During many of Mark and my late night conversations, we often make statements like, “Gosh, I just wish that Conor Casey could spend three days with Emile Heskey.”
Okay, that’s a stretch for sure. Number one, we don’t often debate Conor Casey’s lack of prowess.
In our interviews, we’re also fond of asking our subjects–typically States’ players–who their favorite team was to watch growing up and what player from that team they would train with if they had a day. In that vain, comes this column.
What former or current global soccer player, who if given some hours with a specific US player, would have the biggest impact on improving his career? Conversely, for the American player what skills or gamesmanship do they need to learn for the position or role they play and who is best to offer tutelage?
We came up with some interesting, but also debatable answers and, as always, will welcome and request your input.
Stu Holden: David Beckham
The skinny: We had a chance to ask Stu Holden what former Manchester United great he would train with if he had a chance and he choose Eric Cantona. However, we’re sending David Beckham circa the early 2000s…you know the David Beckham of Giggs, Scholes, Keane and Becks….to train with Holden and help Stu with reading the game and dictating play.
Both players are extremely similar in that they can play inside or or outside in the midfield. Further they both threaten with the pass and largely possess the ball only as a means of creating a pass or when the play absolutely necessitates it.
We’d like Beckham to help Stu out with two things: 1) Just like Beckham did with Donovan, improving the consistency and threat of the Iceman’s free kicks and 2) staying involved in the game and being a factor at all time–Stu disappeared in some playoff games last year.
Jozy Altidore – Didier Drogba
The skinny: A no-brainer here as TSG has been calling Altidore Drogba Jr. for some time now. Both players arrived unpolished on the scene at the EPL.
While he don’t want Didier to teach Jozy endless complaining and antics, we want him to just help refine Altidore’s touches and educate on when the best time is to dish the ball and when the best time is to be selfish.
Michael Bradley: Patrick Viera & Gilberto Silva
The skinny: Being the son of the coach of the USMNT has its privileges and Mikey B is about to take full advantage by having two guys in his corner.
Bradley can use a little bit of both Silva and Viera’s game and approach to the game, but primarily we want the central midfield pairing that led Arsenal to an unbeaten record in ’03-’04 to educate him on the interplay between midfielders in the center of the pitch….learning when to provide support nearby their partner vs. clearing to make a run.
Individually, Mikey B can pick up a little bit of humbleness and sense of urgency from Silva who, before his quick and storied Arsenal career worked in a candy factory. From Viera, Bradley can learn how to marshall the midfield and be responsible and consistent in all facets of the game.
Jonathan Bornstein: Rio Ferdinand
The skinny: The now-England captain, as well as TSG fave Peter Vermes, started out as striker before becoming a central defender. Known for being strong in attack as well as in man-to-man coverage, Ferdinand still suffers from that one error a game that puts his team at risk. The tradeoff, for now, is worth it for Manchester United and the Three Lions.
Jonathan Bornstein is similarly an extremely gifted athlete who began his career much further up the pitch. Dropping his calling card back in 2007 when he helped shut down Lionel Messi for a half, Bornstein’s physical abilities allow him to run and play defense with anyone.
It’s Bornstein’s tactics in one-on-one defense that are sometimes called into question. Couple that with discussing “resolve” during the game and Ferdinand provides an excellent mentor for the Chivas d-man.
Clint Dempsey: Dennis Bergkamp
The skinny: Let’s call this one more of a sit down over a coffee or beer.
Berkampf, whose candidacy for a position on the 2000’s all-global, all-decade team was not loudly sounded, made a living in a somewhat ambiguous role in the middle of the pitch. Part CAM, part-striker, part-forward, Bergkamp is an English Hall of Famer and Arsenal great.
Two topics as part of the Deuce-Non Flying Dutchman discussion, among others?
• Favoring simplicity: While Demps and Bergkamp have similar creativity in showing the ball to a defender and then beating them with a pass or move, Bergkamp was exceedingly more economical with his motions. Deuce-USA can certainly benefit from some tutelage here.
• Connecting with the striker: We saw some difficulty between Jozy and Clint in Slovakia late last year. There is not a striker who Bergkamp played with that doesn’t sing his service praises.
Charlie Davies – Ronaldo (the Brazilian one)
The skinny: Perhaps there was no better striker, ever, in the history of the game. The combinations of beating his man, ripping a shot and making the proper threatening run made Ronaldo virtually unstoppable in the decade between 1995-2005.
Let’s call this match-up a “mutual mentoring” though. We want Ronaldo Sr., now biding his time at Corinthians, to teach Davies everything he knows about reading defender tendencies, how to throw defenders off balance, etc. As payment, we want Davies to inspire drive in Ronaldo so at 33 the elder statesmen and pride of World Cup 2002 attempts one more shot at a cameo in South Africa.
Some Other Suggestions:
Andrei Arshavin to show Freddy Adu how to not get knocked off the ball.
The USMNT’s very own Brad Friedel to spend 10 minutes with Tim Howard on instructing the back line.
Gooch already has Nesta at AC Milan…that’ll work.
Kenny Cooper? Peter Crouch…duh….
Martin Tyler, Gus Johnson and Ian Eagle for John Harkes…and that might not do it.
TSG Reader Suggestions:
Jay DeMerit to learn pit bulling from Fabio Cannavaro, nice!
Edgar Davids gives an eye exam and pitch exam to Ricardo Clark, absolutely spot-on!