Project number 9

Discussion in 'USA Men: News & Analysis' started by bct81, Dec 3, 2022.

  1. IndividualEleven

    Mar 16, 2006
    Apparently, this was against the wishes of the team/media/fandom. LVG knows, though.
  2. YNWA Rob

    YNWA Rob Member+

    Liverpool FC
    United States
    Nov 12, 2020
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Agree with whoever said no projects. Just train young players in proper technique. Build competitive structures for elite youth players. Provide opportunities for robust competition for young professionals (18-21) who aren't at first team level yet. Help our very best players make good decisions on overseas transfers. Continue the recent improvement in the quality of our domestic league including a mix of influences from around the world and here.

    Do all of these things and the only thing missing is the accumulation of time. We can't change the brevity of our history, compared to the top nations, so focus on doing the right things and recognize there is no time travel GPS. Get behind the mule and plow, and it will happen. Maybe in four years, maybe longer; but it will happen.
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  3. bct81

    bct81 Member+

    multiple (DC United, Dortmund, Chelsea, Arsenal, Juve ....)
    United States
    Mar 17, 2007
    moving around the US every few years ....
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    so the thread was started to focus on a #9 .... change it up if you like ... who do we have that scores in the run of play - or off of set pieces - frequently - against very high level opposition .. the answer is clear - NONE.

    the players we have that would play a nine - are coached by various coaches all over the world ... so this is not simply a slam on Egg (there is enough constructive criticism there) ..

    the fact remains we have many youth players over the years and currently in development

    yet we do see now that we have many defensive and offensive minded midfielders that we are developing (Pulisic, Adams, McKennie, Weah, Musah (yes a dual recruit), Aaronson, Reyna etc.). So WHY don't we have a single #9 or attacking midfielder goal scorer at their level (playing for Chelsea or BVB or Juventus or .....)?

    Sargent is good - but he certainly is not world class, nor is Haji, Dike is older and may simply never develop the technical skills, and Ferreira may do fine in the MLS but we all know the ladder of great teams that we should aspire to be a part of. Perhaps Pefok will be the guy over time ... but he is only one. My premise is that we need 10 - 15 developing #9s in our MLS youth academies at ages 14 - 19 that will refine over time and head overseas to find the 3 or 4 we need for our pool. It is a numbers game. Just wishing that Pefok will be the guy is not enough.

    I think a weakness we have is that most of what we have (Dike excluded) is simply not fast enough and/or big enough to match technical skills (it is so hard to develop those skills after age 18 or 19) necessary to be a world class scorer (or #9).

    Given that we do have these midfielders - I maintain that this can be accomplished - but the USSF needs to focus on it. I think it has to start with the MLS academies identifying the potential early on and then the USSF really getting behind it.

    If we want to get to the next level - clinical finishing is going to be necessary. There is no shame with wanting the US to have our own version of Erling Haaland. I also think having someone like that would raise the profile of the game in the US even more.

    We have a population of ~ 330 million people. It is not rocket science.
  4. gomichigan24

    gomichigan24 Member+

    Jul 15, 2002
    Manchester United FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
  5. dspence2311

    dspence2311 Member+

    Oct 14, 2007
    Instead of ”Project #9” let’s call it “Plan 9”
  6. JUnionFan

    JUnionFan Member+

    Philadelphia Union
    United States
    Sep 30, 2020
    I do think it's interesting and a sign of many mindsets when the first attitude many have when trying to find a "new" 9 is "So, which generational talent is going to reveal himself in the next 3 years and be our savior in 2026 at 18 years old???"

    I think it's far more likely than anyone wants to entertain that by 2026 the majority of our options at 9 will be names we already know, AND that they will be better than they are now. Sargent is still only 22! With the ups and downs he has had with the NT program so far, you'd think he was 31 and on his farewell tour.

    I think with the failure of 2018, the lost generation, and players like Pulisic, McKennie and Reyna making extreme splashes at 18, 19 years old, people forget that it will always be rare for a teenager to make that level of impact, and that the peak of most players is going to me mid to late 20s (and for some, early 30s!).
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  7. Maximum Optimal

    Maximum Optimal Member+

    Jul 10, 2001
    Yup. Unlikely that an unknown striker will burst unto the scene by 2026.
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  8. dlokteff

    dlokteff Member+

    Jan 22, 2002
    San Francisco, CA
    So we're going to get guys from Outer Space? Do they have to file a 1-time switch?
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  9. dspence2311

    dspence2311 Member+

    Oct 14, 2007
    Just an opinion, but I think the confidence that none of our sub-23 yr old strikers will attain a level of performance that meets that of our wingers and midfield misplaced.
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  10. largegarlic

    largegarlic Member+

    Jul 2, 2007
    These are the options I see:

    1) One of the current younger guys in the pool gets significantly better. I think Pepi has the best shot here.

    2) A younger guy not currently in the pool emerges. I'm not super knowledgable about our youth prospects, but from watching the U-20s in qualifying, it doesn't seem like we have a likely high-level 9 prospect in that cohort. The good thing is that our development system seems to be in good enough shape that some guys pop up as high level players without having been in the USYNT pipeline. So, maybe there will be a pleasant surprise here.

    3) Recruit a dual-nat. Balogun is the obvious one here, but like our internal development system, there's a chance that some heretofore unknown dual nat striker will emerge.

    4) Play with a false 9 (a better one than Ferreira). I think Reyna is the obvious guy to try in this role.
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  11. Winoman

    Winoman Drinkin' Wine Spo-De-O-De!

    Jul 26, 2000
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Ed Wood rep! :D
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  12. Maximum Optimal

    Maximum Optimal Member+

    Jul 10, 2001
    Balogun would be a very good get. Right now Sargent and Pepi are 1A and 1B for me. I think Balogun is a bit ahead of both (not by a huge amount) right now. I think Tillman is probably a wide attacking player, but there is a chance he could evolve into a pretty good forward. There is a lot to work with there.
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  13. gogorath

    gogorath Member+

    United States
    May 12, 2019
    I agree on Pepi, but I also just wanted to highlight that I think this group is larger than people think. I was not impressed by Haji Wright and I would not place my money on him, but he's the perfect example of a prospect at 17, written off by 20, and now back and improving at 23/24.

    I'll toss in Cowell as well if he goes that route.

    It's not a guaranteed group, but it is a surprisingly large group, and only Pefok, Wright, Vazquez and Novakovich are 24 or older.
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  14. chris thebassplayer

    Feb 18, 2014
    San Jose Earthquakes
    It should be someone like Cowell. He regressed last year, which was really unfortunate. He still has the potential to be a dangerous 9, but needs to show improvement in his decision making and critical elements of playing the 9. He has all the raw athleticism required but needs to dedicate himself mentally to the fine arts of the position.

    Luchi is now the Earthquakes head coach so hopefully he will set him on the right path to figure it out.

    The 9 we need has to be at least at Cowell’s level of strength and speed…

    We should also seriously consider grooming Weah into a permanent 9 for the Nats.
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  15. rgli13

    rgli13 Member+

    Mar 23, 2005
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    this is a bit random, but cowell seems like he dicks around on the ball too much. for those of you who watch him regularly is that mostly a function of playing wide rather than central (and admittedly a relatively low sample size on my part)?
  16. Clint Eastwood

    Clint Eastwood Member+

    Dec 23, 2003
    Somerville, MA
    FC Dallas
    Obviously we need to develop #9s of elite, international quality if we expect to compete for quarterfinals & beyond.

    However, this is muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch easier said than done. One can look at major powers at this World Cup and note that they didn't really have a #9.

    In the Spain versus Germany match, neither team started a traditional #9. They both used false 9s. Germany really didn't have one. They brought Fullkrug off the bench, who was in the 2nd Bundesliga last year.

    If developing elite #9s was easy, everybody would do it.

    We just have to keep throwing numbers at it, keep working at the youth levels, and hope the work pays off.

    I see lists of guys above, and think..............................none of these guys is going to magically turn into Robert Lewandowski. Nobody on that long list is going to lead us to the promised land. They're all good enough for CONCACAF, but not when you're competing for the quarterfinal of a world cup. The best hope is Pepi, but I don't know about him yet.

    So what is the answer if you don't have a #9. Don't use one! Use a false 9 like Germany and Spain did. Figure out how to use Reyna or Pulisic or somebody else there.
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  17. Clint Eastwood

    Clint Eastwood Member+

    Dec 23, 2003
    Somerville, MA
    FC Dallas
    Cowell is an absolute beast physically, but doesn't have the technique to be the type of #9 we need for the next level..

    Listed U20 forwards called up this cycle.
    [Note that Pepi is eligible, but hasn't been with this group.]

    Most of these guys are either wide players. Very few guys in the traditional #9 mold that look to be on an international path. A bunch of them are dual-nats that might go in another direction (Koleosho, Ordaz, etc.)

    Brian Gutierrez; Chicago Fire
    Jackson Hopkins, DC United
    Kevin Paredes, Wolfsburg
    Quinn Sullivan; Philadelphia Union
    Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes
    Tyler Wolff, Beveren
    Damian Downs; Koln
    Kristian Fletcher; DC United
    Luca Koleosho; Espanyol
    Nathan Ordaz, LAFC
    Dante Sealy; Jong PSV (on loan from FC Dallas)
    Malick Sanogo; Union Berlin
    Patrick Bohui; Vejle
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  18. Eleven Bravo

    Eleven Bravo Member+

    Atlanta United
    United States
    Jul 3, 2004
    Atlanta Silverbacks
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    In my opinion, it was the tactics that neutered our forwards.

    I said this before; our forwards do not shine in a single forward formation. I know we think that’s the more beautiful way to play, but sometimes strike partnerships is the way to go.

    Say what you will, but Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo aren’t Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haland who are these magical players who can beat teams individually. Yes, they’re good players, but their tactics maximized their strengths and minimized their limitations. That’s what we needed to do going into this World Cup.

    Fast forward to 2026..... Sure, we don’t have that superstar striker. But take away the big soccer nations, and most nations would be thrilled to have your picks of, Ricardo Pepi, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Jesus Ferreira, Jordan Pefok, Daryl Dike, Brandon Vazquez, Haji Wright, and others.

    Actually, we have decent - not elite - strikers. But we’re putting them on an island, and asking, well, why can’t they do everything by themselves? Why can’t they win a game by themselves?

    Moving forward, I really want us to return to the 442. Either the diamond or the empty bucket formation. Maybe keep the 433 or 451 in our toolbox, but we have to incorporate the 442 if we want to get the results that we want to get. We’re going to need that forward partnership if we want to be dangerous in the final third.

    Put a vertical forward (Weah, etc), or technical forward (Ferreira, Reyna, etc); next to a target forward (Pefok, Pepi). Or, heck, you can even try putting two big forwards together if they at least have enough mobility that when one goes out, the other stays in. Just give them somebody to play off of.

    The Netherlands were able to counter us effectively because they could leave Gakpo and Depay up field, and they could trust that they could hold the play up long enough to get in the attack. Or they could unbalance our center backs when Dumfries went down the flanks. In other words, this wasn’t some superstar effort. This was just good ol’ fashioned soccer tactics 101.

    Additionally, I still remember the Baros-Koller striker partnership in 2006. Both were good forwards. But neither were going to go down as individually the best strikers in the world. That said, together, they were arguably the best forward duo going into the 2006 World Cup ~ until Koller got hurt.

    Again, this was my frustration with Berhalter. Arguably, the best player manager that we have ever had as US coach. All his players loved him, and that can’t be stressed enough. But he also can’t help himself. Keep shoving the square peg into the round hole. Over and over and over again. And all it took was one seasoned manager who is above the pay grade of your typical Central American CONCACAF team to figure him out, “I know what you’re trying to do, and I know enough, to plan around that, and force you to try something else.”

    Point being, yes, we will probably never get to a level where we have this infinite supply of superstar talent level that we don’t have to outplay and outmanage our opponents. That’s good enough for CONCACAF. But that’s not good enough for the big stage.

    Again, our problem with playing in CONCACAF gives us the false illusion that we’re better than everyone else and we can just overwhelm teams with talent.

    But if we had an ounce of cunning. And if we didn’t make stupid mistakes that are way below what’s characteristic of our level, that was a winnable game. It didn’t come down to us not having this one elite player. Believe it or not, we had every bit of enough talent to get through the Netherlands (even if we were still the underdog). But not so if we think we can get away with playing them, like we would try to play someone from CONCACAF.

    You see, what was the bigger problem is that we didn’t face anyone in the build up of 2022 that would force us to think outside of the box in order to come up with ideas to play teams that have a [slight] edge on us when it comes to the level of player to player. Put a seasoned manager in that position, and a seasoned team that’s used to playing these higher caliber teams, we could of thought how to get the most out of our forwards. And I guarantee, we would have known better than to put our forward on an island, and then, bemoan, what’s wrong with him? We don’t have anyone good enough.

    Simply put, sure, let’s improve the quality of our forwards. We need to do that. But we’re never going to get to that next level if we don’t realize that we’re actually going to have use ideas to get the most out of our players.
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  19. Clint Eastwood

    Clint Eastwood Member+

    Dec 23, 2003
    Somerville, MA
    FC Dallas
    #94 Clint Eastwood, Dec 5, 2022
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2022
    Gakpo will be at one of the biggest clubs in the World in the January window. :) He had premier league interest in the last window. ManUnited wanted him. I believe that Leeds and Jesse Marsch went hard for him, hoping to get him before his World Cup exposure. PSV didn't go for it. They were apparently close, and Jesse has said that the player is now out of their price range. [Leeds got that Italian kid Gnonto instead in that last window.]

    Jesse Marsch makes '99.9 per cent' claim on Leeds United's Cody Gakpo transfer pursuit | Yorkshire Evening Post

    There are only a couple of Haaland level players in the World at any one time. Hoping that kind of player is going to appear for us is wishful thinking. But we keep working......................

    And even having one of those #9s, like Poland (Lewandowski) and Norway...........doesn't guarantee success.
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  20. jond

    jond Member+

    Sep 28, 2010
    Levski Sofia
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    The most likely scenario for upgrading the position is either Sargent or Pepi take their club and individual levels up a tier or two.

    Which frankly would align with the development curve of strikers.

    I mentioned this comparison in the Pepi thread and it does not mean Pepi will follow his footsteps. But if people followed Puli at BVB they'll know the name Alexander Isak. Deemed not good enough for BVB. At 19/20 he was sent on loan to Willem II. He then turned that into a move to Real Sociedad, had a couple good seasons and at 23 recently got the 70M move to Newcastle.

    Point being, if the WC happened when Isak was 19 he wouldn't have even been in real contention for a USNT roster spot.

    Same goes for Sargent. Prime age for a striker is 26-32. At 22 he's tied for most goals in the C'Ship and there's only one other 22 yr old on that list. He very well could turn his experience this year into solid progression which sees him elevate his finishing ability in a better league over the next few seasons. A more seasoned Sargent in a mid table club top 5 league club with a better midfield/chance creation is a hopeful step in the next 1-2 years. And he still won't be in his prime.

    My third pick is Vazquez. Very good well rounded skill with the ball. A little older at 24 but has shown he can dominate the MLS level. Perfect time to continue his progression to a better league. In fact now or next summer is the time. Rumors Marsch wants him but I don't see how he qualifies for a UK WP.
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  21. jond

    jond Member+

    Sep 28, 2010
    Levski Sofia
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    It's just extremely rare for a striker to go from a 17 yr old reserve to being the preferred choice at a high club level and jumping his NT's striker pool in 2-3 years.

    Much more common with wingers and mids.

    There's a maturity and acquired experience at the striker position which takes years to attain for most. And in the rare exceptions that curve just starts earlier.

    Look at everyone's favorite Haaland. Only 22 but went Bryne--->Molde---->Salzburg--->BVB--->City. He's at his 5th club and he's still an exception. Had close to 140 appearances before arriving at City. The 9 position requires ample reps.
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  22. SJTillIDie

    SJTillIDie Member+

    Aug 23, 2009
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I still have a lot of hope for Dike! Dude is a monster just need to stay healthy!
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  23. nbarbour

    nbarbour Member+

    Jun 19, 2006
    Washington DC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Does Brazil have a spare Richarlison lying around?
  24. Ironbound

    Ironbound Member+

    Jul 1, 2009
    probably, yeah
  25. rgli13

    rgli13 Member+

    Mar 23, 2005
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    hey, richarlison plays on the wing for everton so i guess its all about perspective ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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