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PSP Seven-a-side Draft: Steve Holroyd

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Indoor soccer is the future of the sport in America.

If this is the first time you’ve ever read that phrase, you can be excused for thinking I have lost what is left of my mind during the Coronavirus Shutdown.  The simple notion that a different version of the Beautiful Game is somehow going to make the sport overtake any of the Big Four is ludicrous today…even more so if you’ve happen to stumble upon a YouTube stream one of the indoor leagues still trying to make a go of the game on a professional level.

Believe it or not, though, not so long ago it did seem as if the only form of the game that was going to take hold here was indoor soccer…which was different from futsal, in that it allowed the boards to be part of the play.  As the North American Soccer League was crumbling, the Major Indoor Soccer League had teams that were outdrawing NBA and NHL teams; in fact, the Philadelphia entry (the Fever) sold out the Spectrum for its first game.  Indeed, so certain did it appear that the future of American soccer was indoors that the NASL itself was transitioning to becoming a primarily indoor league at the time of its demise.

As crazy as it may seem, it is not so surprising that indoor soccer was capturing the American imagination in a way that “regular” soccer never did.  Volumes of books have been written about American exceptionalism, especially when it comes to sport.  After all, we didn’t like the way cricket and rounders were played, so we turned them into baseball; rugby was too plodding, so we turned it into American football…so why wouldn’t we take soccer and change the rules by putting it indoors and turning it into hockey with a soccer ball?  Besides…we Americans weren’t very good at soccer, so it was easier to just make a new sport that Americans could not only play, but star in.  There was also more scoring and a higher tempo.  Perfect, right?

So it seemed.  However, for a number of reasons, indoor soccer never fulfilled its promise of overrunning the sport in the U.S., and was conveniently dying just as the 1994 World Cup was coming to the States.  Outdoor soccer regained its foothold, and has never relinquished it since.

What does this have to do with my seven-a-side team?  Bear with me.  I’m a historian.  I have to blather first…

Thing is, I loved indoor soccer.  Not “more than” outdoor soccer…just as its own game.  I played both.  I watched both, going to many Fever and (later) KiXX games over the years.  As with field lacrosse and box lacrosse, I could watch and enjoy both without getting stressed out over which was the better game.

And the original MISL was exciting—it was a place where Americans like Joey Fink, Ricky Davis, Kevin Crow, and (in particular) goalkeepers like Scott Manning, Keith Van Eron, and Jim Gorsek could thrive.  The original MISL also featured great foreign players like Steve Zungul.  It was just a great and exciting brand of soccer…and remained so until rule changes turned the game from hockey with a ball into something more like basketball, with 3-point goals and everything.  Yawn.

Anyway…when picking my 7-a-side team, I went for players who I think would have excelled in the original MISL.  And, even though we were technically picking for a futsal side, the type of player who succeeds indoors remains the same.  Indeed…do you know the U.S. finished third in the 1989 FIFA Futsal World Cup, and lost in the final in 1992?  Not coincidentally, the U.S. did this when the MISL was still thriving…in other words, indoor soccer skills easily translated to futsal.

As a result, my MISL-centric team would still dominate in a futsal tournament.  Whether with boards or not, the main principle is the same: you lack space, so you’ll have to make some.  You can’t just hoof the ball over the top and wait for Antoine Hoppenot to just outrun everyone to get to it.  No, you need to create space with adroit passing…or by eluding your defender with creative ball handling.

So I went with a team of creative, ankle-breaking players…supremely confident on the ball, and with pace.  Strong defending was not a priority…indoor soccer is a war of attrition.  Outscore your opponent…don’t worry about keeping him from outscoring you.

So, with that in mind, here is who I picked.

Blessed with the first overall pick in the draft, I had little difficulty in using it to select Ilsinho.  Like most Brazilians, he was born to play futsal.  He creates space for himself.  He dares you to take the ball off him…knowing you will fail.  And, given the short field, his perpetual lack of fitness is no longer a concern.  Ilson, Jr., people…game over.

With memories of his simply destroying defenders on the dribble when he was still in Chicago fresh in my memory, David Accam was an easy second choice.  We never got to see him in full bloom here—presumably because Jim Curtin values niggling little things like defending—but I’m not concerned about that here.  A skilled dribbler and blindingly fast?  You need to have the ball before I need to worry about defending.  You’re not getting the ball off Accam.

Because I don’t think defending is all that important, I need to do something to keep the ball out of the net.  As a result, grabbing Andre Blake with my third pick was a no-brainer.  All his flaws as far as coming off the line and handling crosses mean nothing indoors.  Instead, I get to utilize the best of his skill set—lightning fast reflexes.  Blake is the perfect indoor goalkeeper.  I was shocked he fell to #15 overall.

With my fourth pick, I figured I needed to start getting people with a little knowledge of defending…however, I was not going to sacrifice my commitment to players with outstanding dribbling and possession skills.  Accordingly, another Brazilian—Fabinho—was an obvious choice.  On a short field, his defensive liabilities aren’t so problematic.  And he brings a lot to the offense.

Even with people racing around at top speed and dribbling, a good indoor team still needs that one player who, while comfortable on the ball, is even better just distributing and getting the ball to players who can do the most damage.  A classic #10 still has value, even in 6-a-side…so, with my 5th pick, Bořek Dočkal joined the side.

With only three picks to go, it was time to start thinking of depth.  Even as a franchise with a history of letting good players get away, the loss of Shea Salinas in the 2011 expansion draft was still a killer.  Another player with both pace and ball control (his 2010 goal against Houston is still a thing of beauty), I thought he’d be a solid pick with my sixth round selection.

Remember—futsal is not soccer, really.  Players can excel at one but be rubbish at the other.  Thus, while I really had no time for him with the Union, the fact is Eric Ayuk is a near-perfect futsal player.  Fast, tricky, even a bit ball-hoggy—it works indoors.  Plus, he has that Ken Linseman, “rink rat” vibe.  Who was Ken Linseman?  *sigh*  Kids today.  You’ll just have to Google him.  Anyway, I grabbed Ayuk with my 7th pick.

In the 8th round, I figured I needed one more attacking defender.  Yeah, Ray Gaddis is the Human Turnstile in 11 v. 11…but he can challenge people on the dribble, and has enough speed that he can keep up with you defending, and you’ll run out of room indoor before you can shake him completely.

My final pick?  The Great American Tragedy—Freddy Adu.  Anyone who remembers the first half of the game against Red Bulls at PPL knows what I was thinking of.  Or the 2007 U-20 World Cup.  Adu had some real skill…just never the size or work ethic to be a success outdoors.  Indoors, though?  A beast.

So there you go.  Also, unbeknownst to my fellow PSPers, I also hired Eduardo Coudet as an assistant coach.

So just give me the trophy now.

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