Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yahtzee! (cont.)

So our journey across the scope of soccer here in the States continues with the midfielders. Who makes my list? DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Bobby Convey (Reading FC), Claudio "Capitán" Reyna (Manchester City) and Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids).

Beasley and Donovan were the stars of our team 4 years ago. They are the future of US soccer and that, to me, makes it bright. Both are quick, but that is Beasley's trademark. He's a bit of a beanpole, but I'm sure he's lifting weights and what's a few fouls earned for being knocked down in front of the goal, eh? Seriously, he'll be a marked man now that some good games at PSV have earned him some exposure. Donovan is a bit of a different story (see next paragraph). His movement on the ball is becoming even better and I see his touch as more natural than most lads on our national team in the past. What do I mean? Just watch him with the ball this summer, his presence and his field of vision (pun somewhat intended). I'm talking him up a bit, but I just hope his time in the MLS hasn't decreased his stock.

So why did Convey, the obvious "less-experienced-one" of the group make my list? Honestly, because he plays for a real team, not languishing somewhere in the MLS (Reading earned their spot in the Premiership just weeks ago). But Donovan and el Pablo play in that league!, you sarcastically snide, and to that I say "Whatever." Mastroeni is a fearless defender who continues to impress me with his big-man presence despite only being 5'10" and 170#s (basically me after hitting the holidays pretty hard). Why is he a mid. on our World Cup squad? Heck if I know! He can distribute the ball well, but I don't see him attacking much. He hasn't scored for the USMNT yet in 46 games (thanks ussoccer.com, where I get all of these stats), and why should that change much? No matter...what our team needs are tough-as-nails enforcers to work hard at earning our respect as a team. Pablo does that and as he cuts down opposing midfielders and the occasional striker erroneously making their way past him, we can gain control of the very important middle of the field. Finally, look for him to start in our matches this summer or at least get a bunch of minutes. I include him here not because I respect the fact he's been with the Colorado Rapids for years, but more for the fact that I see him being an actual force to be reckoned with in every USMNT game I've seen him in. Keep up the good, hard work el Pablo.

Last but certainly still important is Reyna. He's seen a lot of soccer and frankly I'm surprised to see him playing this year. He was definitely overshadowed 4 years ago by our other up and coming midfielders but as I wrote in the roster post, he's a steady presence of leadership and experience that is absolutely necessary this summer. Now, whether or not he'll be leading from the bench is a valid topic of discussion but at least right now it doesn't look like his hammy pull in the Morocco match is anything to lose sleep over before we conquer the Czech on June 12th. Just having him in World Cup training is a count in our favor. I hope he remains a stabilizer in the middle of the field as in the past and although he may not get the spotlight much, he can be that mysterious momentum the broadcasters talk about when crisp passing the smart play begin to develop. May this be a great Cup for Claudio to ride out into the national team sunset--that is my wish.

Onto the strikers, the worthy ones who play little defense and get all the attention. Ok, that's my growing up as a defender talking here (and now I'm trying all the time to play as a forward, so I can't cut down the front men too much..but I don't promise that will go away completely). Anyway, the highlights here are Brian McBride (Fulham FC), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards) and Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards).

McBride is our resident airman, delivering the "mail" into the back of the net via flying headers and remaining a "tall presence with his back to the goal. He did quite well with Fulham this year and he shouldn't dissapoint this summer. Again, I'm calling out some Eddie Lewis and Donovan crosses from the left side to connect with McB.

Wolff continues his slow progression towards becoming a consistent forward. Translation: I've not heard much from him lately and hope to be pleasantly surprised by his impact this summer. He did well in the Gold Cup as well as Korea/Japan 2002, but I really have no bearing on his potential. If we play one up front, I see Wolff as more of the 5th attacking midfielder instead of the point man up top yet he knows well enough how to be in the right place at the right time. C'mon Josh, give me good reason to devote a whole post to you this summer!

Finally, but not really, there's Eddie Johnson. All I remember reading about him was the hat trick he tallied up as a substitute against Panama. That got my attention (especially as it only took him 25 minutes. Also, you gotta give props to a guy who gets a goal in his first cap with the USMNT. Heck, 9 goals in 15 games played with the national team is incredible. Sure, he'll come off the bench in Germany, but watch closely when he does. He's my boom or bust player of the tournament, meaning he may disappear or may explode onto the international screen. At only 22, all is not lost if he sticks to the former. But watch with anticipation anyway...

So I'll be the third (fourth or maybe even fifth) person to proclaim the US excells as a midfield up-and-coming "powerhouse" so that's probably why I picked 5 mids and only 3 forwards. One, however, must also take into account one Taylor Twellman. Yeah, he plays for the New England Revolution but as ussoccer.com reports, he led that team in scoring 3 out of the past 5 years and scored more goals than anyone else in MLS. Twice. I'd say that's pretty good especially since so many good-in-the-past players go to the MLS to retire (and figure out new ways to dye their hair blonde) and sit in front of the goal for the easy cherry-pick goal. I haven't watched Taylor play, but my gut tells me that a player with his speed and ability to lead the goal tally on a good offensive team has him earning more goals than "chancing" upon most of them. He didn't make the team this summer, but I'm guessing we'll hardly see any of Brian Ching, who beat him out. BC was a good player for our Seattle Sounders, in the short time he played here but all I can conjure up about him is that he has awesome blowout games and is a bit of a hyped player. I hope I can write some affirimative sentences as to his skill this summer, if we even get to see him play. Who knows.

Alrighty then, there's the National Team breakdown. Hope it was as fun to read as it was to write, especially since I've written most of this from memories from 4 years ago.

Next up will be team by team synopses of our fellow "group of death" teams. Czech Republic by early June, Italy by sometime after then and Ghana by the time we play the CR. Hopefully.

posted by El Jefe @ 7:54 PM  0 comments

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