Commentary

PSP’s seven-a-side Draft: SC Owls

You’ve read my about some my PSP colleague’s teams so far this week, the result of our small sided fantasy draft: stacked with Brazilians in some cases, tactically sound in others, and philosophically grounded in all instances. The ones that will follow this team will be interesting and thoughtfully crafted too. That’s fine, give them their due: having a methodology is useful when trying to prove out any point.

But, as Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Enter the feisty, the fiery, the scowling, “SC Owls.”

The first half

I didn’t set out to make my side Bruisers of the Ball Field, but rather to build a side that were imposing physical and psychologically, difficult to break down at every position, and had enough skill in enough places to punish opponents in their moments of weakness. And with this group, imposing moments of weakness will be a common theme.

I had the last pick in the first round and wanted to make sure finding goals wasn’t a problem for my quasi-calciotto boys. Thus, I chose the only Union player to ever hoist a World Cup, Kleberson.

Because this draft was snake-style (where the rounds reverse order each time through) and I had the 1st round’s last pick, I started the 2nd round. Making sure my Brazilian had some defensive cover and an overlapping runner to slide through, I gave him some midfield help in the form of Chris Pontius.

So that the clever Brazilian could dictate play without worrying too much about turning the ball over, I put Union original and the Boys in Blue’s first captain Danny Califf behind him with pick number 3. Count on Kleberson’s first turnover to turn into an opponent’s first call for the magic spray when Califf comes to clean up the mess.

Speaking of messes, enter Conor Casey with my 4th pick. Casey’s job on this side is to occupy the physical space between the center backs and the psychological space inside their brains. They’ll worry about him slipping behind them or clattering into them as they try and play out of the back. The opposition will have track and defend with Casey holding two men, Pontius angling in from the wing, and Kleberson smoking his man in the center circle and bearing down toward goal.

There are few American players who have scored more a impressive goal than Charlie Davies’s curler at The Azteca during qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. So I grabbed the King of The Stanky Leg with my 5th pick, knowing his guile would be the perfect compliment in my attacking movement and his resolve a key piece in seeing out close matches.

The second half

Needing a reliable defender who could find Kleberson with his first pass, neutralize high crosses in most areas, and cover ground on a smaller field by simply existing, Jack Elliott was a logical 6th pick. His ability to play like a defensive midfielder was essential to him not only complimenting Kleberson’s attack-first mindset, but also, as games inevitably become more stretched, being comfortable enough on the ball to allow for the Brazilian to drop between him and Califf to draw the opposition out.

The best left-footed player to ever put on Union blue was next off the board for me in the 7th round, Union original Jordan Harvey (sorry, Justin Mapp. You were my sleeper and I wanted you badly, and your left foot is legendary). Harvey was picked to platoon on that wing with Pontius, depending on whether a true winger was desired over an inverted one.

Speaking of talented players who could play on either wing or up top, Sergio Santos was the perfect 7th selection. Should defenders finally tire Casey out or should Pontius be missing his touch on an off day, Santos will be available off the bench to pick up where either has left off: with all of the Dark Arts available to him that Casey had, but with the kind of muscled speed that forces defenders to take two steps back like Pontius.

In those scenarios, as outlined by 1990s soccer tactics icon DJ Scat Cat, that means the offense can take two steps forward.

Rounding out the side

I saved goalkeeper for last in this draft for two primary reasons:

  1. I only had two choices in mind and was fairly certain only one of them would be selected. Though I cursed loudly when Jeremy Lane picked Champions League started Carlos Miguel Coronel with the first to last selection, I was more than pleased to have Matt Freese fall to me. Why Freese? Because in 2019 he was better at stopping shots and more highly rated than Union legend Andre Blake.
  2. If the reader has ever played small-sided matches before, he or she knows that the keeper is always the guy who has a late conflict, doesn’t show up until the second half, or is actually “ready” to play on time but gets picked up a six-pack in and proceeds to eat a bag of tacos in the passenger’s seat on the way to the match (all of these things have happened to me in the past three seasons of CASA Over-30).

Keepers matter, but even Mike Magee was a serviceable net-minder in MLS once.

In summary, SC Owls will get in your head early in the match, taking you out of your element, and force you to adapt to our style. Then, the moment you’re uncomfortable, you’ll be beaten by a team that has no fewer than 6 players with national team experience, pummeled on 50/50 balls, and in the end generally just want the match to be over.

Why the name SC Owls? Because owls are jerks and if you push the letters together it says “scowls,” which is cool.

3 Comments

  1. Tim Jones says:

    It is worth noting that within the video montage on Monday’s individual trading sessions there were two shot of Kai Wagner in uniform and apparently participating.

  2. Throwing shade at Adam…

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