Left Back Depth Chart

Discussion in 'USA Men: News & Analysis' started by Maximum Optimal, Sep 3, 2019.

  1. Maximum Optimal

    Maximum Optimal Member+

    Jul 10, 2001
    This has clearly been our weakest position. It seems, therefore, appropriate that it should be a focal point for discussion. The situation is changing a bit because two of the prime candidates are right footed and up until this year have not been used on the left side by their clubs. In light of this change, I don't think there is much doubt that the next two players who should be given opportunities (and note I say opportunities plural) are:

    1) Dest
    2) Lima

    Not necessarily in that order. But I'd like each to get several games with the first team against competitive opponents.

    After that the candidates became a good deal less interesting. But for me the best choice if the above two don't pan out is:

    3) Fabian Johnson

    Yes he is getting up there in age. But he is still a quality player playing at a high level.

    Discuss and debate. Add names.
     
  2. UncagedGorilla

    Sep 22, 2009
    Tulsa
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa
    @Eleven Bravo put up this list on a different thread.

    1. Sergino Dest
    2. Antonee Robinson
    3. Nick Lima
    4. Eric Lichaj
    5. Ryan Hollingshead
    6. Fabian Johnson
    7. Chris Gloster
    8. Aaron Herrera
    9. Sam Vines
    10. Tim Ream*
    11. George Bello*

    As for me, Lichaj is my starting left back for the time being. Robinson is his backup. That's a better, younger version of Ream/Lovitz. I play Dest on the right. I think our left back needs to be an excellent defender first and foremost with the second guy being a good crosser/attacker.
     
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  3. Clint Eastwood

    Clint Eastwood Member+

    Dec 23, 2003
    Somerville, MA
    Club:
    FC Dallas
    I think putting Deston the left with Cannon/Yedlin/Lima on the right is a better version of the USMNT than Lichaj on the left and Dest on the right. Just my opinion.

    That's for right now.
    I think Chris Gloster is one of the next "breakout youngsters" with the USMNT.
    Once he debuts for PSV, and plays well, he'll be a darling of these boards.
    At the U20WC he played every bit as well as Dest.

    I like Ryan Hollingshead as a jack-of-all-trades kind of Swiss army knife to have on the bench. Kind of Jonathan Spector style of guy. I don't think he's actually our best option at any one position, but his versatility has a lot of value.

    One player who's been "out of sight, out of mind" is Jaylin Lindsey of SKC. He was making really nice progress at SKC as a kid who can play all across the backline, including LB. He was practically a lock for the U20 World Cup squad. Then he got hurt, and has been out of action for a while. We'll need to see him again post injury, but I won't count him out just yet.

    A player who's really disappointingly fallen off the map is young Marco Farfan in Portland. Such a hyped kid, but Portland has provided very little opportunity. Disappointing. He's a natural left back..................
     
  4. UncagedGorilla

    Sep 22, 2009
    Tulsa
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa
    Totally agree on Gloster. He's the one I'm expecting to take the left back spot for many years to come. He'd be my bet to start WC 2022 at LB if I had to bet today.

    So, I know this is a minority opinion but I'm not starting Dest yet. I watch him play and in our system, he could do what we ask of the right back but I still think he needs some work on his pure defending. The same could be said for Cannon and Yedlin who both tend to have lapses. Of the three, I'll still take Yedlin at right back and I'd lean towards Dest as his backup because I think he has the most other things that are useful and the highest potential. Same as with Gloster though, I'd bet on Dest to be the starting RB at WC 2022.

    But as of today, yeah, I'd roll with Lichaj as my left back with Robinson as his backup (mostly in case Egg wants an attacking sub or we're in a game we expect to be facing a bunker). Lichaj is the best actual defender of the guys we've mentioned and that's what I value most in a left back. Especially given what's asked of them in the current system, defending has to be paramount. I'm 100% convinced he would have stopped the goal Mexico scored and at least forced Pizarro to play backwards. I don't fault Ream but a good LB would have made a play to prevent the entry ball instead of endlessly retreating while giving enough space for the pass to be played.

    Side note - I'm interested to see if Lima gets a legitimate shot at LB this camp.
     
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  5. Clint Eastwood

    Clint Eastwood Member+

    Dec 23, 2003
    Somerville, MA
    Club:
    FC Dallas
    I personally give as many opportunities to high ceiling players right now as opposed to guys the wrong side of 30 in the Championship.

    Nothing against guys like Eric Lichaj, but he is who he is. He's a career Championship player (except for his brief breakout at Villa a decade ago). Now that doesn't mean he isn't good enough for the USMNT. I just want to go with a guy that's performing in the Champions League and Eredevisie over him. I realize that right now on September 3rd you can argue Lichaj is the more proven player.

    I kind of go with a Uruguay mentality. I don't use players I think might be at the top of the depth chart now who may never be elite international quality. I go with the players I think have the highest ceilings even if right now they're a little lower on the depth chart. Just the way I roll. I'd have no problem, for instance, with a USMNT callup for Chris Gloster right now.

    I'll have a different attitude a year from now with WCQing imminent.
     
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  6. UncagedGorilla

    Sep 22, 2009
    Tulsa
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa
    I think that's fair. I have never minded speculative call-ups for promising young players just to give them a taste of a different level. I maybe wouldn't call up Gloster for Mexico and Uruguay but for Nations League, absolutely.

    The main point is that I would like to know who the best left back is right now because it obviously isn't Tim Ream or Daniel Lovitz. My personal opinion is that it's Eric Lichaj but it might be Dest. Lichaj is 30 and the captain of his team so doesn't need called in every window even if we do decide he's our #1. That's when the opportunities for Dest, Robinson, Gloster, Lima, Hollingshead, etc can come. Never calling in the guy who has probably played the best USMNT minutes LB since Fabian Johnson is what's crazy. Especially considering he actually fits the weird role Egg has the LB playing quite well while having none of the deficiencies Ream does.

    Ideally, I would always like a prime age player with a younger guy to back them up or have a specific role. Obviously it won't always work out but in this case, I think it does. That's why I'd go Lichaj/Robinson and Yedlin/Dest for the important games. And I would consider Mexico and Uruguay important because they are bringing good squads to face us and we have limited windows to figure out our Hex team. I guess I just feel like the Hex is upon us and we haven't even tried to solve this glaring problem so I'm wanting to rely on something that I know works aka Lichaj at LB.

    Edited for clarification
     
  7. rgli13

    rgli13 Member+

    Mar 23, 2005
    Memphis, Tn
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    its hard to have this discussion in a way thats not completely divorced from reality. berhalter plays a lcb. so the realistic options are ream, lovitz, long, miles robinson, brooks. actually i think lichaj has played at cb so technically add him in if you want. glad has played outside back but on the right i think? too bad berhalters coaching and bocanegras playing careers didnt overlap...

    "the system" screws us in at least 3 (id argue 4) positions. but sure, no restrictions like reality, or any chance it will happen in the foreseeable future...

    1 antonee robinson/ryan hollingshead
    2 chris gloster
    3 any number of staggeringly average options

    unlike other spots i dont see any great answers here. for a game that matters right now it seems like hollingshead would be the safest stopgap. i would have committed to robinson a year and a half ago. my logic there being with no outstanding alternative take your most promising young option and go with it. we havent played a game that meant anything in the last two years. is there any reason at all it made more sense for lovitz to get the calls he has than to give those chances to robinson? is it arguable who has the most potential there?

    so as far as actual left backs those are the two i would be focusing on.

    gloster had the most reliable, best youth tourney at this spot of any prospect in the time ive been a fan. before this season i really like the idea of robinson/gloster as two legit options we could focus on, let them take their lumps to just TRY and find better than our usual, incredibly average norm- but i hate his move to psv. hes with the youth/second team (however jong is classified) in a team with 6 left backs on that and the sr level. its hard for me to see him working his way to the first team, and minutes there, in the near future (say two years).

    as for guys im not especially interested in- lichaj and johnson have a very short shelf life and i dont know that either would be a huge upgrade to hollingshead (who at least is a viable option through this full cycle, age-wise). honestly johnson is a mess of a "resume" at this point (age, injury prone, jack of all trades/master of none, questionable drive- i feel, personally).

    lima? not as good as hollingshead. at left back how much better is he than garza or villafana? can he be as bang average as who we usually endure at left back? i guess. i think id put lovitz as the lowest rated in this tier.

    theres people who are (certainly were) high on bello(s potential), i dont really have an opinion other than currently? not even close.

    now, dest- i just dont like playing guys out of their natural position just cause you can. tagliaficos injury being misread as this incredible versatility in dest has REALLY already stuck- and i mean hard- hasnt it?

    hes a right back. he could play berhalters janky ass rb/cm hybrid. he would play right wing i guess. but dest, for me, is a right back. thats where you get his very best.

    i see the logic in saying we dont have a left back thats any good, so start a rb and the second best right back at left back, even if that diminishes that player moved left. i just fundamentally disagree with that in practice. i dont think dest is any better than robinson at left back.

    so, hollingshead is the safe choice (and eliminates lichaj, johnson, garza, villafana, lovitz), with robinson as the actual potential (and very good quality now). dest over anyone else? sure, i dont care. but hes not- as a left back- above those other two.

    cant wait for the feedback on this one...too bad theres not an unrep button, huh? i could copy/paste this in the unpopular opinons thread...
     
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  8. gogorath

    gogorath Member

    None
    United States
    May 12, 2019
    It'd require going to a more traditional bombing wingback/fullback arrangement, but I don't hate the idea of Arriola falling back there. If Pulisic moves wide or Weah breaks out or both ... I can think of worse options than someone like him.

    I think there's more flex in what the LB can be than some think -- Lovitz isn't a CB and he's gotten time.

    It would be nice to see Hollingshead although I think he'd end up being a weakness as well in the longer run.
     
  9. UncagedGorilla

    Sep 22, 2009
    Tulsa
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa
    I think you bring up something I've been thinking about for a while. We almost need two categories of left backs: attacking left backs and the more stay at home types.

    Attackers
    • Robinson
    • Dest
    • Hollingshead
    • Gloster (probably the best combo attacker/defender)
    • Lovitz???
    • Villafana
    Stay at Home
    • Lichaj
    • Ream
    • Long
    • Robinson
    • Johnson (at this point at least)
    Here's what I'd like everyone to think about seriously. Can we win against a really good team with a left back who struggles to defend? Who in our pool could we reasonably expect to hold up 1 v 1 against Pizarro or Lozano all game? In my opinion, being able to attack as an outside back is an important but ultimately secondary skill. If you can't hold up against a Mexican right winger, I don't have much use for you continuing to be on the team. Personally, I think Lichaj is the best at present and Gloster is the future. Robinson is the other one I'd keep an eye on because he is getting good game time against decent competition at Wigan. I have seen Hollingshead a bit at Dallas and am not sure how he'd hold up but I wouldn't be opposed to bringing him in for Nation's League or Camp Cupcake. Dest needs to play at RB as has already been mentioned. Ream can come play as a center back.
     
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  10. NietzscheIsDead

    United States
    May 31, 2019
    Hollingshead is an interesting guy. He is creative in similar ways as Clint Dempsey. He tries unexpected things. He’s really a fun player to watch...a smart, unorthodox player.
     
  11. thedukeofsoccer

    thedukeofsoccer Member+

    Jul 11, 2004
    Youtube: Jimmy Dore, Secular Talk
    Club:
    AFC Ajax
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think you accurately characterized Lovitz as neither an effective attacking nor stay-at-home LB, so naturally he's #2 on the depth chart right now.

    The top 3 options on your list (imo) are Dest, Hollingshead, and A. Robinson. And clearly left-footedness was a major factor in your candidates, although not nearly as much as Gregg so far. If it's expanded more to right-footers, that brings a lot more quality into the equation for attacking or 2-way backs, i.e.: Lima, Yedlin, and Cannon. All 3 have played the position for their clubs for at least brief periods.

    If the options are stacked in terms of natural right-footers and attacking/2-way lb's, then maybe Gregg should realize he's married to the wrong system for the pool. That would also apply to using a pass-first 6 and the general possession style. At some point you'd think it would warrant a reassessment by him.
     
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  12. UncagedGorilla

    Sep 22, 2009
    Tulsa
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa
    Lima was an oversight. I should have included him on the list. I'm a fan of his game. I've never actually seen Yedlin or Cannon play left back and I made my list basically from memory of guys who I know play there for their clubs on at least a semi-regular basis plus some random center backs that might be decent at it since apparently that is also a thing...

    My personal depth chart would look something like this:
    1 - Lichaj
    2 - Antonee Robinson
    3 - Lima
    4 - Gloster (this is just me really liking his game, not that he's earned it)
    5 - Hollingshead/Villafana

    Fabian Johnson would be interesting but I don't think he'd come back and play LB for us again.

    I've got Dest, Yedlin, and Cannon as our right backs. I like having a guy like Dest, Lichaj, or even Lima on the team who are capable at both spots to the point their clubs move them back and forth.

    I trust Lichaj to defend the Leon Baileys and Rodolfo Pizarros more than anyone else in our LB pool so he's my #1. I've seen ARob put in some beautiful crosses and even have assists for the USMNT and definitely for Wigan so he's my attacking option off the bench/starter against bunkering teams. As I've said before though, my money is on Gloster to surpass both of them by 2022.
     
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  13. IndividualEleven

    Mar 16, 2006
    1. Antonee Robinson--for the US, was solid to good when played as a conventional wingback or as a leftback. And he mostly played against a murderer's row of comp. Was poor in that silly creative wingback role he was forced to play against Jamaica.

    Has excellent physical tools. Is currently starting at LB in a very good league.

    2. Ryan Hollingshead--has been churning out dominate performances, for years. It's time he was given a chance.

    3. Rotate one of Cannon or Dest into the position.

    Dishing out caps to high-ceiling, unproven youngsters is something that's done with attackers.

    Lima has taken a huge step back this season.

    Danilo Acosta has fallen hard.
     
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  14. dlokteff

    dlokteff Member+

    Jan 22, 2002
    San Francisco, CA
    The @Eleven Bravo list above is a good list.

    The list below is ranking all US-eligible MLS players who have played LB this season per whoscored (Name, LB Rating, LB Appearances, Age).

    Regarding Lovitz it can be looked at one of two ways (neither of which should make him someone to call):
    1. Other than Hollingshead being a clear and obvious upgrade, Lovitz is pretty much on par with other consistent USA LB starters in MLS. An average MLS player, but besides Hollingshead, he's a fair option.
    2. Lovitz is the 20th ranked guy on this list. Ouch.
    Ryan Hollingshead, 7.49, 21, 28
    Hassani Dotson, 7.39, 4, 22
    Connor Lade, 7.23, 6, 29
    Kyle Duncan, 7.20, 5, 22
    Ramon Gaddis, 7.11, 2, 29
    Tony Rocha, 7.10, 1, 26
    Chase Gasper, 7.09, 10, 23
    Aaron Long, 6.99, 1, 26
    Kyle Smith, 6.98, 1, 27
    DeJuan Jones, 6.89, 6, 22
    Jordan Harvey, 6.86, 24, 35
    Donny Toia, 6.85, 19, 27
    Justin Morrow, 6.83, 21, 31
    Nick Lima, 6.83, 14, 24
    Connor Maloney, 6.81, 5, 24
    Edgar Castillo, 6.80, 20, 32
    Brek Shea, 6.78, 10, 29
    Jorge Villafana, 6.77, 16, 29
    Niko Hamalainen, 6.75, 1, 22
    Daniel Lovitz, 6.75, 25, 28

    Good news is Dotson, Duncan, and Hamalainen (along with Gloster) are all with the U-23s so hopefully ONE of those guys makes progress soon.
     
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  15. FirstStar

    FirstStar Hustlin' for the USA

    Feb 1, 2005
    Time's Arrow
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Has anyone here seen Dest play LB? I’ve watched his Ajax matches (all on right) and some U-20 matches but have never seen him on the left. Just wondering if we have a scouting report if his performance in the left side.
     
  16. Maximum Optimal

    Maximum Optimal Member+

    Jul 10, 2001
    Just for clarification as there seems to be some confusion about whether certain players are left footed or right footed:

    Dest and Lima are both right-footed

    Dest and Lima have mostly played right back in their careers

    Dest and Lima have been moved to left back this season by their clubs and have produced some good performances there.

    I would not be advocating for Dest and Lima to be given time at left back with the USMNT if not for the fact that their clubs are playing them there now and that we do not have a wealth of impressive left-footed options.
     
  17. UncagedGorilla

    Sep 22, 2009
    Tulsa
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa
    I watched him play left back against PSV and thought he looked good. I do still worry a bit about his pure defending when exposed 1 v 1 or even things like making the right decision in 1 v 2's. He was comfortable enough using his left foot but for me, I don't really care if my left back is left-footed. The reason I would not play him at left back is that I think he, Cannon, and Yedlin need to be in a legit competition to figure out who our best right back is and Dest needs to be learning that role which is actually quite different than LB in our system. If he shockingly finishes third in that competition. then sure, give him a chance to compete at LB.

    tl;dr - Dest might be okay at left back but he is a right back by trade and his skillset actually fits the RB role in Egg's system much better anyway.
     
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  18. UncagedGorilla

    Sep 22, 2009
    Tulsa
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa
    Yeah, it has never bothered me to have a right-footed LB. It's basically just like having an inverted winger and it's not like we ask our LB's to cross much anyway. None of the guys that have been brought up have bricks for left feet anyway.

    I posted my thoughts on Dest above. I would try Lima at LB and some of Egg's comments made me think that is actually happening. Lima needs to show me he can defend high-level wingers since he didn't get to play the games against the best wingers we faced (Bailey and Pizarro). I think Lima and Lichaj should be competing for the "Ream" spot and Robinson, Gloster, maybe Hollingshead and even Villafana should be competing for the "Lovitz" spot.
     
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  19. Maximum Optimal

    Maximum Optimal Member+

    Jul 10, 2001
    I think where Dest plays might turn on how guys like Cannon and Yedlin (or um Adams) do at RB. If one of those guys locks down the RB job, it makes sense for Dest to be part of the mix for LB.
     
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  20. UncagedGorilla

    Sep 22, 2009
    Tulsa
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    American Samoa
    I also think it hinges on how flexible the "system" is. If we have a glut of attacking outside backs but our only truly solid defenders are older guys, will Gregg be willing to alter the system to suit? I think it's feasible and maybe even likely that we go into the Hex with Dest, Cannon, Yedlin, and ARob being our four best outside backs and none of them are particularly good defenders. So, do we adjust the system to accommodate for that and play a double pivot, drop a 6 to form a back three, etc or do we play a likely worse player to proceed with the same system?

    I don't trust that the system will change which is why I've been advocating for Lichaj, who is unquestionably a better defending LB than Ream, and Robinson, who is unquestionably a better attacking LB than Lovitz. If the system changes, my preferred selections will likely follow suit.
     
  21. rgli13

    rgli13 Member+

    Mar 23, 2005
    Memphis, Tn
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    he played left back throughout the preseason and the first cup match while taglifico (ajax starting left back) )was injured.
     
  22. OWN(yewu)ED

    OWN(yewu)ED Member+

    May 26, 2006
    chico, CA
    Lovitz getting called up ahead of Hollingshead is freaking comical. Hollingshead is the better defender and is a swiss army knife of a player. Need him to play outside mid? cool. Dmid? Holding mid? sure thing. Hell, if you need him to play up top id probably trust him up there too. I hate that we keep consistently underutilizing players like this in our pool. This isnt just a Greg problem though. Bob, Arena in his latest tenure, and especially Juergen had significant blind spots in these regards.
     
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  23. truefan420

    truefan420 Member+

    May 30, 2010
    oakland
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Did Juergen tho? He moved both Fabian and Geoff around. Hell I'm fairly certain there was a game where Fabian played LM, LB and RB. Geoff played RB, CB and CDM (tho he didn’t play this as often as many in here would have liked). He constantly experimented with players in different positions if he felt that they had certain qualities that suited his approach to that role.

    The issue with a Jack of All Trades / Master of None is the same as what makes them useful. In a Cup run their great to have. In a 2 game window ideally you want them playing whatever role you envision them in for that game or two. If their not playing it at club it’s tough to expect them to be ready to play it in a day or two of practice.
     
  24. IndividualEleven

    Mar 16, 2006
    Though he could've been useful in WCQing and the GC, given his age and the lack of important upcoming matches, Lichaj could probably be excluded. Cameron Carter-Vickers could be called in his stead. He is mainly a CB, but put in an excellent performance at LB in Cup action against Man City.

    Among the younger MLS-based guys.

    Kyle Duncan: Can play both RB and LB. Has the pace, 1v1 defending, and technique. By next year, he needs to be starting, perhaps with another team, as NYRB are stacked on the backline. I like that he is statistically strong in the fundamentals of an attacking fullback. The weaknesses, including positioning, can be improved with game time.

    Strengths
    Tackling: Very Strong
    Ball interception: Very Strong
    Dribbling: Strong
    Key passes: Strong

    Chase Gasper: A true left-footed LB: Has solid pace. Is excellent in 1v1 defending. Has excellent ball skills and size. Love his strengths for the position. As with Duncan, positioning is a weakness, which, also as with Duncan, can be improved with game time.

    Strengths
    Aerial Duels: Strong
    Dribbling:Strong
    Tackling: Strong
    Blocking the ball: Strong

    Hossani Dotson: An athletic, versatile player. Has excelled at LB(WS_7.4), RB(WS_7.2), and CM(WS_7.3). Has good size. Like the others, needs game time to improve upon the weaknesses.
    Minnesota may be looking to develop him more as a CM.

    Strengths
    Aerial Duels: Strong
    Ball interception: Strong
    Blocking the ball: Strong
     
  25. thedukeofsoccer

    thedukeofsoccer Member+

    Jul 11, 2004
    Youtube: Jimmy Dore, Secular Talk
    Club:
    AFC Ajax
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    It's like riding a bike. They don't lose the ability just because their team temporarily needs them at other positions.

    And I think being a jack-of-all-trades makes many players mischaracterized as masters of none.

    Hollingshead is team MVP to many, as a left back. His ratings there are elite for an MLS player of any position. That was the case before this year. Look at the gargantuan gap between him and other domestic lb options. That could possibly mean a serious upgrade to the NT as such a weak position.

    When Fabian was in the mix the same thing applied to him because of what the alternatives didn't possess but he was solid in which was just about everything outside creativity. To wit he lost his value when he was moved forward, or even right back, where there were viable alternatives.

    Same thing about Cameron when he vacated d-mid (though he was still pretty good at cb). He excelled at the position for an American player. Any time he played there for an extended period, from Stoke fans it was a mixture of - "where was this guy" and "yeah he's still not that good" from fans confirming their bias (Hollingshead got the same for a long time b4 they had to come around). His ratings were good for a starting Premier League d-mid, let alone would he have been an asset to the U.S.

    I agree w/ Ownyewud that US managers need to get better at utilizing some versatile players, only for a different reason. That would be by using their versatility only in the cases of emergency, otherwise employ players in roles where they are best and/or provide major upgrades over the alternatives, unlike necessarily happens with their clubs who have to triage more with smaller pools and longer windows. So you'd get diamonds in the rough like the aforementioned, or a Shea Salinas for another example.
     

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