Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Holding the clipboard? Priceless (with complimentary headache)

It's Tuesday night, which means it's time to drop my own personal right center back depth chart - which means it may start to get contentious.

The center backs in a 4-3-3 are charged with all the usual duties, but are specifically drilled for counter attack defense and air traffic controlling. Of course, the biggest added responsibility is playing the ball out.

That doesn't just mean passing out of the back, it also includes extra work at true transition starters such as clearance control and tough receiving touches. If you can't control an urgent pass and move it along accurately or head out to a teammate, it's a real problem. We want breakouts, not bumbles. The ability to place a diagonal long ball on winger boot to mix it up is nice, too - just don't get drunk on it. The ground is where it's usually found in a 4-3-3.

In my ideal pairing, there would be one "bad cop" (the physical back line marshal) and one "smooth criminal" (the marking magician who makes forwards disappear). If each defender can exhibit some attributes of both types, great, but it is necessary that at least one of these players be able to occasionally bring the ball forward on the dribble when space is inevitably granted.

Positionally, the center backs like to stay high. It's like playing attack defense. They step up on outlet passes. With the wingbacks advanced, they run cohesive two-man traps. They even help maintain pressure possession in the offensive half. It's like Starsky and Hutch out there, huggy bears! After all, defense is best played away from your own area.

In summation, the central defense cannot solely rely on shut down skills and teammates to valve pressure. As my mom always said when I was a kid, "If you want something done right, then do it yourself."

The 4-3-3 defense means specialty players are for sub minutes and depth charts. And team cool emanates out of the heart of defense. The more held down the fort, the more unchained the attack. So shut it down and either set somebody running or give it to someone who can. Quickly, please.

#5 - Omar Gonzalez

Here's another guy who may be closer to the first team come World Cup than he is at the start of qualifying. As is, Gonzo is probably a little too nervy on the ball and can still improve against getting turned.

#4 - Chad Marshall

It's my ol' reliable pick for this ranking. The guy is kinda underrated to me - which is strange to say about someone who bagged two of the last three MLS Defender of the Year prizes. His set piece mastery at both ends and calmness moving the ball should put him back in the picture soon.

#3 - Michael Parkhurst

Here's the thing, Klinsi, old pal... you experimented with the wrong shorty at right center back. If you want a "smooth criminal" that can play out, this is the guy you want. His form has gotten better and better over the last year, no matter where his clubs plays him. But in the USMNT set-up, I say this is where he belongs. Of course, having him on a squad means having a defensive Swiss Army knife for the bench, as he can be used at five positions with little change in level. In those two victorious Danish Cup finals, he played defensive midfield. Parkhurst is also an ace at halting counters, which a team wanting to control the ball with menace sorely needs.

#2 - Clarence Goodson

A club ace for several years now, there are just a couple of hitches in his US giddy-up. He generally bosses the air, is a menace on set pieces and can play a nice splitting pass. However... on occasion, Goodson has a lapse of focus or reaction on key moments such as balls over the top or goalmouth scramble clearances. Mistakes are magnified in the area, that's for sure. If he cleans those up, we have a bona fide battle.

#1 - Oguchi Onyewu

You heard me. If you can think of a US defender currently performing better against a higher level of competition with comparable experience in World Cup qualifying, please do let me know. From what I've seen of him at Sporting CP, the FC Twente experience seems to have rubbed off on him a little. Gooch has been a little more assertive with moving the ball positively and even gallops forward on occasion. They say it takes over a year for a player to get back to his best after a serious knee injury and they also say 29-year-old center backs are just entering their prime. Well... if this "they" has a clue, a lot of folks back home are going to be needing a lot of crow bibs for dinner time next June.


The previous depth charts:

- Keepers
- Right backs

- Greg Seltzer


jon said...

You knew this question was coming, but where does the sophomore slump Red Bull land on your list? #6? Do you see him playing his way back into contention?

Greg Seltzer said...

Ream? He's a left center back.


Joshua said...

Overall, Parkhurst at #3 was the most interesting decision, but not really that crazy. I am very interested in your left centerback list however. I honestly can't even think of more than two left centerbacks: Ream and Boca.

Here's hoping that Gonzo does move up this list by WC time btw

Joosey said...

George John needs to be at least fourth on this list (or left-center). On the agreement side, nice to see Mike Parkhurst get some recognition. Always thought he has been vastly under appreciated.

Jay said...

Marshall was one of those guys that Bradley stopped making eye contact with after a wobbly performance. He clearly fills the "bad cop" in this arrangement by being big and mean. I think MLS attackers are his bread and butter, but he might need some time and the right defensive partner to really make any waves on the international level.

Parkhurst makes a lot of sense to me, but I imagine a lot of internet trolls complaining that he's not tall enough. "Waaaaah! He can't be a center back because he isn't 6-feet tall WAAAAAAH!"

Finally, Klinsi is probably the best thing to happen to Gooch's international career, because I think Bradley had just closed the door on him. He didn't even make the bench in the last three games of the Gold Cup.

jon said...

Re: Ream. D'oh. A combination of reading fatigue and seeing so many of the usual CB suspects I forgot we were only talking about one half of the CB pairing.

Matt said...

What do you mean by cohesive two man traps?

SPA2TACU5 said...

We need hyperlinks to previous posts!

Plus dob + current club info would be nice.

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Joosey: Yes, John is on the LCB list.

@ Matt: By cohesive, I mean the CB's stay close together and act as one, thus ensuring consistent success with the trap.

@ SPA2TACU5: D'oh! I was trying to get done before the Cardinals game started and forgot the links.

strago said...

Cardinals, pfft.

I like this list -- I love the fact Parkurst is on it and I think he deserves a look.

Greg Seltzer said...

Hating on the classic and classiest American baseball team is just weak sauce.

Go slap yourself, it'll make you feel better. :D

SPA2TACU5 said...


Greg Seltzer said...

Heh. That's better! :D

mwc said...

I agree on Parkhurst. I never understood why he was off the USMNT radar. It seems to me he knows how to read the game well and he's a decent passer. He is at least deserving of a look.

Ryan said...


"Wahhhhhhh!!!! The lights are too bright!!! Waaaaaahhhhhhh!!!! You can't pitch inside to Sir Albert!!!! Waaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!" - Tony "I'm Nothing More Than a Cranky Old Man Who Overmanages" LaRussa

Greg Seltzer said...

FYI, I can't stand LaRussa either. He's not fit for our shirt, I wish he'd leave already.

strago said...

Orioles Magic!

Jay said...

Baseball shmaseball. That shit is slow, boring, awful, boring, and also boring. Why are we talking about baseball?

brian said...

upset to see holden's routine procedure didnt go so well and is now out for 6months rather than the projected 6 weeks. he cant catch a break!
ps i hate johnny evans