Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2014 Season Preview: Roster Makeup

Let's take a look at the roster as we enter the season.

There's a clear #1 right now with Clint Irwin between the pipes.  It appears that Joe Nasco will be the backup while John Berner will be the emergency keeper.  The concern of course is that combined they have less than 1 year of MLS experience.  That didn't seem to hurt Irwin last season so you would hope he's settled in at this point and if he gets injured that Nasco can step in like Clint did last season.

The big question mark is Matt Pickens.  As of now he seems to still be on the roster but there's been no sign of him since his Scandinavian trial ended.  That's a lot of salary to tie up in a player not even with the team.  If he does return he would presumably move past Nasco as the backup and challenge Irwin for the starting spot.

The same back 4 are back this year, though apparently in a shuffled order.  It looks like O'Neill will start the season at right back while Wynne moves back to the center.  Moor and Klute will continue in their normal spots at center and left respectively.  After that things get murky.  There are a number of options but none of them stand out as pushing the starters for time.  Armstrong, Burch, Griffiths, VDC, and maybe even Mullan can all manage spot work but I don't feel confident in looking to them to fill in long-term.

Right back seems particularly questionable.  O'Neill might be good.  Wynne might be able to move back there.  Bursch might be able to fill in.  There doesn't seem to be a great fit on the roster though.  We can duct-tape our way through another season but we should really look at finding a true right back.

Unlike defense we have a number of options in the center of the park.  It starts with last year's Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers, who is hopefully completely recovered from his concussion symptoms.  The newcomer is Spaniard Jose Mari who will try to fill in the whole left by Thomas' departure.  It appears that Pablo will want to play with 2 central/defensive midfielders so that might be Mari and Powers, or we might see Sturgis or LaBrocca paired with Jose Mari while Powers pushes forward.  Our first draft pick, Marion Hairston, is a bit of a work in progress but can also fit into that slot.  Jared Watts isn't likey to see playing time but could do in a pinch.

In front of that duo we'll have a 3-man line.  Powers would be a fit in the center if he doesn't team with Jose Mari.  If not Powers, Sanchez is the obvious choice.  In fact the real challenge for Mastroeni will be figuring out a lineup that gets both Powers and Sanchez on the field as much as possible.  On the wings there's a wealth of options.  The most likely duo will be last year's team Golden Boot Deshorn Brown and our DP Gabriel Torres.  We could also see Marvin Chavez, Sanchez out wide, Dillon Serna, or Charles Eloundou.

It appears early on that Pablo will play a target striker in front of the 3-man attacking line, which is obviously Edson Buddle.  As the only real target striker on the roster he'll be expected to hold up the ball and distribute.  The other possible lone striker would be Gabriel Torres.  After that the shelf gets kind of bare.  You wouldn't expect Hill or Mwanga to be able to handle the role on their own.  After right back, this is the area that needs help.

So at this point we've got 28 players signed and 6 out of 8 internationals.  That leaves up 2 spots to fill in as necessary and either or both could be international players.  Samuel Galindo is likely to fill one of those holes.

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