Coronavirus / Union

PSP Seven-a-side Draft: small team, simple strategy

Photo: Earl Gardner

I’m fond of reminding my friends that soccer isn’t basketball- one player can’t carry a whole team. And by and large that’s true, if it wasn’t Messi would have won a World Cup by now. With eleven players on the field, and a massive field to cover, one single player can’t grab control of the game and completely control what happens. It doesn’t matter how good they are, how transcendent their talent, they’re simply too small a part of the game to make up the difference if their teammates aren’t carrying their share.

Small-sided teams do become a bit more focused on individual talent, but they still can’t put too much on one player. If they have an off night, if the other team figures out how to shut them down, that’s it. But a different kind of basketball strategy has potential- a big three. Combine three players who’s skills and abilities compliment each other and you wind up with a total that is far greater than the sum of the parts. And that’s the strategy I went into this draft with. I wasn’t going to use an early pick on Ilsinho, or Le Toux, or Przybylko. They’re unquestionably great players and have given the Union some of the best individual performances Philly has seen.

But I wasn’t drafting for the Union, I was drafting for Indian Tower SC.

Roster (in order of selection)

Indian Tower SC Lineup

  • Tranquillo Barnetta An easy first choice. Small-side soccer is all about versatility, and it doesn’t get more versatile than a right-footed midfielder that loves the left side of the field. His persistence on both sides of the ball is a key part of this team’s tactical vision where offense is the best defense.
  • Chaco Maidana Another left-side midfielder? Yes! Though both Barnetta and Maidana favor the left, they’re also both capable of playing centrally. Which is perfect because as soon as defenses think they’ve got the attack figured out, we simply change places and send them back to square one. Fun note- Maidana is still doing his thing down in Honduras for Apertura-winning Olimpia.
  • Maurice Edu The final part of the triangle I had in mind when drafting this team. More defensively-minded than the first two, but still capable of of pulling defenders away from the other attacking players. But his main responsibility would be as the front line of defense, keeping the ball up field and stifling counter-attacks before they can begin.
  • Zac MacMath The fact that his Union contributions are all but forgotten despite performances like this is a testament to the outrageous good fortune the Union has had with keepers.
  • Richie Marquez The way this team would play, defenders are going to have to cover a lot of space. Luckily I got a guy that can do this. His legendary tackles will be key for slowing down any attack, allowing other players the time they need to get back if the high-pressure strategy fails. And don’t forget his occasional headers, sure to be of value with the next player on the roster.
  • Sheanon Williams Short-sided games have a lot of throw-ins, AND a hard time defending set pieces. So exploit that advantage by turning most of your throw-ins into set pieces. Williams’ legendary BOOM will be especially dangerous on a more compact seven-a-side field. Of course depending on how Edu is handling his defensive responsibilities, Sheanon can easily switch between bolstering the defense or getting further up field to make the pressure even higher.
  • Fabian Herbers Honestly I wanted Fafà Picault for this spot, but he was off the board before I got to him. But Herbers fills a similar role, blurring the line between winger and second striker.
  • Fernando Aristeguieta Selected not just to prove I can still spell “Aristeguieta”, but also because substitutes have specific purposes. When the game needs someone to smash into defenders and take no prisoners, you want … well okay I wanted Conor Casey. But El Colorado works too, assuming he can stay healthy.
  • Auston Trusty A defensive substitute pick. Now remember, we’re playing by FIFA Street rules, which is to say these players are all the “best” versions of themselves. So it’s entirely possible we haven’t seen Auston’s best yet.

Astute viewers will notice that, aside from the final two picks (which were made out of a combination of necessity and a desire for tactical flexibility), none of the field players are defined single-role players. Marquez and Williams are both defenders, but they are more than capable of contributing offensively. A Sheanon throw-in will find Richie’s head (an then the back of the net) eventually. Fabian Herbers can stay wide, or go to goal, or find space in the center should the big three leave room for him. Maidana and Barnetta are both dangerous in the center of the attack or on the left, and Edu can reinforce the defense or play box-to-box.

And that’s by design. I wanted a team built around my big three, but I also realized that in short-side games everyone winds up playing as a midfielder eventually. So I wanted players that could fill multiple roles, because with only seven men on the field they’re going to have to.

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