Looking Ahead Pt. 2: Center Midfield Options

Discussion in 'USA Women: News and Analysis' started by kool-aide, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. kool-aide

    kool-aide Member+

    Feb 1, 2002
    a van by the river
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    On the basis of the rousing success that is the Looking Ahead: Defensive Options thread, I thought I'd start (yet another) thread about the options for central midfield.

    Shannon Boxx, as much as I <3 her and as much as the FIFA Technical Committee named her to the All-Star list, just turned 34 and I can't see her being a regular starter much longer. Carli Lloyd is 29 and shouldn't be around come WWC '15. She shouldn't start every game in the Olys, either. Lori Lindsey is 31 and also, imo, a player that should not be kept on due to age. Pia will probably keep her through Oly qualifying.

    So, what are the options both for the Olympics and (in the long run) WWC '15.

    Here's a not quite as comprehensive as I'd like list. Please add names and opinions on current WPS players and college players. I didn't list any college players and I didn't check WPS rosters to see if I'd forgotten anyone. So there are gaps in this list.

    Leslie Osborne(28): Holding/dmid. Pia doesn't seem to rate her. Had a very good year last year but maybe not quite as good (but not bad) this season. I can see her only as a short term (ie Olympics) option as she'll be 32 in 2015.

    Yael Averbuch(25 in Nov): I don't think she's played as well so far this season as she did in her other two seasons. I think giving up the first part of her WNY season to try to make the USWNT messed w/ her head and her on field connection w/ teammates which has negatively impacted her passes. She is a holding/dmid with potential, imo. Does play smaller than her 6' height. She may or may not have the speed for the international level. Maybe a Lori Lindsey 2.0?

    Kendall Fletcher(27 in Nov): "Marta Killer" w/ STL. I think her best position is holding/dmid but is playing defense for SBFC right now. She got some camp time prior to the 2008 Olys as a central defender and didn't make the cut. Her passing w/ STL and SBFC has been good for her position. Not overly fast but not obviously slow. At times Gabarra has shoved her in at left back where she coped but that very much is not her position.

    Becky Edwards(23): Named co-captain of WNY. Had a great rookie season for FCGP making the loss of Gulbrandsen not hurt the team. Was able to clean up in front of the back 4 which allowed Boxx & Abily to get forward. Has played well for WNY. The logjam at CM on that team makes getting time rough but she's managed to do that.

    Brittany Bock(24): Played defense w/ the Sol. Hurt most of last season. Has played well w/ WNY. Wins a ton of balls for them. What is her best position? midfield or defense? I definitely think she's earned some USWNT camp time this season.

    Allie Long (24 in Aug): Technical but perhaps not quick enough for the international level. Has a tendency to fade in and out. Wasn't shifted to the center of midfield until last season w/ the Freedom. I think she might fall into the "very good pro but not quite international standard" category. The Ralston Line, for you old timers.

    Jordan Angeli(25): Had a great rookie year but out w/ an ACL tear. Will she come back as strong and at the same level?

    Keelin Winters(23 in Dec): Inconsistent rookie year. Sometimes I see her and she looks like she could be international standard. Other times, she really does not and makes a ton of turnovers. Great hops. Willing to get stuck in. Could be really good if she continues to improve and b/cm consistent.

    Lauren Cheney(24 in Sept): I still really think of Cheney as a forward. I know she played well in midfield in the WWC. But was the improvement in our CM play when she went central due as much to the subpar CM play prior to that switch as much as it was due to her own ability? She's a great player. But she thinks like a forward and defends like a forward. And, really, she's a great forward that is able to pass and to drop into midfield to receive/distribute the ball. I think there are enough other CM options that the USWNT can start Cheney up top.

    Beverly Goebel(23) has had some really nice play off the bench for WNY. Carolyn Blank(23) had some nice play last year but I just haven't noticed her (or seen enough SBFC games) this season. Sarah Huffman(27) had a nice season last year and solid enough (I guess, hard to tell w/ mJ). But, like Long, I think she's a solid pro player but below the USWNT Ralston Line.

    Rapinoe(26) is a player I could see moving central if there was a holding mid/dmid behind her w/ excellent cover/balance senses -- I think Rapinoe's unpredictable nature and "oh, crap, I gotta go cover that player over there" defending style requires a top notch dmid.

    I do not think Heath is a CM at the international level. When I've seen her at her best it has been out wide. And she hasn't been at her best in a while. While I think Tarpley (if she's able to come back from the ACL) could play central midfield -- say in the hole -- I won't list her here. The question of what to do w/ Nogueira is a whole 'nother thread but potentially she could play in the hole as her passing is strong. I don't know if she's playing as an out and out forward for SBFC or in midfield w/ holding mids behind her.

    And I guess I can't list Chalupny :(
  2. philafan

    philafan Member

    Mar 20, 2010
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    There are three players currently on the USWNT player pool that I would add to this list, which is filled largely with d-mid types.

    Sinead Farrelly (21)— 5-7— She's had her growing pains in WPS and has been used largely at wing, I would assume due to the presence of Vero Boquette and Lori Lindsey. But she can play an AM role, has started 12 of the 14 games and has a goal and two assists. Very solid backtracking but I heard Riley say he wanted her to be more aggressive offensively. She was seen by many as the best MF in college soccer in 2010 and Pia clearly likes her, as she wanted to call her in when Tarpley got hurt. She might have a shot at Olympics but more likely will be a fixture in the 2013-16 quad.

    Christine Nairn (20) —5-6— Only a junior at PSU because she deferred a semester to play in 2008 U20 WC. Obviously Erica Walsh knows her well. True CM who had two really solid years in college and will be someone in the mix after the Olympics.

    Kristie Mewis (20) —5-9— Also a junior. Had great soph year at BC— 10 goals and 14 assists in 25 games. More of an offensive threat than Nairn. True left footer who might be able to play wing as well as she is quite fast. Like Nairn, I would think she gets called up this year but not sure is she will make Olympics.

    Aside from the three WWC CMs (Lloyd, Boxx and Lindsey), I would think Averbuch clearly will be in the Olympic picture. I guess the comparison between Averbuch to Lindsey was based on speed but I do think Averbuch is a much better ball winner and defender with a big shot but not nearly as good of a passer. Her height can be a benefit on set pieces as well.

    I would like to see Edwards and Winters get a look and maybe Bock. But again, they would all be d-mid types. I'm personally partial to Edwards and not just because she's from Philly. She did a lot of dirty work for Gold Pride last year while others grabbed the headlines and has been named a captain on WNY filled with talented vets.

    I agree that Cheney really should be played at forward. She just played 30 minutes at CM at the end of the France game, so it's hard to project solely based on that. Cheney and Morgan will hopefully be the starting forward duo when Abby steps aside.
  3. DemitriMaximoffX

    Aug 19, 2006
    Ingrid Wells is probably the best pure playmaker in the college ranks in a long, long time. Unfortunately she's a generous 5'2" and is probably going to go the way of Tina DiMartino. That is criminally overlooked.
  4. ForeverLOST108

    ForeverLOST108 Member+

    Jan 23, 2010
    Tottenham Hotspur FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think Edwards has played very well offensively this season for the Flash. Since Bock is in more of the "destroyer" role Edwards moves forward a lot more. I think if she plays on the national team though, you're right, she probably will be more of a defensive midfielder. I'd most definitely take her over Averbuch right now.

    I think that this question over our center mids should be the biggest priority right now. Lloyd just isn't cutting it and Boxx is getting visibly slower and needs to be replaced. Honestly, I don't think Boxx should start in the Olympics. She had an okay World Cup and did clean up a lot of Lloyd's mistakes but I think her time is about up.
  5. Titan

    Titan Member

    Jul 30, 2001
    ACC country
    Arsenal FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    There's a new world order.... How tall is World Cup Champion Aya Miyama again?
  6. philafan

    philafan Member

    Mar 20, 2010
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Well, as you know, we disagree about Lloyd "not cutting it," but I would like to see Edwards behind Lloyd in a diamond and see how that works. I do think Edwards is more advanced right now than Winters in her development. It should be noted that the more offensive role she''s played with WNY this year is not foreign to her. At FSU, she piled up a good number of goals and assists so she has that in her game.

    The call on Boxx making the Olympic team will be the most interesting Pia makes. But there are a good number of young CM options moving forwards and I would think a few will emerge in the coming years. Beause of that, I would rate the questions at outside back (specifically left back), where I don't see as much ready talent, as my biggest concern.
  7. kool-aide

    kool-aide Member+

    Feb 1, 2002
    a van by the river
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Thanks for listing these players.

    To my eyes, Nairn had a very poor 2010 U20 and I didn't think her 2010 NCAA play was all that. I just haven't been impressed, especially given her reputation. And Walsh definitely hasn't gotten the best of the players she's had at PSU over the last couple of years so I'm not sure how much Nairn is going to improve/develop. I'm meh on Nairn until I see more/better, I guess.

    I forget who posted about Farrelly right b/f the WWC '11 roster was announced and pointed out that she's still adjusting to the pro level in terms of positioning & the physical side (was it taos?). She's got potential but is likely too inexperienced for the Olympics, imo, unless she can make a big jump both mentally and in terms of strength. She's pretty slight but w/o the strength some other "skinny" players have.

    DiMartino(25 in Nov) is another player that has done well in WPS and I'd like to see get another look for the USWNT. I wonder why Pia doesn't rate her more? Is it simply b/c she's got Lloyd penned into lineups and has to build around Carli's abilities? smh.

    I was surprised that DiMartino doesn't turn 25 until Nov. I thought she was a year older. I think she'd definitely be in the mix for WWC '15. Her "best" position for the international level might not be in the middle, though. Or, at least not in the middle in a standard 4-4-2. She has definitely managed to improve her strength and general play each year.
  8. gogogo

    gogogo Member

    Apr 18, 2002
    Consider Courtney Barg of Notre Dame for 2015. Played holding mid last season after being more of an attacking mid her first couple of years with the Irish. Speed could be an issue but she is a good distributor and doesn't get ruffled. ND's season turned around after she came back from a hip injury.

    I also think the world of I. Wells of G'town - great vision. Another one who should get a WNT look.
  9. philafan

    philafan Member

    Mar 20, 2010
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    After watching Farrelly a good deal, I would say she's a little tougher/stronger than you might think. She's a pretty good ball winner. Riley yanked her from one game because she lost her mark on a goal and then complained that she was not being aggressive enough offensively. But he keeps starting her and she has clearly improved in the second half of the season.

    On DiMartino, she's one of my absolute favorite players but she has played almost exclusively at RW with the Independence. I think that's her best position rather than AM. Good speed and crosses — just one of the most creative players the US has at its disposal IMO. I would have taken her to WWC over Heath and O'Hara as she would have been a great help when HAO got hurt and in that last Japan game when Rapinoe tired and Cheney got hurt. But for some reason Pia doesn't like her. People have speculated that it's her height. But I think this is one decision that can't be pinned on Lloyd. DiMartino is just more of a wing, where I think her height should not matter. I have no clue why she does not get more consideration for USWNT.
  10. thegamesthatrate

    Jan 9, 2007
    Is the prevailing assumption that Lindsey Tarpley is too old or won't recover from her injury?
  11. kool-aide

    kool-aide Member+

    Feb 1, 2002
    a van by the river
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Here's what I said about her at the end of my admittedly long post:

    Personally, I think she's a forward. A great goal poacher. I think she can play in the hole but I don't see her as a out and out center mid. If we played a 4-2-3-1 I could def. see her as part of the 3.
  12. katie14

    katie14 Member

    Apr 17, 2002
    She turns 28 this September so depending on what the '15 WC dates are she will be either 31 or 32. I think she could still have an impact on this team even at that age in the attacking midfield role but it will take a lot to get her there. Realistically we are talking a year post-ACL surgery to get back to her prior level of play so I think it is iffy if she will even make this upcoming Olympic team. But she is a talented player so I would hate to just write her off now. But at the same time I don't want to see her make the '15 roster as a Mitts-type player.
  13. thegamesthatrate

    Jan 9, 2007
    She played what I seem to recall was a center mid type of position in the Olympics in 2004. She played well, scored a goal in the final, and helped the USA win. She's always impressed me as a solid player with soccer savvy. I don't think 32 is too old to play midfield (Akers was 33 and still the best when she played, but even if you don't want to use the greatest player ever as a comparison, Boxx is 34, Lilly was 33 in the 2004 Olympics and Sawa is 32). I know coming back from knee surgery is agonizing. But, given Tarpley's past success and her go-get-'em attitude on the pitch, I hope she can come back.
  14. FawcettFan14

    FawcettFan14 Member+

    Mar 19, 2004
    Center Midfield Possibilities, with pros and cons:

    Defensive Midfield
    Brittany Bock (24): tough as nails, rarely loses a 50/50 ball, can really play anywhere; slightly injury prone
    Leslie Osborne (28): lots of prior experience, reliable; getting older, not very mobile
    Courtney Barg (21): punches above her stature, blends creativity with toughness; inexperienced, national team bias against small players
    Kendall Fletcher (26): solid pro in WPS; would be a late bloomer with the national team, is she quick enough?
    Amber Brooks: (20): tough battler, long history with youth teams; limited offensive capabilities

    Attacking Midfield
    Sinead Farrelly (21): great passer, intelligent, solid transition from college to pro ranks; slight-frame
    Tina DiMartino (24): tricky, tough to dispossess, uncanny vision and patience (doesn't always pass to first option); tiny, would international caliber defenders bite on her fakes and jukes?
    Lindsay Tarpley (27): experienced, cool customer, excellent at pacing the attack, poacher's instincts in the box; getting older, uncertain recovery from ACL ahead
    Casey Nogueira (22): technically gifted, hell of a shot; hot and cold, intense enough for international game?

    Becky Edwards (23): consistent, often in the right place at the right time, calm influence; sometimes not very impactful
    Keelin Winters (22): strong, good tackler, gets involved; occasionally too many turnovers
    Mandy Laddish (19): does everything well, a great 2-way player, not afraid of high-pressure situations (winning goal in the 2010 College Cup semi-final); young/going to be a sophomore at Notre Dame
    Yael Averbuch (24): good height, accurate passer, free kicks; slow
    Ingrid Wells (22): fantastic vision; again, diminutive stature could work against her
    Christine Nairn (20): surprisingly, almost randomly, called up by Sundhage at a very young age, so her foot is in the door; underwhelming recently for both Penn State and the U20s

    Wingers/Forwards who could help in the center:
    Megan Rapinoe (26): has played centrally before; needs to tighten up defensively
    Lauren Cheney (23): a revelation at the World Cup; where is her best position?
    Tobin Heath (23): plenty of style; needs to bring some more substance, has looked out of sorts since college
    Kristie Mewis (20): great touch on the ball; more natural fit for left midfield?

    Good thread. This will be an important area to address the next few years.
    1 person likes this.
  15. StarCityFan

    StarCityFan BigSoccer Supporter

    Aug 2, 2001
    Greenbelt, MD
    Washington Freedom
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Can't say she's dramatically stood out for the DC United Women, either, at least not in the games I attended.
  16. crog1967

    crog1967 Member

    May 5, 2009
    Atlanta Beat
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Nice list, FawcettFan. I'd add Angeli (pending ACL rehab) to your attacking midfielders.

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