Monday, March 8, 2021

My Kinda Crowd(s)

You know how it goes around here sometimes. This Clipboard for the winger slots was about halfway done when I took a break to hit the market. It can be easy to miss a little patch of sidewalk ice when it's dark out, so there was a little spill (yeah, I'm that jog still out there cycling around even when the weather turns shit). Shortly after that happened, Olympic team manager Jason Kreis publicly discussed a few preliminary roster issues of note, and suddenly I had some renovating to do with this and a couple other depth charts.

So I stayed my wrist for a few days, and then some work took precedence, and then our fellas went goal crazy over the weekend, so here we are a week later, finally back on the pony. There were three main bullet points from Kreis' comments. We'll touch on one of them in the striker/#10 post, but two of them directly affected the flank stable Clipboard.

The big takeaway was that, though Alvarez was not named to the US camp roster, it doesn't mean he's opted to go with Mexico. In this case, no news is good enough news for now. The other takeaway was Atlanta United literally taking away three players out of availability for Olympic qualifying so they can focus on the club's early April CONCACAF Champions League tie. This led to alterations in the frame at center back, at left back and in this very winger post, and by extension in the final roster picks. These are not subtle changes, they all affect the qualifying situation.

Let's start on the right, where Kreis' announcement compounded matters even more.

Timothy Weah*
Efrain Alvarez*

Serious bench weapon material: Brooks Lennon*, Benji Michel
Look out above: Caden Clark, Cade Cowell

Overage: Chris Mueller*

Let's approach the right wing chart from the summer tourney perspective and work backwards from there. You'll no doubt see why as we go. As of now, I'd like Weah as the starter, but the way he's going at Lille the senior team might grab him away. We already discussed the status of Alvarez, but where does he slot on the Clipboard? If you ask me today, he'd at least be in line to be the main bench weapon. I also love Lennon in this role for the obvious reason of him being among the very best crossers in the entire pool.

Then there's another guy that has made solid pro impact off the bench, the speedy Michel. I like the way he pushes the rush, but it's tough getting around Orlando's starter. That guy, Mueller, is my second overage selection. If Weah is with Gregg Berhalter's group, the Lions ace would be my summer starter. Put it all together, and that's a rather fearsome foursome for this side of attack.

Here's the catch: None of those first four choices of mine, including Mueller, will be available for qualifying. Meanwhile, Clark and Cowell are MLS youngsters capable of busting out big before summer, but their best chance to crack the squad during this cycle may have actually gone with them not being on the provisional qualifying team sheet.

So do we leave that right wing qualifying job for Michel, or pull someone over from the left side? Judging by what's over there, it may end up a platoon situation. 

Jonathan Lewis
Ulysses Llanez

On the rise:
Luca de la Torre*
In the frame: Sebastian Saucedo*
Outside shot: Konrad de la Fuente*

Overage: Julian Green*

There's also a glut of guys not in for qualifying duty on the left, but at least it's not our top choices. To me, Lewis is the clear starter here. He's shown he can be at both ends of scoring plays with the senior side, so let's allow him to enjoy a confident Olympic run. Llanez has had a tough season, but he'll at least make for a scary bench option in qualifying.

After needing some time to adapt to the Eredivisie, De la Torre's recent play has been quite encouraging. Heracles are now using him in midfield, but I still like him out on the left at this level and there's way too much traffic in the central park slots for him to contribute in this run. Saucedo is coming along a little slower, but he is also still trying to get comfy in a new league. I personally don't feel like De la Fuente is ready to standout at this level, but he's close enough that a hot run could change my mind.

Then there's Green, another guy who isn't playing on the wing in club life, but has shown himself to be dangerous playing there for the US. He'd be my third and final overage pick for summer, even if there's a solid chance he would not be a lock starter. Big play guys make a big difference at these big tournaments, and he can pull rabbits from hats on short notice.

- Greg Seltzer

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