I wrote a piece today for SI.com on Bob Bradley’s newfound tactical wanderlust, this saucy little affair the man is having with the stylish 4-2-3-1.
While I was researching the U.S. personnel and how it makes sense for the national team’s new way, I was really surprised by something: how much the depth chart can evolve in a very short period of time.
I had written another piece for SI last October, basically going position by position and ranking the top men at each spot. That piece of speculative analysis posted on Oct. 15, so just four months ago. And remember, the interim was a period of relative inactivity. And yet, there has been plenty of movement to yap about.
Here are a few of the notable evolutions and devolutions:
The Right back spot previously went like this, from 1-4: Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj and Marvell Wynne. Today, that would look totally different. Wynne wouldn’t appear at all. I’d have to seriously ponder on how far into the depth chart we’d have to go to get to Wynne at right back, partially because he’s playing mostly center back these days and partially because, well, maybe you saw him the other night against Chile. Two words: not good. Today, without going through the whole evaluation exercises, it would probably be Cherundolo, Lichaj, Sean Franklin, Zach Loyd, A.J. DeLaGarza and Spector.
At left back, you could surely insert Loyd and DeLaGarza somewhere in the mix of Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Heath Pearce and Spector (as it was listed four months ago.)
I had Tim Ream at No. 9 on the depth chart at center back. (Quick disclaimer: I certainly did not consult with Bob Bradley in creating these rankings. I think they reflect some degree of accuracy, but the national team staff would never have any interest in sharing their own charts publicly, so these are merely educated guesses on where everyone stands.) That was before Ream looked so aware, alert and adept in November’s friendly in South Africa, then followed up with another mature performance against Chile. So, a mere four months later, I would probably move him all the way up to No. 4 or 5, behind only Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson and possibly even Jay Demerit. That means he has lapped Chad Marshall, Omar Gonzalez, Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst.
Stuart Holden was No. 6 on my list among central midfielders. Thanks mostly to his breakout campaign at Bolton, I’d probably drop him in at fourth now, behind Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Edu.
Dax McCarty didn’t appear among the rankings of central midfielders at all last fall. (The list of center mids went 1-8.) Now, I’d probably put him right behind Holden. That would mean he had slingshot ahead of Ricardo Clark (who has been playing center back), Benny Feilhaber (who needs to improve his club situation), Jose Torres and Kyle Beckerman.
And how about this one:
I listed 12 forwards last October. This part of the list really was a mess. As I put it in the SI.com piece, it’s a frustrating confluence of wanna-bes and coulda-beens. Still, I had 12 of them.
Juan Agudelo wasn’t one of them. Today, I’d probably put him at fifth or sixth.