Monday, August 4, 2014

Sound the trumpets, yo.

Let us shove aside my FIFA rage and get back to fun/games. Below you will find my final 23 forecast for the 2018 World Cup squad, followed by the projected game one line-up. We shall save those tactical particulars for tomorrow.

And, yes, I am aware there are three strikers and only three wingers. Having Pelosi and Yedlin in the wingback stable means also having a couple of quite acceptable emergency wingers with more typically defensive back-ups.

G - Guzan, Johnson, Clark

D - Yedlin, Lichaj, Gonzalez, Packwood, Brooks, Besler, Pelosi, Klute

M - Cameron, Williams, Bradley, Trapp, Gil, Diskerud

A - Johnson, Rubin, Green, Altidore, Boyd, Jóhannsson 

So... who is ready to storm Russia with this lot in four years?

- Greg Seltzer


soccer boy said...

You forgot freddy!

Matt said...

It's interesting to me that you have Gonzalez starting in 4 years and not Besler. I guess the implication is that Brooks pairs well with Gonzalez and moves the ball as well as Besler. But I thought the general consensus was that Besler read the game as well as any defender we've had in awhile, so it seems like would want to keep him in there if at all possible, especially since Brooks can be as much a beast in the air as Gonzo.

Greg Seltzer said...

Do not get me wrong, I am a Besler fan and I believe there will be field work for him in 2018. But Brooks is the Rikjaard-esque CB (or like a Vertonghen, since he is a lefty) we have never had. And I think he is a bigger threat to score from restarts. Set piece importance is magnified at World Cup.

UnitedDemon said...

It's not even funny how much better Hamid is than Johnson. You think DC is where they are in the league because of expensive stars and excellent management? Hell no. It's held together by a workmanlike, yet fairly talented group that relies on Hamid to be stellar game in and game out. He is. The athleticism is now allied to a strong mentality and complete professionalism. Johnson is hilariously over matched.

Tony M said...

Coach Ramos will get a lot out of these guys!

Jolazo said...

Seeing two left-footed guys at left back is a nice change of pace.

Unknown said...

United, I'm not sure Hamid is night and day better than Johnson, but that battle will be fun to watch for the next 10+ years.

But I agree, if we are going off right now, I'd but Hamid as #2. In my opinion either Johnson or Hamid should have been #3 in Brazil.

Unknown said...

Here is a bit of a controversial 23 for 2018. Eff FIFA! Not picking any duals on the fence or players that haven't got their US citizenship yet.

GK: Johnson, Hamid, Guzan

Defense: Yedlin, Chandler, Fabian, Garza, Gonzo, Hedges, Besler, Brooks

CM's: Bradley, Powers, Lletget, Okugo, Kitchen

Attackers: Zardes, Johannsson, Agudelo, Koroma, Green, Wood, Morris

Yep no Altidore. Shocking I know, but I think Klinsmann goes on a mission to not be dependent on Jozy in this cycle.

Lletget finally breaks his EPL chains in the coming years.


GK: Irwin
Defense: Klute, Acosta, O'Neill, Packwood
CM's: Gil, Mix, Pelosi, Williams, Trapp
Attackers: Rubin, Holmes, Shea, Gyau, Altidore

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

If Gil is our best #10 option in 2018, we're not going to get very far. Really hoping one of Zelalem/Hyndman pans out.

Greg Seltzer said...

Considering he stood out in his proper position at the U20WC last summer, I am not sure why you say this.

Dan said...

Not sure I agree that he stood out - he had one fantastic goal but was otherwise quiet. And I just haven't seen the vision/passing accuracy from him in MLS play that is necessary for that position. That's partly a product of him playing a different role for RSL, but still - if he had that innate skill set, you would think he'd be able to deliver that killer through ball more often. I hope he proves me wrong, but right now I don't see him excelling in that role.

Unknown said...

Greg - I always thought the 3 man back was a terrible idea, but with Van Gaal using it with success with the Netherlands at the World Cup (Mexico maybe as well?) does it make some sense? Cameron/Gonzales/Brooks, make Fabian/Yedlin wingbacks?

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Dan:

I was at the games, and I spoke to the other teams, coaches and reporters.from France, Ghana and Spain. He stood out.

And, yes, it is quite difficult to display #10 passing acumen when not played as a #10. He is not getting the same lanes, the same point to break defender pressure, the same angles and distances, etc.

@ Unknown:

Not interested. You must remember that Oranje has Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie to key the counter success. And they were only using the formation out of fears that the back was not talented or seasoned enough.

Tybz said...

Great line up. I love the addition of Lichaj - hope that happens.

I agree on Gil, he's a special player.

The only one I'm not sold on is Williams. I've only really seen him in a few USMNT games. Thought he played well, but he just doesn't stand out in my mind.

One last question: why not Agudelo?

Zach said...

What would be your measure for success on this, Greg? 12/23 correct? 15?

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Tybz:

Agudelo was #24 and an excruciating cut. And I certainly would not be at all surprised if he was there, perhaps even as a wide attacker. I guess the best way to explain is that he is at a horribly deep position. It came down to either him or AJ, and I just felt AJ provided more of a different element.

And of course that this is done four years in advance. It aint easy, especially when your pool is always expanding.

@ Zach:

Now I must predict on my predictions?!? :O


But seriously, I should definitely hit a dozen of them. If I hit 15, I will be pretty happy. If I hit 17, I will delighted.

If I hit 20, you will never hear the end of it.

Jon said...

Gil has been incredibly overrated by the average US fan lately and Greg too. I normally agree with much of what Greg presents, but not on Gil.

Seems most opinions of Gil are a reflection of the prospect he was two years ago than what he is now. I follow him pretty closely and he's stalled.

He is NOT the creative player most think. Lacks 1v1 ability and pace. Over the last year hasn't really improved in influencing matches. Seems much more a Bradley type, more a #8 linker than a natural creative type.

Deep down does he have #10 ability? Possibly, but it would require a move away from RSL and MLS to bring out of him and given we've heard of zero interest from abroad or a move on the horizon, projecting him as a WC #10 based off his body of work at RSL seems a lot more like hope than substance.

Flores or Hyndman seem more the natural creative prospects in our player pool, with Shawn Kauter being a top prospect as well who I don't think many know about(German American who wants to play for us). Zelalem throw his hat into the conversation if his body matures and he breaks through the latter half of this coming cycle.

But I think Gil is suffering some of what Nagbe suffers. While the average fan keeps suggesting they're creative players, they're both far more comfortable on a regular basis playing deeper and linking and don't naturally have that aggressive nor playmaking mindset in the final 3rd. And a big issue is that younger creative players in MLS regularly hit a wall in their development. Just about every creative prospect/player starts to stall out after 3-4 years in the league. The league is not good at developing attacking talent into taking that next jump.

If Gil gets to a place like Holland and does so quickly and gets deployed as a #10, then I think we can seriously talk. But as he's not getting much time as a #10 in a league outside the top 15 worldwide and spends most of his time not impressing at RM and isn't even a regular starter right now, I don't see it. You would expect our top #10 prospect for Russia to at least be starting as a #10 in a league slightly below the Championship, yet he isn't. That's quite an issue.

Greg, how much do you actually watch Gil now? I ask as someone who's been very high on him before, watches regularly and am quite disappointed in his lack of progress. Is there a move abroad we don't know about as anything regarding his work at RSL and staying there and projecting him as a WC level player seems much more based on hope than reality.

Tony M said...

My hesitation is around a couple of spots. In four years, Bradley may be more comfortable against international competition by slide more to the back. That might open up the middle for Trapp. And for no reason I can put my finger on, I am not sure about Johnson on the right. It may be that Yedlin's range and speed allows us to go with a right sider that can tuck in more, hold the ball when necessary and/or attack. If that's the case, I like Joe Corona there.

Plus let's not forget who unexpectedly breaks into and knocks off the roster.

Zach said...

If you get 20 I will eat my tie. Chances are strong you only get 1 of those keepers, so you're already down to 21 haha.

Hyndman, Gyau, Stanko, Agudelo will make a strong push. Zelalem and the Parker Bros. are wild cards. Gallardo, Pulisic, Sonora, Barbir, EPB all have a chance to go from prospects to wonderkinds in the next 4 years.

Tybz said...

Jon - I think perhaps you're over analyzing this about Gil.

First he's 20, and he has, what, 100 games under his belt for RSL over the last 3-4 years starting when he was a teenager.

That he could step on a field anywhere take on a full grown man 1v1 shouldn't be the benchmark for him - besides I'm not entirely sure I care if any US players can take on people 1v1, I'd rather they be smart and decisive passers and have good field awareness.

And one thing that I hope US soccer fans are noting, esp. now is that having a player leave MLS to go to Europe, be it Holland or England or wherever, isn't necessarily a good option, from a developmental standpoint.

It only really makes sense for him to make a move if he knows he's going to a new club that will provide him an opportunity that currently doesn't exist for him at RSL. (obviously there's a monetary component to this, but I'm leaving that to one side).

And the other problem I have with your comment is that you're comparing a guy (Gil) who currently plays professional soccer, and has been doing so for years, with others who while exciting to imagine their potential, have yet to really do anything in a competitive game so that they can be compared.

The idea of Zelalem is great, but as you and I both know, he could end up becoming something much less than what we hope for (or decide for Germany instead of us). And the same thing goes for Flores and Hyndman.

This isn't my endorsement that Gil is going to 'make it'. But my acknowledgement that Gil is much more of a real commodity for USMNT to utilize than other less well developed options - at this point.

And Gil does possess a skill set that can be currently utilized - at 20. So it's doesn't take a leap of imagination to think that at 24 he might be even more valuable.

AG said...

I agree with Zach. A lot of other players could step onto the scene like a Yedlin.

AG said...

While looking at everyone's comments, has anyone else realized how wide open this next WC cycle will be? I can't even think of another so wide open.

For example, players like Donovan, Dempsey, Howard, Beasley, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo were always on the USMNT from 2006 to 2010 and it was pretty much a for gone conclusion that many could still have a chance for WC2014... until Jurgen came in and began to make changes and/or no longer take older players due to fitness, injuries, or style of play (no reason to argue Donovan here just noting reasons for changes). So we now go into this next cycle with at minimum a core group of Guzan, Bradley, Altidore, F. Johnson, Besler, Cameron, and Yedlin (others can be on here based on your own opinion). The rest will need to prove themselves against younger players coming up.

It will be pretty interesting to see how new players are integrated over 2 Gold Cups, U20 team, U23 team qualifying for Olympics, Copa America, and possibly the Confederations Cup in 2017. I'm excited to begin this possibly even this fall with a handful of new players being introduced to January Camp with most likely even more new players getting an opportunity.

Jon said...


"And one thing that I hope US soccer fans are noting, esp. now is that having a player leave MLS to go to Europe, be it Holland or England or wherever, isn't necessarily a good option, from a developmental standpoint."

Don't agree with this. England isn't a development league, so if going there you better be able to step in and play. Cameron did, Shea didn't. Bad move for Shea. EPL is all about can you help right now.

Holland however has a great track record of development, far better than MLS. If a young player gets a chance there, has to take it.

As far as Gil, he's been a pro for years, is playing in a league comparable to the Championship and 2Bund, and isn't starting regularly nor playing his preferred position all that much. There's little suggesting staying in MLS is the better development option as well for attacking talent. Such a poor tactical league with a slow tempo. And when a former MLS MVP candidate in Brek Shea can't do a thing at Stoke, that says a lot.

When Sean Wright-Phillips, a crap player in England can league MLS in scoring, that says a lot too. As does Luke Rodgers being a key player formerly for NYRB and can't find a job even at the League One level. I could go on.

The problem isn't going to Holland is a bad move, the problem is if you can't cut it in Holland, you weren't that great a prospect anyway. The issue is more the level of player we export, not that there's an issue with development in a league like the Ered. And the longer you stay in MLS, the worse you'll be tactically.

Tony M said...

When Sean Wright-Phillips, a crap player in England can league MLS in scoring, that says a lot too.

What it may say is that anyone can look good when Thierry Henry has decided to spend his life giving you incredible service.

And the world is full of guys who thrived in one leage after failing in another. I has a lot to do with fit and not exclusively about ultimate skill level

Unknown said...

There is no player called "Sean Wright-Phillips". There is a former England international called Shaun Wright-Phillips who has a brother Bradley playing in MLS...

BWP only looking good in MLS because he's on the same team as Thierry Henry isn't true. I don't remember any ofHenry's previous MLS striker partners leading the scoring and they all got to play with him when he was a younger and more effective player.

Thierry Henry had nothing to do with that great individual goal BWP scored against New England. It had a really nice assist from Lloyd Sam though, another player who moved to MLS from League One in England. It's always easier to thrive in a lower quality league.

Jon said...

Even Jacobson from FCD, now playing in Norway, a league often slammed by MLS fans, points out the difference in quality.

As he just said the other day, in Norway the guys have better skill and play at a noticeably higher tempo. He's working to get up to the pace of the tempo.

That says a lot. This isn't even the Ered of Ligue 1 he's talking about, it's Norway.

Fact is, MLS is mostly lower Championship to League One quality. There's 2-4 players on many teams who could be upper Championship or lower EPL quality but the drop and quality in MLS rosters and foolish top heavy structure severely effects tempo, as does the poor coaching and poor tactics.

Which is a part of the reason as I said that Nagbe and Gil really aren't all that creative or impressive. Any potential international level attacking player who's been playing in this league for a few years should be impacting matches far more than both do.

Now if people want to argue we're crap at producing attacking and creative players and because of that, a guy like Gil by default is the top #10 prospect, that makes more sense, not because Gil is something special, just because everything else is that bad.

Jon said...

Notice just about every MLS All Star game is absent of American 10's. Notice the more creative AM's in MLS are foreigners, like Morales or DF.

Try ranking the top American 10's or wingers in MLS. It's pretty damn dry.

The lack of interest from abroad speaks to that. Get a guy like Shea who most think sucks, tearing up MLS as a young winger and the interest comes. People think Shea sucks now, but we can't even produce another one. Closest might be Zardes who's older now than why Shea was an MVP candidate and while improving, has quite a low soccer IQ and regularly makes decisions where there's no explanation other than he's had poor coaching his throughout his youth.

Who's the #2, #3 and #4 American 10's behind Gil in MLS? It's nothing impressive. Most decent attacking prospects skip MLS and get signed by foreign clubs/academies anyway and the sheer numbers of our youth NTers signing abroad shows that.

dikranovich said...

Maybe we are not producing as many #10s because here in the most free country in the world, we don't give our players the freedom to really express themselves. We maybe end up shoehorning players.

Tybz said...

Jon - I get what you're saying, I just think you're relying too heavily on broad narratives.

MLS is not all one thing, and EPL all another thing, nor the Tippeligaen all something else.

And a single player’s circumstance isn't, nor should be, an indictment of an entire league. That Brek Shea couldn't cut it a Stoke could be based on a number of factors besides (or including) his abilities. Maybe he has a bad attitude, maybe he didn't click with the coach, and maybe someone in the front office thinks his hair looks stupid - who knows? Definitely not you nor or I.

Shea not making it a Stoke doesn't mean he couldn't make it somewhere else - equal to Stoke - under different circumstances.

And Shea's situation has nothing to do with MLS. He was an MVP because MLS wanted to market him to an American audience, not because he represents the best and only skill set America has to offer the rest of the world.

With your Jacobson example, again it’s too broad, and too narrative-based. I just don’t think you can competently compare and contrast leagues based simply on Andrew Jacobson's experience with Stabaek (where's he's played one game).

Perhaps Jacobson's experience at Dallas, and at Dallas alone, has more to do with his comments than the sum total of every MLS team.

And perhaps Phillips’ great season with NYRB has more to do with Phillips than English League One or MLS. You’re basing so much of your opinion on assumptions, not on concrete analysis.

If you really want to do this justice then create an excel spreadsheet and list all of the MLS-based players who have been exported overseas over the last 3-4 years. In the subsequent columns list their age, where they went, how long they stayed, how successful the team they went to, and any other statistics that points to their worthiness.

Then do the same thing for the English Championship (only those players who were develop through tier two teams, not loanees from the Premiership). And the same thing for Tippeligaen or Eredvisie.

My guess is that MLS-crafted players won’t blow anyone away, but their successfulness can be measured by an increase in value if you look at it year-over-year. And I’d also guess that Championship-grown talent isn’t far and away better than MLS-grown talent – better perhaps but not (or perhaps not) less so than one might imagine.

Or maybe I’m wrong, but if you did that analysis, at the very least your comments would be based more on just these cliché narratives like – ‘Holland is where you develop players’; ‘England isn’t a good developmental league’; “MLS has a slow tempo’.

Tony M said...

dikranovich? That really you? Cause you have a point. I'm not sure I completely agree, but there maybe something to that...

Tybz said...

As far as Gil and this #10 business – again I go back to the lack of perspective here.

Gil is 20 years old.


You are analyzing him has if he’s in the prime of his career, but he has the lion share of his career in front of him.

The best, and perhaps only, way to judge him is to compare him to his peers. What are other 20 year old American soccer players doing now? How successful are they, how far along in their career are they? How much playing time are they getting, and what is the quality of that playing time.

What’s better getting 100 MLS games under your belt at 20, or training and playing in reserve games for a European team, or playing college soccer?

Ask Kyle Beckerman, Matt Besler or Graham Zusi about what’s a better avenue. Or Harrison Shipp and Patrick Mullens. Or Clint Dempsey or Michael Bradley. Or Freddy Adu.

I list these guys to show that there isn’t one sacred pathway toward developmental successfulness. It is entirely possible for RSL to develop one player to the best of their abilities while screwing up another player’s abilities – the same goes for Arsenal, University of Virginia or Bradenton. It’s one part what the developers are teaching, one part the player’s ability and attitude/drive, and one part luck.

These things either all come together or don’t.

And lastly, I don’t know who’s behind (or in front of) Gil as a US play-making midfielder. Maybe we don’t have good opinions here now, but will in the future, or maybe we won’t – ever.

I do know that we can field a very competitive team now, and that there’s a good chance that we will be able to field and even more competitive team in the future, with or without Gil, or someone better or worse than Gil.

But Gil is a good prospect, and the fact that he’s as far along in his career today as he is, means that he is a good option to consider for future USMNT work.

Tybz said...

And one last comment: The US developmental system as it stands today is only 5+ years old.

So that should always be kept in mind when making these types of judgments.

Tom said...

I agree more with Tbyz than Jon

Unknown said...

I don't know...I'm leaning a little more towards Jon's argument.

Tom said...

Fair enough! I think Jon has a few good points, too.