Monday, February 22, 2021

Flank Game

I was going to do the center back slots next, but indecision there means this one's done first. The fullback slots are obviously huge in the modern game, and the USMNT system requires our guys to do a lot of jobs at both ends. The young talent we have means these line-up spots should be a hearty strength this time around.

Aaron Herrera
Bryan Reynolds
Julian Araujo

In the running: Kyle Duncan
Don't sleep on: Jaylin Lindsey

Before we even get started, let's remember that Reggie Cannon is still eligible for the Olympics. But he will surely be off with the senior side. Beyond that, it might be controversial, but I'm thinking Herrera as the qualifying starter and front-runner to do the same come summer. He's tough, ticks a lot of wide back play boxes and has the added chip of being able to play well on the left.

I didn't mark Reynolds with an asterisk because I can see a scenario where Roma decides it would be best for his development to get some games in Olympic qualifying. Either way, he's at the very least a co-favorite to start when July rolls around. Araujo edges out Duncan for now, but that's also subject to change. Lindsey has the goods to make a run for contention when MLS starts up, and it doesn't hurt that, like Herrera, he can flip to the left side without much drop-off.

All in all, this position will see a dogfight for both roster slots both next month and this summer. And now, over to the port side...

Sam Vines
George Bello*
Marco Farfan

Don't sleep on: DeJuan Jones, Leonardo Sepúlveda
All paths blocked: Matthew Real
Slipping fast: Chris Gloster

The left back chart is fairly simple as we quickly move toward qualifying. Vines is the lock starter, as well he should be. It's okay to get excited by how his game is rounding out. He may already rightfully be worth a roster slot with the senior team, but isn't likely to start, so we may as well let him run wild with the Under-23's until fall.

Farfan (the more textbook choice) and Bello (the more explosive choice) are duking it out for a back-up spot that might not even be there come tournament time if Herrera ends up covering it as a utility wide back. I have Bello with the slightest edge because having one more guy who can pull a rabbit out of the attack hat can surely help at a short tourney.

The guys listed in italics are proper longshots for qualifying, at absolute best. Still, one needs to think ahead; there's always the specter of injury and there's always a chance someone will kill it in club life before summer. Jones impressed me quite a bit down the stretch last season, while Sepúlveda has been making decent progress of late over in Spain's third flight. Unless a crisis comes around, Real is well behind the starting job in Philly, and thus waaaay behind the main frame here. But he's capable at this level, and you never know. I have never been super high on Gloster, but he's struggling even more than I thought he might at PSV. Dude needs a form U-turn bad.

- Greg Seltzer

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