Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NEWSFLASH: The inmates don't "run" this asylum - they own it lock, stock and barrel.

As promised, MLSS
Armchair Analyst Matthew Doyle is along to (incorrectly) tell you unopposed all the things I got wrong in my USMNT Clipboard depth charts - which are all available for obsessive review through this post. And wouldn't you know it? I ask dude for a Top 5, but he apparently would have had too much great trouble paring it down so much. How delightful for me, erm, I mean you all. Alright then, have at it, you goblins...

I’m going to start by saying that I don’t think the US has the personnel to run a 4-3-3. I see a lot of square pegs and round holes out there, guys who don’t really have the skillset required to make the system work.

But... this is Greg’s show, and I’m happy to play along. Partly because I love criticizing other people’s work (I’m a dick), but mostly because, like the rest of you, I like speculating about personnel, tactics, who’ll work best with whom and how to get them all on the field together.

Also, bear in mind that while I differ with Greg about the relative merits of the US goalkeeping corps, I don’t really give enough of a damn to argue it.

Let’s start at the bottom.

Guys who don’t deserve to be on any “Top 5” list:
Marvell Wynne
Dax McCarty

Zak Whitbread
Michael Orozco-Fiscal
Robbie Rogers
Charlie Davies

Robbie Findley
Clarence Goodson

Wynne simply doesn’t read the game well enough, and while McCarty’s a decent little player, there are plenty of guys in the pool who are better than "decent" at that spot. Whitbread is slow-footed and clumsy the one day out of 100 he's not hurt. Orozco-Fiscal is a borderline MLS/MFL starter, and Rogers has all the physical talent in the world but dribbles with his head down and kills more attacks than any other player when he’s out there. I’d only put him on the field if I felt like being filled with rage.

Davies and Findley could conceivably work their way back into the mix, but CD9 still has a ways to go physically - his balance and explosion are shadows of what they were before the accident - and Findley's a one-dimensional sub for a pretty awful Nottingham Forest side.

But the real issue is Goodson. He's slow and he routinely breaks the offside trap, can't hold or pass the ball, and isn't as much of a threat on set-pieces as his size suggests he should be.

I could live with all that, though, if he wasn't so damn soft. My lasting memory of the Gold Cup was watching Goodson pick the ball up after Pablo Barrera's first goal, then stand there like a big, gawky, emasculated statue as Barrera pushed him in the chest, slapped the ball out of his hands and took it back to midfield. Think Barrera would have tried that on Onyewu? Think Gooch would have let him get away with it if he had?

That's when I knew the US were going to lose. If you can't beat the other team on talent - and right now, the US can't - then you have to beat them with sheer will. With Goodson anywhere near the lineup, that’s not going to happen.

Guys who are in the wrong spots:
Geoff Cameron
Timothy Chandler
Herculez Gomez
Jose Francisco Torres

In light of Houston's performance over the past month, there's absolutely no earthly reason to have him in the midfield. He may very well be the best central defender in the pool right now, and needs to start getting time there post haste.

Chandler is probably the US' best right back, but he's also the US' best left back, and the drop-off to the next best on that list is steeper - especially with Heath Pearce having played literally every spot on the backline except for left back over the past two years. Since he's more valuable as a left back, that’s where I need to list him.

Herc is, as Greg mentioned in his write-up, not a good fit for the 4-3-3. Even so, I'd play him high and central as a No. 9 in the hope that he'd stretch the field a bit and occupy both central defenders.

And as for Torres, his decision-making in the middle third of the field is exquisite, but his decision-making in the final third is sloooooooow. Plus he won't stay wide, doesn't have the pace to stretch the defense without the ball and is zero threat to score. He's an ideal No. 8, especially when paired with a workhorse like Edu, so shuffling him off to the wing is not the right choice.

Guys who are too high:
Michael Parkhurst
George John

Jonathan Spector
Alejandro Bedoya
Freddy Adu
Josh Gatt

Mix Diskerud

Parkhurst is still too small and too slow. John's fallen off a cliff since August, and Spector's never been good enough with the ball to play internationally as a defensive midfielder. I hesitate to even leave him in the top five.

Bedoya has been less than impressive in his US appearances, and since he's moved to Rangers he can't get off the bench. Again, I hesitate to have him in the top five.

Adu has been underwhelming since moving to the Union. He's looked too slow physically for the flanks and too slow mentally to play centrally. His good Gold Cup should keep him in the top five, but he needs fitness. Badly.

As for Gatt and Diskerud... the hype machine has kicked into fifth gear for some reason. But like Jurgen, I want to see it happen at a level higher than Norway - a league distinctly inferior to MLS. (Quick, name any US national-teamer who’s been a contributor while playing in the Tippeligaen! Not easy, is it?)

Guys who are too low:
Benny Feilhaber
Sacha Kljestan
Kyle Beckerman

I swear, if Greg put a gun to my head and said "You have to play a 4-3-3 or I’ll pull the &*^%ing trigger!", Feilhaber-Kljestan-Beckerman might be my three. They'd hold possession, generate chances, move forward as a unit and work both sides of the ball.

The Revs were unbelievably crappy this year, but Feilhaber was phenomenal. His completion rate in the final third is off the charts and he generated more chances per 90 from the run of play than anyone except Mauro Rosales.

Guys who should be there, but aren’t:
Chris Wondolowski
CJ Sapong

Chance Myers
Dilly Duka
Justin Morrow

Simple fact is that the US aren't really 5-deep at most spots, so there aren’t a lot of misses.

I think Chris Wondolowski deserves a much longer look, and is a decent bet for the right wing in the 4-3-3 - 12 of Wondo’s 18 goals in 2010 came from the right midfield slot. But in reality, he'd be at his best in a 4-1-3-2 alongside someone like Jozy.

Or Sapong. He's big, he's tough, he's incredibly athletic, but what I really love about him is that he plays as a true No. 9. He holds the ball and brings others into the play with his back to goal, is unselfish and just does all the "McBride things" that you want to see in a young forward. His finishing needs work, of course - but this is the US player pool, after all. Everybody's does.

Myers is perhaps the biggest oversight. He’s part of a lock-down defense in KC, he's the best overlapping fullback in the league because he reads the game so well, and is an elite athlete. If right back wasn’t so stocked already, he'd be a shoo-in.

I think Dilly Duka is twice as good a prospect as Mix Diskerud. More creative, better touch, better shot, and he has a world class first-step. But it's only really come together as a package in the past month, so I can't dish out too much blame for leaving him off.

You know how you can tell the US is thin at left back? Morrow has had maybe five good games in that spot as a pro, and here I am saying he's maybe in the top 5 prospects at the position. Blech.

Anyway, that's where we'll leave it. I'm sure I managed to anger a couple of Sounders fans by leaving Michael Fucito off and the Norwegian-American crowd isn't going to be too happy with me, but if I can't take the time out of my day to piss off some complete strangers, then life just isn't worth living anymore.

- Matthew Doyle


Joshua said...

While I don't agree with all of your points I LOVE the precise analysis. "he has a good first touch" "Good vision" "Great athlete" and "great first step" are all precise critiques of players. So often I read articles that say things like "he's got potential" "needs to work on things" "exceptional talent" "played well" and just roll my eyes.

We need more of this kind of journalism. Very interesting stuff. Thank you

P.S. I think that the more general analysis comes from people who don't actually watch the games and/or don't analyze the players' performances.

bhamhawker said...

You were doing just fine...until you decided to throw in a midfield that included BOTH Kljestan and Beckerman.

That would inarguably be the worst midfield in USMNT history. Bar none.

Anonymous said...

I can only agree on what you are writing about Goodson. After playing a few good games for Brøndby, he has been very poor this season and not at all able to handle the captaincy he to much surprise was handed shortly after he joined the club.

As for Parkhurst, then he has failed to impress as centre back for FCN, but has done a very convincing and consistent job in right back position this season... and FCN got the strongest defense in the Danish Superliga.

Greg Seltzer said...

Ceres, I love most of your info and commentary, I really do... but if you think Goodson is Brøndby's calamitous problem this season, we have an issue.

Has he been top shelf? No, he certainly hasn't. But that club has been stripped, and he is essentially playing amid the second team at the back. Most of their handful of key veterans are in attack. And despite that, they have 10 goals in the last 8 games... with five of them coming in one game against lowly Køge and zero before the 37th minute.

So he has a shrunken squad, is surrounded by learning mistakes and has zero margin for error. Yeah, I think you are placing far too much blame on Goodson. No doubt.

His 10th place strugglers have allowed exactly three more goals through 13 games than have third place form side FC Midtjylland.

Mike said...

I definitely want to see Benny get some playing time and also want to see Cameron get some time at CB as well. Sapong is someone that interests me as well and hopefully he gets a call in sometime soon.

I have watched a few games of JOhn's and I always come away thinking that he is pretty good but not as good as Gooch or Omar. Still I would rather have him called up than Goodson at this point.

I am also interested on other peoples views of Duka as I rarely see him play but have been hearing a lot of good things recently.

Mike said...

@Greg- have you heard of any players not in MLS playoffs who are going overseas for training? I saw something about Hamid, but was wondering if anyone else is heading over to Europe before the the 2 friendlies coming up

Jay said...

I like Benny. I do. But holy shit that man needs to get a grip on his anger.

How many times this season did we see him snapping at someone, pointing to where he thought someone should be running, yelling at the ref, sulking, or being petulant? It's like he started scowling and his face froze that way, just like my mom always told me it would.

Milkbone Underwear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Milkbone Underwear said...

Like most of the article. Think Solli>Chance Meyers going forward, by a considerable margin.

Greg Seltzer said...

"How many times this season did we see him snapping at someone, pointing to where he thought someone should be running, yelling at the ref, sulking, or being petulant? It's like he started scowling and his face froze that way, just like my mom always told me it would."

Look... do you want to play like the Dutch or not?


jon said...

I really like Chance Meyers and was terrified every time he got the ball wide against my Timbers, but ever since Brek Shea terrorized him for 2 goals I've had doubts about his defensive abilities. But maybe that was an aberration or tired legs or he's still getting better?

sleepylabeef said...

threadjack alert - is Eddie Johnson still playing soccer/alive? I was really hoping to see him tear it up in MLS.

BTM said...

I want to see it happen at a level higher than Norway - a league distinctly inferior to MLS. (Quick, name any US national-teamer who’s been a contributor while playing in the Tippeligaen! Not easy, is it?)

I haven't seen much Norwegian soccer, so I can't comment on how it compares to MLS, but this is kind of a silly argument. The number of Americans playing in MLS is about two orders of magnitude higher than the number in the Tippeligaen.

Mike said...

@greg- any chance that you would ever write an article about potential US players such as Diego fagundez, Mwanga, Nagbe, and Zakuani? It seems that this is a hot topic at the moment and no one seems to know where those players are at in obtaining US citizenship at this time.

Will Parchman said...

For whatever it's worth, Fagundez said this to the Boston Globe in August.

“I would play for the US but it’s taking a long time, and I don’t feel they want me,’’ Fagundez said. “If they helped me I definitely would take it, but I can’t do anything about it. Of course, I would take a chance with Uruguay – not a lot of people get invited by them.’’

I've always gotten the sense that if given an equal choice between the US and Uruguay, he'd go with Uruguay. So the key for the US will be avoiding that scenario.

Jay said...

Frankly, the kid isn't even 17 yet. If he's getting pissy about not getting contacted, he's got another thing coming to him. Andy Najar is just a year older and he already made the decision to stick with Honduras -- in part because of the midfield depth ahead of him. Does he even have his citizenship first? Because, goddamn, that's sort of an important first step.

jon said...

The most recent quote from Fagundez was basically a "whoever calls me in first I'll go" (which was a refreshing, non-waffling take) but that August quote gives me the impression that he thinks the USSF can speed his citizenship process along. So it's not that he's getting pissy about not getting called, he's probably just frustrated with how long citizenship takes and thinks USSF has some pull in that department -- ha!

Jay said...

Yeah, well, according to Wikipedia he's been in the States for over a decade -- which, if I'm not mistaken, is three years longer than the requirement for citizenship. If he doesn't have his citizenship, it's kind of his fault at this point. Sounds a lot like a high school kid, yeah?

Mike said...

My guess is the kid is gone, as he is not a US citizen so the US can't call him in.

At least there are kids coming through the youth teams though. That is a positive

Anonymous said...

Goodson is far from NT material, that much I can say. I'm not blaming him for the problems at Brøndby, this is more a managerial problem, but he has been average at best this season and is not good enough to be team captain at Brøndby.

Parkhurst on the other hand, has been a positive surprise.