Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Final Cuts

I'm fully aware of the historical numbers. I'm painfully aware that just two of my first eight picks for tie winners in this year's MLS Playoffs have come through.

Be that all as it may, I can only go with Toronto FC and Seattle to take their respective conference finals and set up just the third MLS Cup rematch in league history (and the first not to feature Houston).

This will surely piss off some folks in Columbus and Houston, but I find that both clubs have been incredibly lucky to get this far. That's not to say they didn't earn their place in the final four - but let's get real for a moment.

The Crew narrowly survived Atlanta United and NYCFC, both of whom squandered a bushel of great chances when just one more goal would have done the trick. The Dynamo scraped past Sporting KC before a sudden injury tornado all but wiped out the Portland line-up for them. That adds up to four ties, all won by the slimmest of margins.

It says here the luck is about to run out. It says here that Greg Vanney's Reds can manage a good enough first leg result without the Jozy-Seba axis of G-ville for them to be able to lay waste to Columbus when their star forwards return for the decider in Toronto. It says here that Seattle has the wide defenders capable of slowing Elis and Quioto, and the midfield to own their supply line.

So yeah, it says here that we're all headed back to BMO for another TFC-Seattle duel for all the marbles.






- Greg Seltzer

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Morales shoots down the leaders

Don't look now, but Alfredo Morales has three goals and a helper in his last six games for a streaking Ingolstadt. His latest strike stood up as a lone goal winner to knock Fortuna Düsseldorf out of the 2.Bundesliga penthouse on Sunday.







- Greg Seltzer

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Your USMNT Line-Up v Portugal

Well... I got the back line I wanted, the central midfield triangle I asked for is there, and Sapong gets a shot. And yet, all I can think about is how we should bar coaches from using a 4-4-2. I mean, why???

Hrmph.






- Greg Seltzer

I could go for some...

It wasn't too difficult to pick the back I'd like to see in the USMNT's friendly at Portugal tonight, but there's just so many guys beyond the defense on hand to take a look at - can't see 'em all, unfortunately. In any event, we do get a head start on the next cycle, so it greatly bothers me to see some observes call this a meaningless match.

I certainly see the logic behind starting Agudelo and it wouldn't be the worst idea to get Bedoya in the midfield somewhere. However, I'm quite curious to see how Sapong would react to a first ever start after darn near six years out of the selection. More than that, I definitely would want to make sure we see plenty of the Adams-McKennie two-way alliance, and with a #6 at their backs to lose the leashes.







- Greg Seltzer

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Situation Room

Looking forward into the next cycle, there were some of these jobs I want handed to short crews and other to have plenty of options. That may make some of these look lean, and a couple of those actually are. But some of the youth stars should come bearing restart skills when they eventually enter the frame.

After all, there's plenty of time to settle on these important responsibilities. It wasn't that long ago that the USMNT was a set piece beast at both ends. Over the last cycle, performance in that area really cratered, especially at the back. Regaining solidity on restarts at the back will take time, but scoring on more of your dead ball chances can start right away. 

There are a handful of guys listed below that may not see much time in the nearest future, but if/when they do get called up we should put them in situations to succeed and contribute.

And a quick note, "L" refers to the attack's left side, and not as if you are looking out from the goal.

PK

Wood
Altidore
Pulisic
McKennie*
Jóhannsson
Gooch*
Sargent*
Dwyer*


It might almost look as if I've ranked these solely by career conversion percentage - and, gosh, it almost does - but it's actually not. Then again, Wood has yet to miss in his pro career and Altidore has never missed a US spot kick in competitive games. I see a time in the future when a platoon of McKennie and Sargent will be carrying out this duty.

FK SERVE

Acosta*
Pulisic
Gooch*
Rowe*


One of the reasons we get back to scoring plenty of set piece of goals right away is there are some highly capable free kick takers in the Portugal squad. And, for real though, if Acosta can get his all-around game tuned to the international level, he could stand over the lion's share of our takes into the next cycle.

FK L

Altidore
Acosta*


We've seen what Altidore can do from a free kick, but he does have a particular spot. Acosta hasn't buried as many yet, but he can go from anywhere...

FK R
Gooch*
Acosta*


... which is why he also shows up on this other side's shortlist.

CK L

Acosta*
Rowe*
Pulisic
Diskerud
Lennon


Of all the restarts, this is one I bring a bigger crowd for, and not just because we have more options. No, it's that above all others this is the one we should kill. It's the highest percentage chance for us, we have plenty of good targets and plenty of able servers.

CK R

Gooch*
Pulisic


Related side note time: Sunderland needs to quit BS-ing and play Gooch. Every time they use him, he does well, and jeez, that team could certainly use more of that. But, no, they put him back to the bench and lose a bunch. I honestly don't get it.






- Greg Seltzer

Friday, November 10, 2017

Clearing The Racks

Do forgive me for situationally sending you to a shop link, but I thought you might like to peruse a list of the top 25 jersey-selling players in MLS this season.

It's interesting to see nearly half of the guys on the list play for either Atlanta United (five mentions) or Seattle (six). New York City FC and Portland were the only other clubs with as many as three players in the list.  

It is good to see several names from supposed small markets make the cut, but ome of these major markets need to catch up. And eight US internationals of varying depth chart levels help populate the list. Many of them won't be involved much from here on out, but I'm guessing a few young guys could replace them in next year's ranking.




- Greg Seltzer