The United States’ final roster for Concacaf Olympic qualifying down in Guadalajara is set, and a few of us have questions.
First, although, let’s acknowledge the problem and complexity of Under-23s head coach Jason Kreis’ process. He and his employees, working hand in glove with the senior side’s Gregg Berhalter, needed to sift by way of a big and rising US player pool across the world, construct a big-picture depth chart and then go about convincing as lots of these players’ golf equipment as potential to voluntarily launch them for camps main as much as and together with the qualifying occasion.
Then COVID occurred, and the U-23s’ match received paused abruptly on the last minute and ultimately delayed a full year, forcing Kreis to mainly do all of it over once more with a good larger pool and new golf equipment, lots of whom are markedly extra possessive of their American players than in past generations.
On the end of all of it, he needed to determine which 20 guys have been a) out there, and b) pivotal to his plan for reserving the US males an Olympic berth for just the second time this century. And up to date European strikes for projected starters like Brenden Aaronson, Reggie Cannon, Daryl Dike, Mark McKenzie and Bryan Reynolds have successfully marked them off the board.
Any roster born from such a tortuous course of and constrained a lot in dimension may have considerations and mushy spots. It’s why they rent the likes of Kreis and not schlubs like me. ALL THAT BEING SAID…
He’s staked so much on sure issues to go proper in key areas. Right here’s my take on three big ones.
3) Juggling goalkeepers?
This one carries a query mark as a result of we don’t know if he’s going to truly do it. However in Thursday’s press availability Kreis raised the potential for beginning two totally different ‘keepers within the first two matches, then utilizing these outings to determine who to trip the remainder of the best way.
Whereas not naming names, he telegraphed that JT Marcinkowski has “a slight pole place” on Matt Freese, with David Ochoa in sizzling pursuit. Marcinkowski took half in all 9 U-23 camps this cycle and has extra first-team minutes than his colleagues by advantage of winning the San Jose Earthquakes’ No. 1 job last summer time, however received hampered by an ankle injury in January camp and might solely not too long ago have regained full bore.
It’s not that there’s an apparent hole between any of those three GKs, just that it’s a bit unconventional to do a deliberate rotation in these circumstances. Possibly it gained’t matter – competition is a part of the enterprise and all that…
2) Tinkering with the backbone
… Right here’s the place Kreis is enjoying with hearth. We’ve been led to imagine that the U-23s will roughly mirror the full USMNT’s techniques and form, together with a central midfield triangle with one holding player and twin No. 8s overlaying ground and wreaking havoc from field to field.
This makes sense, particularly when you go by the enjoyable, up-tempo taste flashed in November’s European friendlies vs. Wales and Panama, the place the Tyler Adams-Weston McKennie-Yunus Musah trio had a hell-raising good time in bossing the engine room. The query is whether or not that look can reliably be replicated with the Olympic group – significantly contemplating the closest factor we now have to a lock for the starter within the No. 6 position.
Solely two players logged extra USMNT minutes in 2020 than Jackson Yueill (it was Sebastian Lletget and Reggie Cannon, when you’re questioning). The Quakes’ deep-lying distributor already has 9 senior caps, and it’s as a result of the employees loves his cultured passing vary, which brings a distinct look than the leather-lunged Adams, inevitably. And that begs the query of whether or not good, expert adversaries like Costa Rica and Mexico will try to reveal Yueill – who has, it needs to be said, made main strides within the depth of his defending under Matias Almeyda – with overloads and transitions.
So Kreis has gone with a cadre of rangy candidates for the 2 8 spots, the likes of Johnny Cardoso, Hassani Dotson and Andres Perea, even when they carry out notably totally different jobs for his or her golf equipment. Which to some is a extra considerate manner of claiming that he’s ready to play them out of place. Kreis says all three midfielders will probably be anticipated to supply defensive cowl, and that the 8s can and should advance into the attack, too.
Djordje Mihailovic and Uly Llanez can playmake, however what if there’s no room for them centrally? Would possibly they do work from the wings as a substitute? Are they higher suited to an attacking band of three as a substitute? And up top, Jesus Ferreira is getting rave evaluations for the work he’s accomplished as a false 9, although that’s based mostly on a small pattern dimension of US video games as a result of FC Dallas often use him elsewhere.
1) Potential over manufacturing
Possibly the toughest half a few job like Kreis’ is comparing the credentials of players performing in broadly totally different membership settings. Which means taking a look at somebody like Dotson, a utility player for Minnesota United, and gleaning how he would possibly fare as an international 8. It additionally means gauging particular person fitness and kind.
For instance: Striker Sebastian Soto is an actual talent on an upward trajectory with expertise of tournaments like this month’s, having starred within the US side on the 2019 Under-20 World Cup. He scored in bunches for the youth national team and in Hannover 96’s youth system, and not too long ago snared a UK work allow that permits him to join Norwich City in earnest after banging in seven strikes in 12 matches on loan to Telstar within the Dutch second division. However he’s nonetheless within the early stages of incomes a spot within the Canaries’ promotion-chasing first team and thus hasn’t played matches of consequence in months.
A lot the identical might be said of Llanez, one of many country’s most enjoyable skills however contemporary off a knee injury and unsuccessful loan spell at Heerenveen, capped by a return to California to deal with what Kreis known as a “household state of affairs” back home. His upside could be the highest of anybody within the pool, however his prospects for reaching that level in big video games, proper now, are unsure.
“He is a man that has proven actual starvation and dedication to play the best way that Gregg and the national teams have requested him. He is accomplished very well with the full team. He is a player that will get most likely a bit bit extra of a chance than others would possibly due to that,” said Kreis of Llanez, acknowledging that the employees “continue to construct his fitness” within the present camp.
Compare these two to the Portland Timbers duo of Jeremy Ebobisse and Eryk Williamson, longtime youth national teamers who’ve earned vital roles for a title-contending MLS team by churning out stable numbers (3g/5a in 2020 for Williamson, 22g/8a over the past 4 seasons for Ebobisse) for a primary team that makes use of among the identical rules because the U-23s. Neither made Kreis’ final reduce.
Possibly it’s most necessary to weigh long-range USMNT potential. Possibly this group has proven day in, day out on the coaching ground that it’s the best combine for grinding by way of what seems to be a rugged path to the Olympics. Possibly that path is intense sufficient to require heavy squad rotation, with all that entails.
For the subsequent couple weeks, we’ll wait, watch and surprise concerning the bets Kreis has made.