PSP Seven-a-side draft: Designed for huge, open, outdoor space

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

My team is intended to play its matches outdoors, as matches were played in the high school summer league that was run by Lower Merion’s AD a decade and more ago. (Indoors never occurred to me until I read the comments of other selectors during the draft process itself.) Here are the principles I used in advance preparation and during construction.

Pitch and Timing
  • Field size is 100 meters by 65 meters. with corner flags, a 10-yard center circle, and regulation corner kick markings.
  • Goals are standard adult size with regulation 18 yard penalty areas and 6-yard boxes.
  • A match lasts 90 minutes, with professional stoppage times added.
  • The referee keeps time on the pitch.
  • There are four officials per match, unlike Lower Merion’s one or two.
  • Under no circumstances is there ever extra time.
Implications and intentions
  • The pitch and timing conditions put a premium on players that are instinctively, automatically two-way .
  • The conditions also demand speed, quickness, and “high volume,” (that is, players who cover a lot of ground during a match).

For this draft we were instructed to think of the players as they were in their prime, for example Kleberson as a World Cup winner or Mondragon as a Bundesliga fixture.

My intended field-player shape is one striker backed by two midfielders, with a flat back three a la Ernst Tanner. (Individual defenders will aggressively seize offensive opportunities as they present themselves.)

When offered a choice between a player who is from MLS 3.0 and one who is from earlier versions, the more recent player will be preferred since the recent league is noticeably better than earlier incarnations.

Strikers are the hardest to come by, so I will choose the striker first, then both midfielders, then the keeper, and only then the defenders. The substitutes will be picked last.


My top eight fast, quick, high volume two-way strikers listed in order are Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, Michee Ngalina, Sebastian Le Toux, Cory Burke,  and C. J. Sapong, along with Fafa Picault, and Borek Dockal from the midfield pool.

Ngalina rates third because of his one-v-one ball control at speed. He is an ankle-breaker. Also there were hints this preseason that he now has the strength to deal with MLS physicality (ask the Dallas left back from the scrimmage in Clearwater).

According to Matt Doyle, Fafa Picault is among the better two-way attackers in the league. And in the spaces that will be available, Borek Dockal’s creativity would be most helpful finding others running onto his killer passes, so I would use him at striker as a false nine.


My top fifteen two-way midfielders in order are Kleberson, Jamiro Monteiro, Brenden Aaronson, Fafa Picault, Borek Dockal, Trnnquillo Barnetta, Alejandro Bedoya, Vincent Nogueira, Anthony Fontana, Jack de Vries, Leo Fernandes, Michael Farfan, Shea Salinas, Fabian Herbers, and Adam Najem.  Haris Medunjanin and Ilsinho  are included as short-term tactical subs.

When considered at his best, Brazilian World Cup winner Kleberson is the best player available bar none.  For the rest my biases toward speed, quickness, and high volume are obvious.

Goal Keepers

My top eight are Faryd Mondragon, Andre Blake, John McCarthy, Joe Bendik, Zac MacMath, Matt Freese, Tomas Romero, and Carlos Miguel Coronel.

My stated conditions demand keepers who are complete soccer players who understand all aspects of the game instinctively. They must provide aggressive vocal leadership.  John McCarthy was allowed to leave only because the organization recognized h deserved to try for a starting job. Tomas Romero, who only played for Bethlehem Steel FC, has the qualities needed in spite of his shorter, slighter physical stature.


Fast, technically skilled defensive center midfielders provide the two-way versatility demanded by the assumed conditions.

Therefore, my top nineteen defenders are Maurice Edu, Amobi Okugo, Jose “El Brujo” Martinez, Matej Oravec, Vincent Nogueira, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Mark McKenzie, Kai Wagner, Matt Real, Walter Cortes, Derrick Jones, Cole Turner, Josh Yaro, Carlos Valdes, Auston Trusty, Michael Orozco, and Ben Ofeimu.

Both Walter Cortes and Ben Ofeimu  played only for Bethlehem Steel FC. Cortes was a left back, a right back and a flank midfielder as well as captain in three matches. Ofeimu is a center back who had an excellent 2018 but a poor 2019.

The event produced this  actual side 

Starters (3-2-1): John McCarthy (C); Matt Real, Matej Oravec, Jose “El Brujo” Martinez; Fafa Picault, Brenden Aaronsen; Kacper Przybyłko.

Substitutes: Walter Cortes (D & M), Jack de Vries (M & S).

Three points

67% Six of the nine played for Bethlehem Steel FC at some point, and six of nine are from the 2020 Union squad. Of the three outliers, Club Saprissa was unwilling to let Cortes return for 2020 for reasons not publicly known, while both McCarthy and Picault parted amicably after having given the organization sustained excellent service.

Excellent luck. I got my top striker, two of my top four midfielders, my third keeper, and two of my top four defenders. Both subs were tenth at their positions, and each are effective playing in other lines, de Vries as a forward and Cortes as a mid.

Transfermarkt’s estimated market values: Aaronson ($1,430,000), Przybylko ($715,000), Picault ($660,000), Oravec ($440,000), “El Brujo” ($330,000), McCarthy ($330,000), Real ($303,000), Cortes ($165,000), de Vries ($138,000) for a total roster value of $4.516 million. Only three seem likely to have reached their roster value appreciation ceilings.

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