Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Playmakers

Now, we move into the attack. Sorting out the three positions along the set-up line was very tricky, and I went back and forth on some important issues here. Let's begin with the guy who plays behind/off the striker, as that's the big decision in the make-up of our offense. And the big reveal.

Clint Dempsey
Sacha Kljestan
Benny Feilhaber

So now you have the answer to the question "Is it time for Deuce to become the super-sub?"

That time will come soon, and perhaps even before we get to Russia - but I say it's not here yet. Yes, it played out well that way at Gold Cup. As we all know, that level of competition is not where the true answer will be told. If we're talking about the optimum line-up against the mightiest of foes, Dempsey still belongs in it. In the end, the deciding factor was how well he plays alongside a certain Borussia Dortmund phenom. Separating them is simply not in our best interest at this time, and not just because that weakens the wing position.

Though Feilhaber has the better history against top level international opposition, Kljestan has now moved ahead of him in my book. Of course, we all know he's really third at this post, but that other guy is needed on the wing when Dempsey plays. Right wing, to be specific...

Christian Pulisic
Paul Arriola
Graham Zusi

Kept hanging around by his work rate: Gyasi Zardes

Really, Pulisic could rank as the starter at any of these three positions. I mainly chose to put him on the right based on where others operate best. For balance, I feel this team requires a playmaker out wide when Dempsey starts. Pulisic is that man, and playing him here allows for crosses with his preferred foot. It also pairs his meager defensive work with the other-worldly recovery speed of Yedlin.

Arriola narrowly edges out Zusi because of his energy, but (as much as some may hate it) the Sporting KC veteran still offers decent value for his serves into the box and defensive abilities tracking back. Zardes offers some of the latter and plenty of pressure valve play, though obviously his final third impact can be quite underwhelming.

And on the left...

Fabian Johnson
Jordan Morris
Kelyn Rowe

Bears watching once he's fit: Kenny Saief

Let's be honest: FabJo's output for club and country has often been disappointing since last summer's Copa América. Nevertheless, his two-way skills and unnerving movement keeps him in this line-up. For how long? We will see what happens this fall, both during the hex's stretch run and at 'Gladbach. That said, I imagine that he can be a much better flank partner for Villafaña than he's shown to date.

Morris has also had some struggles this year, but he's a real through ball target/defense stretching option. If he ever starts using his left foot, Johnson may be forced to look over his shoulder. Rowe was gone too soon from Gold Cup, but we all saw that he can create quality chances with limited touches. The guy certainly knows the way toward goal. Though in a different way, like Morris, he is capable of annoying the crap out of a tiring defense as a fresh legs sub.

Tomorrow, we'll cap this latest edition of the Clipboard with my (less surprising) #9 depth chart.

- Greg Seltzer


dwc414141 said...

(This comment is about the MF in general and covers players from the last 2 posts) Hopefully, as we get closer to Russia 2018 some of the issues facing midfielders will be resolved. There are several players in slumps or having seasons/USMNT appearances with less than expected production (Zardes, Morris, Bedoya). Will the promising young players that have not achieved consistent playing time or are playing inconsistently (Hyndman, Arriola, Acosta) get on track by then? As always there are the injuries keeping players off the field (Lletget and Saief). Can Dax McCarty handle the caliber of opponent the team will likely face in the WC? Where do Feilhaber, Kljestan and Nguyen fit in to Arena's plans or can they play themselves into contention? Will Williams be a consistent player at the EPL level and warrant more consideration with the USMNT? Is Jermaine Jones too old or will he be too old by the WC to be a contributor? Will Dempsey stay healthy and capable of making a significant contribution? I think Arena is less likely to bring in a surprise player at the last minute, such as Green from the last Cup, but if McKennie plays a handful of games and looks good, is it possible he makes the roster?
A year prior to the previous 6 WCs and I could be fairly confident picking the players who would make the roster and start. This year I have a lot of question marks. There is a lot of depth but few "stars" in their prime that are locks.

FiveTwo said...

Dempsey just doesn't bring anything defensively. Jozy doesn't bring much more. Can't have the two of them together against teams that will hold possession against us (which is basically every top team in the world). And neither are great in transition.

Dempsey is the super sub, Jozy and Wood up top

Adrian said...

Assuming that we can only play two of the three of Altidore, Wood, and Dempsey, I much prefer Altidore and Wood together with Dempsey the supersub. The exception would be if we are expected to have a lot of possession against a bunkered team, in which case I'd pick Altidore and Dempsey.