Saturday, September 24, 2011

And so begins the oppor-fun-tunity to pubicly call me crazy...

It's right back day on my USMNT clipboard, and this is where I start provoking. Exactly what it is I provoke, we shall see. As promised, today's ranking takes us deeper into discussions of things like tactical checkpoints, changes from the old ways and player expectations.

Now into a wingback chart, we come to one of the (two) most complex positions in the 4-3-3. In most teams and systems, the central midfielders are always the ones who run far and away more than everyone else during a typical game. Playing Total Football, the right back and his bookend on the left often cover as much ground. And what are they so busy doing? Have a seat, this will take a few.

Wingbacks playing in a 4-3-3 need to: prevent crosses from their flank, track back post runners, link obsessively up the wing, act as pressure valve, provide what I call "field tilt", run constant overlaps, raid against their opposite wingback, curl in tasty deep crosses and spearhead any necessary corner kick counter defense. Having most of these skills is good, all is better.

As opposed to many tactical set-ups, the right back's most important connection in this set is to his winger and not the center back on his side. The wingback wants to do all of his defending outside the area and keep a high position. Check out Ajax RB Gregory van der Wiel's heatmap from the Netherlands' World Cup 2010 win over Japan for my idea of "field tilt" - that is the movement rendering of an effective positional outing.

You can see he barely set foot in his corner or area, was available to the two-way midfielder for build/possession purposes and often helped his winger cause trouble in attack. What's more, by simply occupying those territories, he also limited encroachment by the opponent and essentially pre-squeezed the field before they even got the ball.

All put together, ideally, you want a guy who shows good wheels and instincts, comfort receiving and passing the ball, excellent one-v-one defending skills, a usable cross and just a dash of daring.

So grab your kerchiefs, because there will be a few gasps over these next 10 lists. When this happens, I'll hope you at least consider what I'm getting at before pronouncing one of my choices as blaring proof of an institute-worthy mental instability.

#5 - Marvell Wynne

And then... the mockery set in. I don't care, this is my list. I am aware Wynne ably plays centrally for Colorado. Duncare. Frankly, I feel Wynne is among the prime symbols for development failures of the recent past. Before, if a USMNT prospect didn't shine right away, they were thrown aside. Not anymore. Now, we never stop teaching and every setback is an advanced lesson, a la Ajax school. So let's get the guy some proper technical work, drill him on crosses (both outgoing and incoming) and maybe the bottle can have lightning after all. He's only 25, for crying out loud, and it took Tony Sanneh five years with the 'Nats to grow into a World Cup-caliber right back. Reasons why we can't develop a player like Wynne properly are excuses to me and there are no excuses in a 4-3-3. Physical tenacity and recovery skills like his should not go to waste without due capitalization efforts.

#4 - Zach Loyd

I was close to naming Sean Franklin here for his unspectacular, seasoned reliability. A change at the top of the list altered my need for this element enough that the gung-ho FC Dallas defensive handyman and his higher ceiling takes the nod instead. Loyd is an absolute chore to play against and moves the ball along smoothly. Of course, the 24-year-old is a work in progress, but his attack game has noticeably improved this season. By the way, did I mention facing him is like attacking a small bear?

#3 - Eric Lichaj

As we go through this exercise, a few more selection rules I forgot to mention the first time will pop up. Here's one: unless a player is injured past January camp time or has a setback of particular concern, I'm not going to consider a player's current shelf status. Yes, Lichaj's hip injury could push that deadline, but he will benefit from this rule of mine. When fit, the Aston Villa apprentice is a fierce competitor capable of scaring the mess out of an opposing wingback. His defending has slumps, but at 22, he's quite capable of solidifying everything. Were it not for the initially undetected injury, the former Tar Heel might actually have been starting for Villa at this time.

#2 - Steve Cherundolo

Yep. This was a tough call to make, but the Hannover 96 captain is finally facing a proper challenge on his day job. Cherundolo, whose admirable attributes we all know well, has not started at right back for three straight games (one of which even saw him displaced to left back). With a 32-year-old, I'm actually more concerned about the player losing game sharpness than I am about him being worn out. Had this club upheaval not occurred, 'Dolo would have edged out the #1 spot. Even before then, I figured he would be active in qualifying, but clearly not the starter by World Cup. The times they are-a-changin' and being a manager is hard.

#1 - Timothy Chandler

Now that the Germany re-theft handbags have been put away (again), let's just be proud and happy to have such a nice young man on our team who also happens to be a scary-ass right back. The thing is, Chandler is actually a winger. I've said there won't be any players listed at second positions, but there will be a handful I designate as suitable for another spot. This motor scooter will be deemed useful at both right back and up the flank, but he should get his mail here - at least for now. The youngster still needs diligence in tracking weak side runners and isn't always as decisive with the ball as he can be, but he can become the full package wingback. I've often waxed poetic over his powerful and deceptive stride on the ball, not to mention those demonic curling crosses. My money says he starts the most games at right back during World Cup 2014 qualifying.


I'll make a habit of linking up all prior lists at the end of each one.

- Keepers

On Tuesday, we slide to right center back.

- Greg Seltzer


Darius said...

The stuff Wynne has that's good Sheanon Williams Williams has much better offensive sense.

Matt said...

Promising start, Greg. Which Nat, historically, would you pick as the prototype for this role? (Besides Stevie C.)

Justin said...

Fabian Johnson dislikes.

Will Parchman said...

I'll weigh in here for the sake of argument. I've seen a lot of Loyd. Like, a lot. And his instincts need more grooming than he's gotten in the last five years if he's going to be anything USMNT worthy. And if he hasn't gotten it by now, I'm wondering how receptive his game will be by the time he figures it out. Loyd is prone to at least one mammoth gaffe per game, and when he's not on - which is more to do with troublesome wingers than with anything he does himself - its worse due mostly to his positioning. He gets caught at the halfway line even in a system that Hyndman has basically tailored toward Benitez getting forward exclusively and Loyd playing the line. He just doesn't track back well. I'd loooove - with five o's - Loyd being picked out for advancement by the powers that be, but I think he's too far gone for the system by now. And replacing Dolo is a mean task. Do not envy it.

Joe Bailey said...

My Lineup for the qualifiers for Brazil 2014:

Cherundolo Onyewu Gonzalez Bocanegra

Bradley Donovan

Dempsey Altidore Beasley

What do you think Greg?

Joe Bailey said...

Why do I like Dax MacCarty?

I think he's the second coming of Rob Witschge...

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Darius: Wynne is far more experienced and has greatly solidified his defensive game. Williams could be a contender by World Cup, but by start of qualifying is a big ask in my mind.

@ Matt: Hmmm... how about a blend of Cherundolo and Sanneh's best attributes?

@ Justin: Mr. Johnson will appear later on, I promise.

@ Will: I'm fairly sure Loyd has been tabbed by the new regime as one to groom. Wasn't he injured out of the last call-up?

@ Joe: No Bocanegra at left back. Left backs only at left back. If someone slides to a second post, they must be able to play that post to a level that matches their first. Bocanegra is not a an acceptable LB in a 4-3-3.

The rest has a shot at least, not sure about Dax there. To me, he's a pure #8, not a #6, at this level.

Joe Bailey said...

Ok, okay. I made it younger...

Cherundolo Onyewu Gonzalez Chandler

To have a real grizzled veteran, I'd rather have Cherundolo than Bocanegra. I'd rather have Chandler on the left than De La Garza or Lichaj (of course I'd have Dunivant there, but I'm trying to Euro it up here).

McCarty Bradley

Dempsey Altidore Beasley

I'll stick with McCarty though... I would like to see him vs. Honduras next month...

Greg Seltzer said...

Younger wasn't the issue. Chandler is not a left back, so he does not play left back for me.

Castrollin said...

What about Chance Myers?

He was formerly the top amateur prospect in the US (#1 MLS draft pick)

After a few injuries-riddled seasons, he looks like a #1 pick again at right back for KC. He's super athletic, a good striker of the ball (even takes some free kicks for KC) especially crosses, and high soccer IQ.

Not to mention he's #3 on the MLS castrol index right now

DrewVT6 said...

What about Chandler as a wide midfielder? If healthy the guy's going to be on the roster because he's so versatile.

Greg Seltzer said...

As I said, he should also be considered acceptable at right wing - but I think we need him most at the current time at right back.

Dolo's benched, Lichaj's hurt, etc.