Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Work In Progress

Remember when I said it was time to put away all the experiments and shrink down the position pools because the Gold Cup is fast approaching? Yeah, well, that does not apply to the USMNT's current wing stable.

Basically what we have there is about three guys capable of starting, one who has demonstrated he can be a real weapon off the bench and a gaggle of players that we can't really trust yet but could suit our needs at a given moment or against a certain opponent. And beyond them lies a group of  unproven youngsters (your Carletons, your Taitagues, your Pomykals, etc.) who could become a lot more proven on quick notice. Because of this, I'm much more willing to go with the "hot hand" system.

For reasons that will become clear, let's break from the usual methods of unveiling and split these charts into that first group of four and then everyone else.

Paul Arriola
Jordan Morris
Timothy Weah

Jonathan Lewis

I didn't split these guys into right and left because, well, all of them can do both. Arriola really showed something new when played on the left during the January friendlies, and if MLS opening day is any indication, is just finding a new gear in general. He's numero uno, at least for now.

As for Morris, yes, I know he's just back on the field - in competitive games. Really, he's been fit and running since last fall. So he's back and better than ever, with no loss of function. He's got the most experience in the pool combined with highly annoying defense stretching speed. He's numero dos with a bullet. Frankly, I'm kinda okay with delaying this spot on the Clipboard so ridiculously long, if only because I can get Morris back in the ranks.

Weah is the most electric guy here, but also has a lot more room to grow when it comes to fitting into a system with a complete effort than the two fellas listed above. Lewis is the bench weapon I referred to, and he showed exactly why in the first two US matches of the year.

Earn it, fellas (grouped by right side, left side, either side):

Brooks Lennon
Jonathan Amon
Corey Baird

Lynden Gooch
Fafa Picault
Kenny Saief

Miguel Ibarra
Julian Green

We'll start with the right-siders. Yep, I still have Lennon listed in the right wing pool. He has all the big play tools (cross, shot, restarts) and the savvy to put himself in a place to use them. That didn't just vanish because RSL bought Savarino. Amon is essentially "baby Weah" out there. As a winger, at this level, Baird has gotten by on fight so far. He needs to be more clinical to stick in a group that will keep getting better around him.

I'm fully aware that Gooch is currently in League One. He's also top-five in the league in assists on a team angling for automatic promotion and can also bang 'em home from distance. Picault is a bit one-dimensional, but hey, that dimension is scoring goals with a blend of pace and aerial prowess. There's definitely a use for him against certain (slow and/or small) foes. Saief might just be the most well-rounded talent in the entire flank pool, regardless of side... but he hasn't had a shift longer than eight minutes in over five months. Go to Cincinnati and cure what obviously ails them (a stunning dearth of attackers) and we'll talk.

Ibarra is a guy who will run his socks off, defends pretty well and crosses pretty well. In other words, all the things we wish Green would add to his game. That guy is quite the enigma, but one thing is certain: he does not belong in central midfield. It would be super duper if his club would put him back out wide antagonizing fullbacks where he belongs.


Next up: The highly frustrating wide back ranks.

- Greg Seltzer

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