Ignoring the burning wreckage, part 4: the strikers
If you're going to melt down, do it in an entertaining way. Charlie Sheen gets it; nobody's mourning the loss of Two and a Half Men, probably because the Charlie Sheen Channels Kenny Powers Show is at least ten times more entertaining. Some movies seem to figure out - mid-production - that "good" isn't happening, but "ironically bad" might be within reach (see: Snakes on a Plane). Rock stars who burn out get immortalized; ones who fade away get mocked. Global warming gets ignored, but the natural disasters that result are big news. As a society, we're okay with things being bad...just don't be boring.
United were bad and boring in 2010. It's one thing to slouch to the worst record in club history; doing so while setting a league record for most times being shut out in a season is an extra sprinkling of e-coli on the crap sundae. United couldn't score, and a lot of times they didn't even look like they might score. They were like Natty Light: bland, punchless, kinda disgusting and leaving you in dire need of a beer.
Four of the five strikers on United's 2011 roster weren't on the team last year. And, amazingly, our options look pretty good on paper (let's hear it for parity!). United picked up two solid players through the MLS re-entry draft in Josh Wolff and Joseph Ngwenya. But the big get was Sochaux striker and Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr cranial screw-top surgery patient Charlie Davies. Chris Pontius - a 2009 rookie of the year candidate - is healthy again, and unsigned draft pick Blake Brettschneider must have something to offer because United keep letting him in the building (though he shouldn't be too surprised if that ID card suddenly stops working). Here's a closer look at each player.
Blake Brettschneider. Here's everything I know about Blake Brettschneider: he's 21 and is a newly-signed draft pick out of South Carolina. His name is Blake Brettschneider, or possibly Brett Blakeschneider...I'll bother to learn his name if and when he gets offered a contract. That's all that I know. He must be in contention to make the team, though, because he's been getting minutes during the pre-season.
Charlie Davies. His presence single-handedly makes 2011 a more interesting year than 2010. Everything he does has implications for both United and the U.S. national team, which makes him twice as interesting to follow as most players. The first time he steps on the field this year will be a more exciting and hopeful moment than anything that happened last year. I pointed out last week that there's no way we'll be able to evaluate him objectively because we all want him to succeed. But that's fine: I'm not a journalist, I'm not an analyst - I'm a fan. I'm ready to let myself get carried away.
Joseph Ngwenya. There are only three things I believe absolutely: 1) There are no meaningful stats in soccer, 2) Boxer briefs are the most comfortable type of men's underwear, and 3) Spring training stats are meaningless. I believe these things to the marrow of my bones. So, the fact that Joseph Ngwenya has scored several goals this pre-season doesn't mean a lot to me. But here's what does mean a lot to me: Ngwenya has been a solid MLS player for several years now. I see Ngwenya as a good option off the bench, and you can definitely win with him in the starting lineup. At $72,000 he's value for money, and at the very least he'll force guys like Pontius and Wolff to stay at the top of their game in order to stay in the lineup.
Chris Pontius. I think that Pontius is a very, very important player for United this year. If you look at our striker options, Pontius is the only one who can play the use-your-size/hold-the-ball roll; all of the others are speedy, get-behind-the-defense type guys. I'm a big advocate of generally playing the best players regardless of type, but if our best two end up being, say, Davies and Wolff, then we'll have some problems holding the ball and threatening in the air. But if our best two are Pontius and Davies, that's a nice pairing; their styles complement each other well. Pontius was a good player in 2009, but injuries derailed his 2010. If he can take a step forward, that would be huge for United.
Josh Wolff. There's a saying: "A World Cup team should be made up of the 15 best players and the eight nicest." I'm sure that sentiment factored into United's thinking when they took Wolff in the re-entry draft; if he doesn't make the starting lineup, he's professional enough that he won't throw a tantrum. But he's also good enough that he can still be an asset in MLS; even at 34, I view him as a solid MLS starter. United have done a good job of creating a competitive environment: in Ngwenya, Pontius, and Wolff, they've got three guys who could start but don't have their spots guaranteed. It's possible that you'll end up with three mediocre strikers, but it's more likely that they'll push each other and at least one will play himself into above-average form.
Posted by: BillUrban | March 7, 2011 10:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 8, 2011 7:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: StevanF | March 8, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: ian666777 | March 8, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: JkR- | March 8, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: JeffMaurer | March 8, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: b18bolo | March 8, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: BillUrban | March 10, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse