bench options who can cover every type of game situation. You have Jones to bring that special spark of madness and offensive insistence for tie games and those that we are chasing. If we want to dissolve the game with reliable all-around soundness, there's Bedoya.

Normally, I'd list an extra "just in case" guy, but it's not needed here at the moment. Hyndman is a "not quite yet" building his confidence at Rangers. Morales is just a plain "not quite" among this group. This is the time to begin developing cohesion in the squad and tough decisions will have to be made. With everyone else fit, coming off a long camp and raring to start a new season, those two guys can think ahead to Gold Cup for now.

- Greg Seltzer

Friday, February 17, 2017


No, I haven't abandoned you. I've just been waylaid by a rather severe case of food poisoning. Hopefully, the worst is behind me and I can get back on track this weekend.

- Greg Seltzer

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

D-Will Call

Reading midfielder Daniel Williams bagged the late equalizer and the home side went on to grab the winner a few minutes later to down Brentford 3-2 on Tuesday night. The win lifted the Royals to fourth place, five points shy of an automatic EPL elevator spot

- Greg Seltzer