Part II of II: On The US Foreign Services With Greg Seltzer

This is Part II of TSG’s discussion with Amsterdam-based Greg Seltzer of MLSSoccer.com and No Short Corners. You can find Part I, here.

Gatt and a legend...

Matthew: So who are the key Americans abroad that US fans should truly be excited by? So many times one goal is enough to chop a forest worth’s of timber to power the hype machine…who are the Americans that in either good club situations or just have more talent than anyone else that fans will start hearing about in say 2013 or 2014?

Greg: Hmmm. That’s a loaded and difficult question. I think we are already hearing about many of the guys overseas young, such as Josh Gatt.

Considering the new 4-3-3 mandate and his elusiveness, Gatt probably has to be considered among the very most exciting prospects. He’s fast as all hell, fearless and has a great head on his shoulders.

You can certainly add other rising winger-types like Joe Gyau. If you don’t have ace wingers, you can be often up against it in a 4-3-3.

We have several #9 style forwards that have great promise and are in good situations, such as Conor Doyle and Andrew Wooten. I also hold good hope for attackers like Tony Taylor that can move around the forward line. The same goes for Stefan Jerome, who I’ve always been a fan of. Obviously, wingbacks are very key in that formation, so you need to keep an eye on guys like Marc Pelosi and Sean Cunningham.

Of course, a 4-3-3 team must rule the center of the park, so players like Charles Renken, Sebastian Lletget and Will Packwood come to mind quickly. The latter two are currently playing in probably the fastest reserve league in the world, trying to crack into the certainly the fastest league in the world in the Championship – that cannot hurt.

Obviously, if Fabian Hürzeler makes the switch, he zooms to near the top of our excitement list – the kid is smoooooth. I also have a lot of hope for Jared Jeffrey, though his situation is both good and bad until he can crack a stacked first team midfield. I’ve heard raves upon raves for center back John Anthony Brooks, but he’s one I’ve actually yet to see play a real game, so I don’t pretend to know precisely how excited we should be about him.

Back in America, I’m plenty excited about certain players for how they may eventually fit snugly into the 4-3-3. I very much wish Ike Opara could stay healthy. You’ve got guys like Luis Gil, Blair Gavin and Danny Cruz that could really turn out nicely for that set. Naturally, Perry Kitchen is a monster and a bit of a Swiss Army knife, not unlike Zach Loyd. And as always, I remain a big Sean Johnson fan among the keepers.

Some of these guys won’t be ready to be in the squad discussion by 2014, but so much can happen in the career of a prospect in two years. Part of the fun and agony of this kind of excitement is waiting to see how it all turns out. As it looks right now, though, we have plenty to be excited about.

Matthew: Okay, that was a bid email to dissect their. Let’s narrow. You’re top three US prospects. Ones with a chance to make it to the semi’s of the Champion’s League with their club team?

Okay, and moving through leagues a little. Michael Bradley is now the janitor of the midfield at Chievo. Do you see more Americans moving to Serie A in the future or are the homegrown rules too stric

TSG agrees...if he could only get a healthy season or too under the belt...

Greg: My top three wish list based on future need would be probably be Gatt, Gyau and Opara. And, of course, if Liverpool develops Marc Pelosi as a proper raiding left back, the USMNT fandom would swoon. Right now, obviously, Opara needs to stay healthy for five minutes to see if he can fulfill his promise. As for the three that are the best bets at this time, it’s probably Gatt, Kitchen and pick your favorite between Boyd and Wooten. Considering the type of player Jozy is and how young he is, I might actually propose that Wooten gets called first of the two because he brings a little something different in style.

On number two, the roster limit is a hindrance, and sometimes the teams interested in Americans can also be a deterrent. Bradley certainly could have joined a better club from his level, but with Chievo he gets to walk in and be expected to be one of the key players. With some of the other teams that have shown interest in him, that would not be the case. Roma told me flat out they did not envision him starting regularly the first season, and I’m pretty sure that’s all he needed to hear to choose otherwise.

Frankly though, with the USMNT system change, I doubt so many Americans will find that the place to go. Presumably, the mad rush of promising youngsters would now want to flock toward the Eredivisie or Belgium. Players of Bradley’s position can go to Serie A – that works fine. But If an American attacker or wingback or playmaker or center back really wants to jump over to a super-tactical league, I’d suggest France over Italy at this point. And only after pushing him to the Eredivisie. If you want to star for the Nats looking forward, then now is the time to do what Jozy did. Others might disagree, but I’m not especially interested in having our players in Italy. It doesn’t meet our direction.

Matthew: Fascinating insights Greg. So to follow-up what is that is makes Belgium, The Eredivisie, and LigueOne ideal destinations for Americans–how have they become more technical and are they open to receiving more Americans in their ranks?

On the opposite side of the table, do you get a lot of inquires about European players heading westward to MLS? Do media folks, agents, etc ask you about playing in MLS and where do you rank MLS in terms of quality play versus European leagues?

Greg: Well, Belgium and the Netherlands obviously have the 4-3-3 connection which ties into the new US national team gameplan. Besides, it’s kinda hard to not notice that nearly every American that gets to the Eredivisie becomes a key USMNT figure to one degree or another. With France, it’s just that more clubs are spending some money right now than in places like Germany and there’s no great admission roadblock. I have also noticed a steep increase in French clubs checking out our players, so that may turnout to have been a giveaway. Heh.

And on number two, I do sometimes get asked about this. I’ve had players ask me about the league or living there. I’ve had agents with a client that wants to go there, asking about league personnel rules or about which MLS teams might need a player in that position. I’ve also had plenty of writers and execs and fans and whatever you can think of asking about various things with MLS. It still has that

“The Other” vibe, probably mainly because of the distance and structure/format differences. And they don’t show it on TV here, unlike some countries. Of course, Dutch folks are highly intrigued by and attracted to “The Other” – they likely to be worldly. And they love soccer. They’ve recently seen guys like Dave van den Bergh go over to have success and the Dutch do like us, tracking the players far and wide abroad.

They’ve read all the comments by guys like Gullit, Seedorf and Davids that have seen and discussed MLS. It won’t be like that everywhere in Europe. Some places nobody asks this stuff. They only might in Italy or Germany, they won’t in England. The French tend to ask because Henry is there now. I may be at the Euro-epicenter of MLS inquisitiveness, actually. Danes seem to know the most without asking.

Ugh, asking me to do this is career suicide! I’ll forever be the guy who placed MLS below such and such league. Okay, here’s where I honestly stand on this: it’s nearly impossible to judge for two reasons.

You have the oppressive heat MLS guys play in for some months, just when they get to form it’s the dog days already. Secondly, there’s the depth/organization issue. Overall, most of the Euro-clubs we think about should be more consistent and all because they have more player resources. Plus, you have the ever-tumbling parity few leagues can match.

It is the true apple and orange.

If you look at one MLS club and wonder how they’d do in some league over here, well probably not as well as you’d hope they would to be honest. If you take the overall league play, it looks better, because there are certainly times when you could say, oh sure this is certainly as good as an average English Championship game. If forced to set all the excuses and variables aside to just pick a place by how hard it is to play in MLS… I’d say at this time, MLS has passed the Scottish Premier League in overall quality. In fact, with their squad resume, the 2011 Galaxy would actually be a threat to win the title this season. I would generally say MLS is at or near the level of maybe Denmark and Greece, and not quite to the level of places like Belgium, Russia and Turkey. The important thing is MLS raises in quality nearly every season, so it won’t be too long before America can claim a league on par with.

Matthew: Let’s finish up with some softballs. Where does Charlies Davies head next? Is it Europe? Who is the next American to play in Champion’s League?

Greg: Yes, Charlie looks set for a new Euro-address. I have a few clues and have eliminated some areas as possible destinations, but haven’t been able to pinpoint where he’s headed. Yet, anyway.

The only American with a ticket to play in the next Champions League right this moment is Josh Gatt, so that was probably easier to answer than you’d hoped.

Beyond him, I’m very confident Sacha Kljestan will be there next Fall, as will Mo Edu provided he doesn’t leave Rangers.

Beyond them, guys like Jozy, Jermaine Jones and Michael Parkhurst are in great position at midseason to qualify. Then there’s Bryan Gerzicich at Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona. They are the surprise leaders in Israel, but still with plenty of work to do to get to the Champions League. As is, it seems pretty safe to say next season’s Champions League class of Americans will come out of that group of players unless some big club manages to grab Clint Dempsey in the summer.

<END>

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alex on 2011/12/21 at 3:02 AM

    I love reading No Short Corners and Greg Seltzer is one of a few go to guys about Yanks in Europe, but I hate that he sometimes miscasts players. Like in his hypothetical depth chart, he had Torres at LW. And I from what I’ve seen, Pelosi is a LM/CM so midfielder, I doubt he’d be anything more than decent at leftback. Okay, sorry, off my soapbox.

    But great great interview with a lot of insight. I hope more and more Americans choose Eredivse sides (look at how successful players where when they did i.e. John O’Brien, Michael Bradley, Jozy etc.). Good work Matt and Greg, keep up the great work!

    Reply

  2. Posted by EFG on 2011/12/21 at 8:29 AM

    The assessment that Roma gave flat-out regarding Michael Bradley is interesting, but not surprising. There will be some openings in the Roman midfield come January/next summer, and their comment makes it seem like they are keeping tabs on Bradley this season. The question will be can Bradley play in a tiki-tak Barcelona-type system.

    Reply

  3. Posted by SamT on 2011/12/21 at 8:33 AM

    More content in this one interview than I get on many other sites in an entire year. Nicely done yet again, Matt and Greg.

    Reply

  4. Posted by dth on 2011/12/21 at 12:12 PM

    re: Marc Pelosi. It’s interesting–apparently Liverpool have alternated him between central midfield and left back, and Liverpool fans have been generally ecstatic about his play. The weird thing was, I thought his best position going in was left winger. Guess it’s the benefit of that German education…they love their all-arounders.

    I still have Luis Gil on top of my “best American prospects” list, and I fully expect him to fill the Andy Williams void for RSL in the 2012 season.

    Reply

    • Posted by Alex on 2011/12/21 at 5:40 PM

      I’ve read (on big soccer and twitter so take this with a grain of salt) that he’s player 3 positions; LM, CM and LB. And he’s apparently been impressive at all which is nice to hear. We’ll see where he lands but I think he’ll be a midfielder for sure.

      Reply

  5. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/12/21 at 4:42 PM

    What on earth ever happened to Eric Lichaj? I thought he had a [cough] “high ceiling”. I guess 12 months in football *really* is a long time.

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/12/21 at 5:05 PM

      Tore his hammy and hasn’t played at all this year.

      Still has a high ceiling, so nyah nyah nyah.

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/12/21 at 6:18 PM

        From the Brimingham Mail:

        “Early indications suggest the American defender faces up to four months on the sidelines after aggravating an existing hip problem playing for Villa’s reserves.

        Lichaj has been booked in to see a specialist next Monday to ascertain the severity of the injury and whether he will require surgery.”

        You may have misread it as a torn hammy:

        “AMSTERDAM — Aston Villa defender Eric Lichaj could miss as much as four months’ time after a Tuesday evening exam showed a labral tear in his hip, MLSsoccer.com has learned.

        A source explained that the US fullback had carried the injury since making his season debut with the winner in a Carling Cup victory over Hereford United, but an initial check left the club thinking it was simply a standard knock.

        After experiencing pain in Monday’s reserves tilt, Lichaj was taken back for a closer inspection, which revealed the hip socket cartilage tear.”

        Reply

  6. Posted by Gregorio on 2011/12/22 at 7:19 AM

    NIce Article Greg, love your name. Now can we find any info about Bijev who’s in Germany. And any info on Devan Yao (forgive the misspelling) or Bowen in Belgium’s 2nd division. It always perplexed me why Bowen went there? he’s better off elsewhere.
    Anyway great piece, Thanks Greg & Matt for making it happen

    Reply

    • Posted by Jeff on 2012/01/02 at 7:19 PM

      Bowen went there because no one else wanted him?

      He is so far off the prospect radar at this point…. I’ll eat my hat if he ever wears the US jersey at even a Camp Cupcake.

      Reply

  7. [...] Shin Guardian: On The US Foreign Services With Greg Seltzer Part 1 – Part 2 [...]

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