Before pre season started, we looked at TFC's squad, what the first team options and depth looked like, the strong points, the weak points and the questions that needed to be answered in the pre season. As distinct from previous seasons, things seemed fairly settled even before it all started but now we'll wrap up what's changed and see where we are after that underwhelming Mickey Mouse tournament and with the first game a week away. We looked at the goalies and defence yesterday, next up the midfielders.
Let's start with the obvious, Michael Bradley is going to be the heart and soul of this midfield, the engine room, the quarterback, the conductor of the orchestra all those types of cliched descriptors, in short The General. That was obvious before we started and pre season has reinforced that, and happily shown that it's a good thing. Whether it's his picking up the ball from the defence, and spraying balls both long and short wherever he wants to, or the impressive way he reads the game with all the interceptions, tackles and recoveries that that can bring, he's looking like a very good pickup. and oh, he can hit a decent free kick as well, which is a nice option to have. But anyway, let's move on to where there were questions to be answered.
Pre-season tells us that we'll be sticking with the two fairly deep lying midfielders that we saw last season, so who's alongside Bradley? Sadly not Matias Laba, but instead it seems like Jonathan Osorio will be there. He didn't have a massive impact in pre season but did a tidy enough job alongside Bradley, showing early signs of what could be a good skillful partnership.
So far so good, but what about the depth for those central positions. Jeremy Hall, he is what he is, better there than at right back, if he's alongside Bradley that would be ok, as a replacement for him, that's a large, large drop off. Kyle Bekker? Well, he didn't do anything to suggest he's pushing for a first team spot, reinforcing the impression he gave last season of not quite being good enough. Sure there were a few nice passes, he can certainly do that when given the time, but once again his overall energy level wasn't really there, he's too often static and easily beatable. I saw someone somewhere call him an inukshuk, which is as sharply cruel as it is a very good observation ('what's that sir? the goal? yes right this way, don't worry about me, i'll just stand here as you move on by'). I think as well if necessary Jackson could drop back and fill one of these spots, but well that would just be creating depth issues elsewhere, hopefully it won't come to that.
Moving on to the attacking midfielders and there we get to one of the few lineup questions that remains, mainly due to injuries so far meaning we don't really know how Nelsen's planning to fit Jermian Defoe and Gilberto into the lineup. I think we can presume that when fit the pricetags alone (hopefully the talent too) will dictate that they both start. How exactly? Well happily I'll leave that guessing game to Dave for the forwards re-cap, and though there's a chance the one that's further back might well technically be in midfield, for this I'll assume 4-4-2, so it's a question of who the two wide players are. With Osorio in the middle, there's basically 3 candidates for the 2 wide positions, Dwayne de Rosario, Alvaro Rey and Jackson, and I don't think any of them 100% made their case that they deserve to be there.
Despite my personal preference that he be a potential game changer off the bench for games when we need that change, I think De Rosario will be given the start out on the left. Pre season showed that we're going to get the same old De Ro DIY stylings, plenty of infuriation and the odd goal mixed in. Hopefully as he ages he'll be a bit more aware of his situation and be more ready to play second fiddle to Defoe, Gilberto and co, but then that wouldn't really be De Ro would it. If 2013 De Ro is what we're getting, then that could really hurt, let's hope Nelsen is ready to try other options, but I think this is what we start with. On the right, I'd guess at Alvaro Rey, more for what he did towards the end of last season than anything he did in pre season with Jackson as the first option off the bench. If De Rosario's being subbed then either Jackson or Rey could be on the left, or they may well just swap about at will really.
Tactical changes, or if either of the two forwards are injured or at the World Cup, then we could well go to 3 attacking midfielders, if that's the case, then De Rosario is the obvious choice to be the man in the middle, though there's also the option of bringing Hall in and moving Osorio up to that position. Osorio could also cover the wings as well in case of emergency, particularly the left where he did so well last season.
With Reggie Lambe gone and as yet no other players brought in, we now very quickly get to the kids, the presumed loan sharks. Dan Lovitz came out and told the world that he had been signed and would be going to Wilmington, and more than likely Manuel Aparicio will be joining him, both ready to be called up if injuries demand it. Aparicio didn't look all that out of place playing in the hole behind the striker which was a pleasant surprise but he definitely remains one for the future. Hopefully there'll be other signings that can fill that alarmingly small gap between first team and Wilmington, but as of the time of writing that's what we've got.
So there's the midfield, much like other parts of the team, the first choice isn't that shabby at all and there's a bit of depth if certain players have to be covered for, but lose the one big piece for any extended time and we could be in trouble.