Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Surprise!

I'm keeping the strike stable simple for now - but not how you'd probably expect. It would be amusing to see everyone's facial reaction upon reading what follows...

Gyasi Zardes
Josh Sargent
Jozy Altidore


Knocking on the door:
Daryl Dike, Jeremy Ebobisse, Niko Gioacchini
Could be knocking on the door, but in a holding pattern: Ayo Akinola 
We're keepin' a close eye on you: Matthew Hoppe, Andrija Novakovich, Sebastian Soto, Haji Wright


Yep, if we had an competitive game tomorrow, I'd go with Zardes. He's the most "we know what we're getting" choice available at the moment. He's also the best area runner of the group, and the type of system coach Berhalter wants to run requires someone who's going to find space at the right moments. I think Sargent would be able to do that more in a US shirt than he can in Bremen, because he'd be closer to goal (yes, I am saying that they're playing him in his ideal position). He also needs to be less loose with his passing to become the starter. Altidore remains the most complete striker we have, but he's in this spot because it's been too long since he's enjoyed a consistent run of fitness. Do that, and yeah, we'll talk.

Dike is the guy among the youngsters that I'm highest on these days. He's an utter chore physically, and he uses his muscle wisely. He's not just throwing it around clumsily, he uses his footwork to win positions. The Lions hit man also reads moves well and has shown a nice finishing touch. Ebobisse is such a total pro I sometimes forget he's still just 23. His key edge in making plays is his length, which aids him in several situations, from extending around a defender's reach to fire on goal to hold-up play. Gioacchini is to slinky speed option in this group of up-and-comers. His box running game is underrated, but he's another guy who could up his link game. For this reason, he's probably already up to handle bench weapon duties.

Then there's Akinola, who has several of the tools we discussed in the paragraph above. The issue is, we're not sure if he'll side with the red, white and blue or point north of the border to suit up for Canada. If he sticks with the US, there's a good bit of Lukaku in this kid's game, and that's never a bad thing. Yes, it's far too soon to annoint Hoppe, but maaaan, I love the way he gets to the spot for applying finishing touches. You don't need to ask him twice to score on you. Novakovich is another guy with length who can do a lot of different things in the final third. What he has yet to do is find consistency. Soto is a pure finisher right now. That's not regrettable or anything, but his game does need some sanding. We can certainly say the same thing about Wright, but I honestly feel like his play in Denmark (a pretty solid league) has been enlightening. He's figured out how to bully off defenders,  and can also blow past them. That dichotomy combined with his growing comfort in the box makes him a project worth watching. Not everyone has noticed, but he's one of the most improved Americans in Europe this term.






- Greg Seltzer

1 comment:

DaMa said...

you got a fully raised eyebrow from me. you dont know this, but that is quite a reaction! (needless to say i could not possibly disagree more. zardes isnt even the first MLS'er i would choose if i was forced to.)