Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lucky #7

First off, apologies on the tardiness. I just got too tired and happily dozed off before getting to the post.

Secondly, as is often the case, discussion of my prattle out there on the interwebs has been brought to attention. It seems we suddenly have a lot of new NSC visitors, including many who joined in the fun after we'd started. As such, a couple of quick newbie notes:

- These rankings are my personal opinions only, no mind-reading Klinsi or any other such prediction-type exercise here. They are based on now, but with a view to the first World Cup qualifier next summer. No player will be listed in more than one position, but a few will be designated for multiple uses in their blurb. And as we now are coaching players up, there will be precious few guys who are moved to cover a hole away from their optimum position - left back means left backs, and so on. Finally, where a subject plays for his club is not among my main concerns. They have their needs for their purposes, I have mine for mine.

- You will learn fast that I don't post things for any effect. I'm just wacky me. So, no, I'm not trying to be either obvious or surprising with any picks. It's literally as if I had to make these decisions and this is what I'd actually go with, regardless of what anyone might think. You may not like or agree with what you read here, but at least you can be assured it's always straight business.

So... wing attack! It's about time we talked some offense in our new offensive system. And as any NSC regular will know, winger is my favorite position. To me, it's the straw to the drink. There's so much to cover in talking about wingers, so I'll split the description into the two lists. Today, I'll get into the more basic, obvious aspects. When we go lefty, I'll get into details.

On the first line of the first page of the winger handbook, it says in big, bold letters: "STAY WIDE!". If these players do not hold their positional integrity, the defense can become more compact, which we naturally hate. We don't want to stretch a defense - we want to keep it stretched at all times. Collapsing inside doesn't merely almost automatically closes down 25% of the attack half. It almost automatically closes down one of the best, juiciest quarters of the attack field.

There are a few different types of wingers to consider, and I prefer to have separate kinds on opposite wings. The standard variation most likes to take wingbacks to the line for pace and cross. The modern winger cuts in at the corner of the area, preferring shorter centering feeds and shots. Often, this type plays the off wing, allowing cut-ins to the favored shooting peg. Preferably, both types will occasionally do the unexpected thing, to keep defenders honest.

A third type essentially acts as a second area forward, but you need a major field-tilting bastard on that side to make it work for balance (example: when Messi played from the right for Barcelona, Alves always made it so Barcelona still had a right wing presence). I don't favor this set-up and we don't have Messi/Alves, so let's just leave it out.

There's a great misconception that Dutch wingers don't play defense. At the least, they act as pressure valves, but they also need to help the wingback when the other team is invading their own corner. We don't want the center back pulled out and we don't want the defensive midfielder pulled out. The winger definitely needs to play defense. In that respect, it's no different than the wide midfielders in an empty bucket.

Of course, the real fun comes at the other end. And I will be throwing the jazz hands at you in the left back preamble. For now, let's fill out the right flank stable.

#5 - Chris Rolfe

While the AaB ace has cooled off a bit from his hot start to the season, he can provide several of the elements we want here. Rolfe can take a good crack from distance and has a penchant for the big play. While not a guy to overrun defenders one-v-one, he does link well in combos and hit a fair cross. He also provides another quality corner kick taker.

#4 - Josh Gatt

I know everyone is very excited about developing along a true wing terror, but let's not rush things. Some could theorize that his emergency cover shifts at right back for Molde may have slowed his attack development, but actually they might just have put him closer to a first call-up because he truly understands the full responsibilities of the position now. When he does arrive in USMNT camp (I'm assuming January), he won't just be a guy with blinding speed, the daring of a pirate and moves like gettin' jiggy. Yes, he will be all that - but also the full bag of chips. He's a great kid who eats up coaching like the Cookie Monster, so don't be shocked if he's topping this chart come Brazil 2014.

#3 - Herculez Gomez

Here's the deal. Just like how a 4-4-2 leaves some of our players without a natural clipboard position (read: Feilhaber, Diskerud, etc.) , the 4-3-3 also makes life tough for a few guys. Most all of these guys are support forwards. Is he a striker? Is he a winger? Is he a #10? Well... I'm not 100% certain what Gomez is in this set, but I know he deserves a shot in the team. For my money, he most comfortably fits on right wing. He likes to approach the net at angles and has plenty of experience as deep as right midfield. I'm confident he'll know what to do here and I really do not want his back to goal, which negates so many of his best attributes. Plus playing him on the wing allows you to add another prime set piece target. Yep, it's a done deal, get the rubber stamp. I will allow late game desperately-need-a-goal #10 slot duty to take advantage of his itchy trigger finger and added aerial threat up the middle, but that's it. Right wing Herculez.

#2 - Fabian Johnson

As you've surely noticed, a large percentage of wingers are kinda small. It's often for the best, as you want to get playmakers and those bound to get outmuscled away from traffic. And then there's the lanky, angular-but-strong winger that almost looks like an illusion when beating defenders into the area. Fans, meet your "that guy". Though not exactly a crosser, Johnson will cause disarray in the opposing defense. He just... wiggles and changes speeds and pushes and spins and looks like he's going to fall over but then sorta hops to suddenly appear beyond your shoulder. It has to be like defending the flu. He's literally "The Foreign Object" for wingbacks. He gets under the skin and makes you sneeze. And if that's not good enough, dude has the high-level wingback experience to make him a complete flank man.

#1 - Landon Donovan

I know what some of you are thinking. And I know what yet others of you with a different reasonable thought are thinking. Respectfully, here's why you're wrong. Donovan is still the team's best crosser. He's one of those smaller cats we mentioned for keeping out of traffic. He attacks best when with open sail. He plays great track back defense and runs forever. He links like a chain factory. He is straight back post murder. He needs multiple targets to be most effective, but for some strange reason doesn't seem to thrive in the #10 position. Wide right is usually where he's been played when facing the highest level of competition (think Everton, most of WC 2002, etc). It's also pretty much from where so many of his memorable, top outings and plays have come. And, gosh, best of all, he will actually stay wide if you ask him to (ahem). Besides, with the growing depth at this position, he can always be relocated to the left or #10 in certain circumstances.

I'll assume that covers that, yes? Super duper.


On Tuesday, we come back with the two-way midfielders.

- Keepers
- Right backs
- Right center backs
- Left center backs
- Left backs
- Defensive midfielders

- Greg Seltzer


Jay said...

Something tells me that Deuce ain't gonna be #1 at any of these positions.

SPA2TACU5 said...

And what would make you say that?

Matt said...

Interesting that there's no one besides Lando from the MLS that you rate high enough for right winger. I mean, take away a guy who just switched teams and a kid that's barely 19 and were looking at Robbie Rogers to fill out this list. We seriously lack depth...

Greg Seltzer said...

I'm not exactly sure how Gatt being 19 or Johnson having switched cancels out the depth they bring.

And don't forget Chandler, too.

Jay said...

Call it a hunch. He drifts in too much on the wing, which breaks the 'stay wide' edict -- which, by my guess, says he won't be top of the list for left winger. This is really my only doubt -- would you put Brek Shea on the wing over Deuce?

I'm presuming that Bradley gets top billing in the #8 position, which means Deuce won't be tops there either.

That leaves us with playmaker and striker. We already know that Altidore is going to own the top of the striker list (and yes, we DO already know that). So can Dempsey take the #10? That's the question. Call me a lunatic (no really, it's fine), but I think that one goes to Adu.

Speculation, of course. Greg may not play the Klinsi-speculation game, but I can sure play Greg-speculation.

SPA2TACU5 said...

Why would Deuce play at #8?

Besides I think Greg previously stated he opted for a 4-3-3 with two defensive midfielders as opposed to Reyna's prescribed two attacking midfielders.

So yes that leaves #9 (Altidore), 10 & 11.

Greg also stated he preferred playing two kinds of wingers. The cut-inside one would be CD coming in from the left wing. Donovan being the natural right foot on the right wing.

I mean if we're talking about coaching players up and teaching 28 year olds how to play 4-3-3 in 4 days of training camp every 45 days, while they play 4-4-2 and in different position the rest of the season, then why couldn't Dempsey be taught to keep wide?

At least one of them needs to cut inside anyway to make space for the wingback(s).

I wouldn't pick anyone over Dempsey. Certainly not Adu.

But we'll see :)

Jay said...

I guess that answers that.