Oh Look! I’ve Found a Free Superstar

It’s like having the Get Out of Jail Free Card in Monopoly.

Nay, it’s stronger than that. It’s like having the 1st pick in the NBA or NFL draft. Nope, that player is not a given.

Ah, I got it. It’s like Peyton Manning or a vintage Kurt Warner went on waivers right before your Fantasy Football playoffs and there is no cost to picking them up.

Benny! Essien! On the same team?! The tears are streaming down my face...

What if the USMNT could add one player….any player from the international scene right before the World Cup. Who would they add? Who would you add if you were playing Bob Bradley?

TSG took a look. Here’s are five of our suggestions:

1. Fernando Torres

The skinny: How could we not name a striker here for the USMNT? In Fernando Torres, the USMNT would arguably have the best pure striker in the game today. The selection of Torres as our first superstar we would pick up on waivers doesn’t end on that statement.

The luxury of Torres is not only that he can get goals any number of ways, it’s that he can play in any formation up top. He can come up the pitch to receive the ball to drive to the whole. He can go balls-out and slam home a header or <salivating> he can run off Donovan…wow!

Torres needs less service than probably any other striker. I just heard the collective USMNT fan base exhale, “Hooray!”

In short, he can fit in with less than 150 days to World Cup glory in anyway Bob Bradley needs him. He fits the style of the USMNT team or he can help create the new one.

Fit rating: 100 out of 100 (um, what team can’t fit Torres in)


2. The big bad “Bison” – Mr. Michael Essien

The skinny: Those of you that read TSG religiously (“We’re watching you.”) know that Chelsea’s Makelele Plus, Michael Essien, is this writer’s favorite player. We tried oh-so-hard to put Essien number one on this list, but we could not ignore the El Nino effect.

The USMNT got a taste of Essien as Ghana shut down the States to advance in World Cup 2006. This time, he’s on the Yanks’ side.

With Essien in the middle, it hardly matters who he is paired with. Imagine Benny freelancing off Essien’s cover. Pairing Mike Bradley would work as well as MB could show his offensive wares up the pitch..

With Essien as destroyer, locking down on errant wingers and strikers and then turning the table to manage possession, the USMNT could afford to take more offensive chances, in turn putting more pressure on their group stage opponents.

Fit rating: 98 (Essien’s counterpart would need to learn real quickly how to be more offensive on the pitch without cluttering another offender’s space. Wait a second…what if the USMNT get Jermaine Jones as well. Two d-backs, still Benny up top, Donovan and Demps to the wings…and Jozy up top….problems solved.)

This clip doesn’t even represent his main skill set!


3: Cesc Fabregas

Isn't it time that we just refer to Fabregas as "Cesc" like "Messi" or "Ronaldo?" TSG thinks so.

The skinny: A second Spaniard making the list. You bet. There is only one Cesc.

We think we aptly described Cesc after his goal against Villa in this year’s EPL campaign as follows “you can’t deny the talent of Fabregas who so often plays the role of Chris Paul, but could easily be a Kobe Bryant.” Were not fond of quoting ourselves, but we’re also very fond of the appropriate depiction of a player…and that is spot on.

Want more on Cesc. At the end of 2009, we came of the bench to lead Arsenal to victory over Tottenham as he streaked after an errant long pass.

Cesc has heart to go with his talent in the middle of the pitch and unlike most passing experts in the middle (Pirlo, Deco, etc), his striking chops are nearly parallel.

Fit rating:  96 (Just need to figure out who is covering in the back as either Rico or Bradley are going to the bench.)


4a and 4b: Maicon or Danny Alves

Scintillating: Maicon (left) and Alves (right)

The skinny: Does it really matter? Both are weapons on the wingfulls. If we had to select one, we would most likely go with Maicon for his shear offensiveness. With Lando in tow, the USMNT could use Alves’ free-kicking ability, but it wouldn’t be imperative.

With Maicon in the fold suddenly at least one wingfull goes from a liability to a strength. Put Maicon on his natural right and you can slide Spector over to the left or into the middle. Or what about moving Donovan during the course of the game over Maicon with say, Robbie Findley, in front of them.

Still salivating over here.

Fit rating:  96 (Discount the fit a few for any tension on free kicks if Alves is the selection. For Maicon, all that is needed is quick developing good communication with DeMerit, Gooch or whomever is the center right defender….wait this column might be making me sad.)


5: Wayne Rooney

The skinny: Wayne-O on the USMNT. The USMNT has never been accused of playing the beautiful game…and frankly neither has the Manchester United superstar. Wayne-O’s got two traits that the USMNT wants–a never say die, win at all costs attitude and the willingness and steadfastness to track back and help out on defense (and you know the States need this).

Rooney is just a hair under Torres, because frankly pound for pound Torres is a better pure goal scorer. That’s the only area where Roone is discounted.

Fit rating: 95


We didn’t choose….

…Ronaldo: Too petulant. You can see it now. Even with a team of Danny, Boswinga and Deco around him, Portugal had to make hay at the end to qualify. You don’t expect that with one of the top 3 players in the world out there.

Messi: Similar situation with dear Messi. While Argentina’s problems can be firmly affixed on the head of a foul-mouthed, snow-loving former superstar, Messi has issued more than one mia culpa in the press, begging off responsibility of carrying Argentina on his shoulders. He’s a dynamo with a ball, but hasn’t been able to lift a team yet that has the likes of Maxi, Tevez, Aimar, Higuain, Veron, Masherano. Oh wow….

Look we’re still taking Messi and Ronaldo if there on, you know, waivers…it’s just there are better teams players and fits up top.

Drogba: Too similar to Jozy. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! You say. We’re worried about offending Altidore’s ego or state of mind? No, not really. But having both on the pitch is redundant…we don’t need to weaken a starting position…again, there are better selections. Torres pairing Altidore might work better.

...Stevie Gerrard: We already gave a shout out to one of  Bingland’s best and we’re in anti-Sminglish propaganda mode as we write this….sorry. That being said, Gerrard’s a great fit in the CAM role, but might not be the best fit for cover over the wingfull like a Rico or Mikey B.

Who we missing….? Lively debate on this one coming.

20 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dude on 2010/01/05 at 11:14 AM

    We could have used Iniesta more than Fabregas, Terry more than Essien, and Modric more than Maicon. Simple reason for the last one, we just need a strong, defensively and offensively gifted player who can play either left back or left mid; Terry because we could have used his leadership in the defense; and Iniesta over Fabregas because have you been watching Barca lately? Iniesta is the most underrated player on that squad, and they sing is praise pretty often. He can dribble, pass, slow down play, speed up play, he’s the most complete offensive player in Europe, as far as I’m concerned.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/05 at 11:28 AM


      All valid comments…my feedback:

      Terry: You’ll find no love from me on Terry. I largely believe that Terry’s game has gone southward the past few years and I’ll have more on this next week. Yes, he is a leader in the middle…skill wise…replacing any of 5 choices…not close for me on that one. Much rather have Chiellini or Puyol or Hangeland in the middle (I love Hangeland’s game so I may be rating him too high here.)

      Iniesta: Love him as well and have referenced him on this publication. However, IMO, USMNT needs a scoring threat in the middle as well….a better fit is Cesc to me…Iniesta…I like him floating out a little bit wider than he is playing with Barcelona…but for the US that is LandoLand. Again, I mean who turns down Iniesta…but he was not in “my five” so to speak. So my reasoning there…it’s not like I can actually argue against Iniesta.

      Modric: Really love his game, however he’s not proven he can stand up to the physicality of the play in the EPL…injuries last year and this year. A joy to watch, but the USMNT have to contend with Slovenia physical defense as well as England’s in the group stage. Algeria the US will likely beat through the air or counter rather than slipping passes through the middle.

      I’ll take Iniesta as a potential top 5 from your selections…but beg off Terry, Modric–though again, love watching Modric play.


  2. Posted by Joe on 2010/01/05 at 11:34 AM

    id disagree with terry and modric. Iniesta is a beast, top 5 in the world in my eyes along with cesc but you really cant go wrong with either cesc or iniesta or essien.

    Torres is great too….

    What about Van Persie? Hes a beast as well


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/05 at 11:37 AM

      All semantics here of course :>

      Van Persie needs a lot more service than Torres and he’s a lot better, IMO, playing in a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3. So I went with Torres.
      Although RVP is left-footed…so big giddy-up there.

      Remember, I’m talking about inserting a player right before the tourney who won’t disrupt the team game…that’s part of my critieria above….


  3. Posted by B-Mac on 2010/01/05 at 11:44 AM

    There’s two guys that stand out to me for not be discussed at all (besides Drogba not being on the list, the man is pure class, I’d love to have two bulldogs running at the English Defense): Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kaka. As much as I love Torres and Drogba, I think Zlatan could be the best fit for the American system. He has the size to give America a presence in the box like they’ve never had as well as the ability to rocket in goals from outside the 18. As for Kaka, put him in the lineup and you slide Dempsey up to a Second Striker role, now Kaka can bring a vision and passing ability that has never been seen with a USA attacking midfielder, not to mention being a top notch finisher.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/05 at 11:46 AM

      How could I forget Kaka…2010 is not starting out kindly for me.

      You could put Kaka on the pitch with New Zealand and you’d have to like their chances of getting out of the group stage. Sorry to the Kiwi fans that I know read this publication….but you guys need some work before June.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/05 at 11:59 AM

        …and Zlatan is totally avaiable on the waiver wire…he can be your hold up guy and you could run anyone–Josh Wolff–off of him.


  4. Posted by Evan on 2010/01/05 at 1:01 PM

    I know he is good but I have never been a fan of Fernando Torres. To me whenever I watch Spain play, the best forward is David Villa and yet he never gets credit despite the fact that he has a much better goal scoring record despite playing for a much worse club team. Fernando Torres is more of a wild card to me, he could go off at any minute, but if you want consistency, which I do, David Villa is the player you want.


    • Torres to me is the type to go out and get goals come hell or high water. Villa, on the other hand, seems to use more interplay between him and his teammates to create chances. The Villa vs. Torres argument is an interesting one as they’re both slightly different types of attackers, which brings me to a question a few friends and I tried to answer a couple of years ago but never got everything together:

      What is the difference between a striker and a forward? Is this merely a semantics argument, some say to-may-to, some say to-mah-to. Or do we, as armchair pundits/commentators, really feel that there is a legitimate difference between the two on the field? For example; are Alan Shearer, Didier Drogba, Brian McBride, and Zlatan considered Strikers or Forwards, should they wear the proverbial #9 shirt? What about the Michael Owens, Fernando Torreses, Louis Sahas, etc. of the world, and should they be the ones given the #9? It also seems that in the three years that have passed since my friends and I attempted to answer that question we have a third category for the Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo type. And what about a Jozy Altidore who is neither target nor speed, does he deserve a term of his own, or are we still considering him a mini-Drogs at this point?


      • Posted by patrickhattrick on 2010/01/05 at 6:09 PM

        According to FIFA 10 formation creator, a striker is more attacking and placed farther down the field. Ronaldo and Messi are both wingers, which is kind of more like a striker with a dedicated side. When I play as Barca, I prefer to move Messi into Ibrahimovic’s role as a true striker, so he gets more chances in the final third. Otherwise, he can be isolated to one side and I have to try and pass through balls to Ibrahimovic while Messi is on the field. There’s an explanation!!!


      • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/01/05 at 11:24 PM

        Well according to the Fifa video-game franchise, there are a couple different types of forwards/strikers. You have your clinical strikers(the very efficient David Villas, Van Persies, El Ninos etc.) Dribblers(the Messi, Higuains, Robinhos) Counter Attackers(Rooney, Lando) and the Target Man(Crouch, Koller, Zigic, Fabiano, Ching). But one type I think they’re missing is the Roamer, Although I think a Roamer can be a ‘tweener the Mid-Fwd role (CR9, Kaka, Gerrard, Pirlo) but I guess that depends on what system they’re playing in.

        And speking of tweeners. There are PLENTY of tweener Forwards/strikers. Just look at Didier, and Jozy as well, (Target, Clinical). Zlatan(Target, Dribbler). El Nino Torres(basically all of them put together). Defoe(Clinical, Target – I know you’ve seen him post up a lot this year). I can go on and on . . .


        • I would agree that there are more than just the two roles, but I don’t know that we should leave it up to video game designers to tell us what they are. Not that they’re not versed in the game, but it’s more fun to openly debate it with different opinions weighing in. For example Free Beer Movement and I disagree about which of the types is the true #9 for a team; he thinks it’s the Michael Owen, speedy, poaching, finishing types, and I think it’s more of the McBride, Koller, Fabiano, target type.


  5. Posted by J mann on 2010/01/05 at 4:00 PM

    Giuseppe Rossi would be nice, and he was actually born in America.

    My main pick would be Andrei Arshavin. Fit rating: 110 out of 100 (Euro 2008 anyone)


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/05 at 4:06 PM

      So true on Rossi.

      By the way, of the 12 legit players that had a shot in the CD9 role from this piece:

      Only 3 (Rolfe, Preston Zimmerman, Freddy A’don’t) haven’t either factored in a qualifier/friendly or been invited to Jan Camp.
      (and mind you we had Findley on this long before his quality playoff run.)

      Adu doesn’t have a shot. Zimm probably not either.

      Rolfe might get a shot at another Friendly if we does anything in Denmark.


      Arshavin equals “nasty” — good addition.


    • I like the Temperatures in the bottom right hand corner of this video compilation. Anyone who can do what he does at -10 degrees Celsius has a spot on my team


  6. […] 3. The Shin Guardian: Oh Look! I’ve Found A Free Superstar […]


  7. Posted by Joe on 2010/01/06 at 11:14 PM

    I posted on this piece a couple days ago but after some thinking I really think that Essien would be the most beneficial to the U.S. team right now. I know its all speculation but think about the holes we have right now outside the box and how teams split us right down the seams. Essien is a brick wall, he realistically helps the offense and defense equally which in turn makes the whole team better.

    I know Torres is a great striker but I think Dempsey needs to be playing striker with Jozy. Yes it kind of changes the idea of the article but jesus, when is BB going to give Clint a run?!?! Get him off the wing, his talent is being wasted out there. Instead of using guys like Casey, Ching and Cunningham let Dempsey and Jozy work it out. WHY NOT??? At Fulham hes free, he scores goals from everywhere (the nasty big dipper the other day was sweeeeet). If you have Dempsey and Jozy up top you could use Essien in any role in the midfield realistically. Hes the best CDM in the world and as a CAM he can dominate as well.

    With that said I’d actually say Essien is a 120 out of 100. Will change the entire game on both sides of the ball for the better.


    • Posted by Rhodie on 2010/01/06 at 11:50 PM

      Couldn’t agree more about Essien…best in the world at the position that we are lacking the most. At every other position we can point to someone and say, at least we have something to work with, but our CDM outlook is very bleak.

      About Deuce I have to disagree though–He hasn’t played well as a forward when he has been played there. He needs someone in front of him to create the space so he can run at a defender. Deuce isn’t the type to beat someone with pace, nor is he going to turn a defender. Just take a look at where he plays for Fulham: out on the wing with the freedom to float inside, and no real defensive responsibility. Sadly this is also Donovan’s best position.

      I realize this is moving into the realm of the forthcoming column on the Deuce VS. the Balding Beauty, but I believe that Dempsey is much better than Donovan as a true winger, so I would put Donovan floating to the center, almost in the creative CAM role, and Demps out wide. Either way putting Essien behind them gives both the ability to ignore defense altogether, the Buffalo is a stone wall.


  8. Posted by Joe on 2010/01/07 at 11:12 AM

    yea Rhodie I see what you are saying but the thing is that Deuce has freedom to do as he pleases at Fulham. On the US team hes locked up and pissed off half of the time. Playing that position is never going to work on the USMNT so I proposed maybe moving him up where he is free to roam and doesnt have to play D which we all know he doesnt want to.


    • I disagree that Deuce doesn’t want to play defense. For Fulham I’ve seen him back almost to his own goal-line defending on many occasions. I would agree though that he needs a bit more freedom instead of being locked into the traditional 4-4-2 outside midfielder role; it appears that Fulham is playing a 4-3-3 most of the time with Duff and Dempsey alternating filling the third forward role or if both are up in attack, Gera drops back for cover. Granted it’s not your typical Ajax-style 4-3-3, but it’s working for the Cottagers and I think the USMNT has all but one of the pieces necessary to pull it off as well. The only thing we’re missing is a Gera Forward/Midfielder who can link with a forward, play the target forward role, and seamlessly drop into the midfield for defensive cover.

      Without the “Gera” type of player, Fulham’s system doesn’t work. In fact I’m worried what’s going to happen once Andy Johnson is healthy again since he’s the annointed first-choice striker along with Zamora. Those two together force Fulham into a more traditional 4-4-2 which will see Deuce being less successful/on fire.


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