Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Fine Mess

Oh, the wing stable. Where have you gone wrong? And how do you find your way back? This isn't as fun a depth chart as it could be, but maybe one day... (mind wanders).

The good news is an adequate starting pair of bookend flank handfuls is readily at our service.

Jordan Morris
Paul Arriola

Left and then right in your program. Beyond that, we have tangled wires of promise, inexperience, inconsistency, fitness woes and more...

Bench weapon: Jonathan Lewis

Green as it gets: Gio Reyna, Ulysses Llanez
Potential depth cogs: Corey Baird, Lynden Gooch, Julian Green, Chris Mueller
Need to bust slumps: Tyler Boyd,
Romain Gall
In recovery bay: Jonathan Amon, Timothy Weah
Everybody wants to make him a right back: Brooks Lennon

Once you get past Lewis, who seems quite capable of teeing up chances against tired opponents, this is maze of question marks. Llanez will be fine, and perhaps soon enough, but is summer too soon? And how much instant pressure do we put on Reyna? Baird seems one-dimensional at this time, Gooch faces the weakest regular competition, Green fades in and out of form, and we haven't actually seen Mueller in a US shirt yet. Boyd and Gall have usable skills, but are suffering serious lulls. Amon has seemingly vanished, and Weah got hurt 10 minutes into his long-awated comeback. Don't even get me going on about Lennon's wicked, no longer tapped final ball ability.

Yeah, I'm a teensy bit concerned about this position is a starter isn't available. If that happens, we'll need to shift Lletget over from the midfield.

- Greg Seltzer

Pop the popcorn!

I will get back on the Clipboard tonight, but for now let's add one to my soccer movie binge list. The makers of Soccertown USA were planning to hit the festival circuit until everyone's social life went on hold. Because of that, they decided to post the full documentary - the story of Kearny, New Jersey, the suburban hamlet where John Harkes, Tony Meola and Tab Ramos grew up together before leading the US national team into the modern age - on YouTube.

- Greg Seltzer

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Yup, he's still here for now.

We've reached the "one day, but not today" spot on the field. I know many observers would prefer to put our best player out on the flank, but we're still not quite ready for that (with one situational exception).

Christian Pulisic
Sebastian Lletget
Brenden Aaronson

Worth another look: Emerson Hyndman
Hangin' around: Duane Holmes

It's not just about Pulisic being so far above the rest of the current #10 (or #10-esque-ish) talent pool. Keeping him in this role also spares him a lot of hump-busting track back work typical for wingers. Against most CONCACAF foes, however, Lletget is a dependable understudy. If we're, say, staring across at Mexico in the Nations League final come June, I'd go with the Chelsea ace.

Aaronson has plenty of two-way grit, but does he actually have a lock-pick in his toolbelt at this level? Answer is TBD. And ya know what? We can kinda say the same things about Holmes.

- Greg Seltzer

Monday, March 23, 2020

Moving On (The #8 Song)

It's quite clear now that USMNT observers cannot count on Darlington Nagbe moving forward, and really, that's okay. It's not like we're short of options loaded with upside.

Weston McKennie
Jackson Yueill

Paxton Pomykal    
Getting close: Keaton Parks
Situational use: Cristian Roldan
Future watch: Christian Cappis, Brandon Servania

So yeah, McKennie is back to being the clear starter here, but he should breathe no sigh of relief. Yueill (who I prefer in this role, rather than in the #6 slot) and Pomykal should provide great competition for this job for years to come. And before long, we may be putting Parks in that group. Each of those four has a distinct specialty and plenty of room to grow their overall game.

McKennie has been molded by the highest level of opposition, but needs to maintain a two-way presence better. Yueill is the patented outlet sprayer, but can become more consistent defensively. Pomykal has impact on both sides of the ball and vision for days, yet is unproven at this level. The same can be said of Parks, who supports the offense as good as any of them and gets properly stuck in.  

Some may find Roldan limited and/or unnecessary here, but I'd certainly not go that far. One would imagine he'll still have his chances, especially against CONCACAF foes. Cappis is an intriguing prospect from a ball-control standpoint, while Servania looks like more of a blunt instrument option. Both could well be useful for a long time. Honestly, the depth and versatility at this position keeps the 5-4-1 (or, gasp, even a 3-6-1!) in as a viable alternate formation.

- Greg Seltzer

Friday, March 20, 2020

Pick Six

Okay, so we're back in the Clipboard game with the defensive midfield chart. Picking the starter is about as easy as it gets. Filling out what comes behind him is a little more complicated.

Tyler Adams
Russell Canouse
James Sands

Future watch: Hassani Dotson, Chris Durkin, Derrick Jones

Adams needs no sales pitch. He's the guy here. Duh. Even though Canouse has been playing right back for D.C. United, his rightful spot is guarding the back line. For me, the same goes for Sands (though some think he's better used at center back). Both of these guys will close lanes, win balls and move it along safely to more creative players with a minimum of fuss.

I'll admit to not being sure yet about what Dotson's best position is... he may well belong out on the flank. For now, he's learning on the job from Ozzie Alonso, which counts for a lot. There's far less positional confusion about Durkin or Jones, but they both still need to earn more responsibility at the club level. The former is more of a pure gate-keeper, the latter adds in plenty of forward push.

- Greg Seltzer

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Filling The Soccer Void

I know... life without any soccer can be fairly cruel. However, there are ways to compensate for the current lack of action. For instance, tomorrow I will be resuming the USMNT Clipboard at the defensive midfield slot, and vow to have it completed (no, really) by next Friday.

Of course, that's just one small way to get through this involuntary soccer drought. 

  • The Athletic (which I highly recommend for all sports, though 95% of my time there is actually spent in the St. Louis Blues/NHL sections) has a kind offer for non-subscribers: 90 free days. Existing subscribers aren't left out, check this post for the deets.
  • The ultimate time-passer, Football Manager, is free to play until next Wednesday.
  • Keep an eye out over at MLSS as they repost a series of thrilling full matches of yore (such as the nail-biting 2018 Western Conference semifinal tie capper between heated rivals Portland and Seattle).

    UPDATE: Here's their upcoming replay schedule.

Or, ya know, you could just watch this old game six or seven more times...

- Greg Seltzer