I’ve written about a lot of athletes, in some form, and I’ve seen so many play and have had the responsibility of describing what their function is on the hardwood, field, or ice.
Without trying to be too biased toward men’s soccer, I’ve decided that the best way to get out of the column game would be to say farewell with a best XI of these athletes from multiple sports.
This team would set up in a 4-3-3, with a flat back four that has attacking full backs. The three in midfield would consist of a one-man screen, and two shuttlers staggered in midfield. The attackers would be wide forwards and a false nine. We’d play with a high line and press relentlessly.
Goalkeeper: Alex Kapp
Even though I don’t really know what went wrong for men’s soccer this season in the ACC, I know this much: Alex Kapp didn’t have one bad game in net. The stats don’t show it, but he was one of the best keepers in the conference this season. But to see how good he really is, I made Boston College’s goalkeeper Scottish and paid him the senior minimum salary to skirt those crazy MLS market rules, so that he could play in net for the New England Revolution in Football Manager. In the 10 simulation matches I ran before fearing for my hard drive’s life, the keeper shut out Toronto and Chicago. He conceded 12 goals in those 10 games, and his rating never dropped below 6.6, nor did it exceed 6.8. Each player starts each game with a 6.7 rating out of 10.
Left back: Tyler Murphy
He’s a quarterback, but in the modern game, your full backs have to be the best players on the pitch. They have to be fearless and willing to do just about anything. Murphy is fast, he watches a lot of game tape, and I can only imagine that he would make his soccer IQ as strong as his football one, so that his overlapping runs could be as flawless as his read-option fakes.
Center back: Lennart Zeugner
The moment I found him on Football Manager was one of the best things that happened to me this summer. It was the birth of the crazy notion that I could put the entire BC men’s soccer team in the game to see how it would do against the giants of the Premier League and the part-time postal workers of the Skrill Premier. One of the top players on the men’s soccer team this year, his strength and physicality shut down multiple strikers in the ACC.
Center back: Garland Owens
If I want to play with a high line, I need two athletic center backs. Owens defines athleticism. His dunks are acrobatic, and he’s got the quickness to get back if a ball somehow gets over the top. While the sophomore’s on-ball defense isn’t the world’s best right now, he would have the potential to mark anyone around the area.
Right back: Amit Shumowitz
I still have no idea why the Israeli is now a 22-year-old freshman at Columbia, but this kid was the real deal. He flooded the right flank and understood the game really well last season, and if he stayed, this year’s BC team would have done miles better.
Defensive midfielder: Giuliano Frano
My favorite Canadian defensive midfielder is Patrice Bernier, who starred in the Montreal Impact’s 4-1-4-1 last season, as the link between defense and attack. His role was basically to get the ball and find Marco Di Vaio. If he didn’t have the ball, he was tasked with messing guys up. Frano was a good find as a transfer and was by far the Eagles’ best player in 2013, even though Zeiko Lewis racked up a lot of assists. The Canadian was the heart of the team, and he ran the show. We never saw the best out of Frano in his last year at BC, because he was stuck at right back and as a shuttler. He never got in sync with the rest of the squad in the diamond, and he was at his best when he played alongside Henry Balf in the 4-4-1-1 that beat Notre Dame.
Left center midfield: Derrick Boateng
As the ball dropped out of the sky late in a game against North Carolina last season, Nana took the best first touch I have ever seen when he killed the ball on the spot with a delicate piece of skill. Everyone in the press box said, “Woah,” including Director of Athletics Brad Bates. The skill on Nana is next-level, and his work rate, when he’s in the mood, is off the charts. People around campus compare him to Mario Balotelli because there’s talent and then this very weird side to him, but the Italian doesn’t work—Nana does.
Right center midfield: Jameis Winston
He’s the Yaya Toure of this squad, and as a disclaimer, I’m only talking about him as an athlete and a leader. Forget the off-the-field issues for a second, and just appreciate how much Winston can ball. He put up video game numbers against some of the best teams in the country last season and can distribute the ball excellently (especially in the second half this season). His passes are whipped into his receivers’ hands in the way top center midfielders play through balls into the feet of forwards. People think Winston is dumb, but he doesn’t have much time in the pocket to find his guys, yet he does so anyway. Something must be working up in his brain.
Imagine what he could do with a bit more time on the pitch.
Left wing: Olivier Hanlan
All he’s going to do is cut into the middle of the pitch and score after playing a 1-2 with Nana. He should be able to drive by a few defenders on his way to goal, and—being the lethal finisher that he is—tally a lot of goals. Also, he worked on his mid-range shooting this summer, and he showed off his shooting abilities from distance under Steve Donahue.
Right wing: Isaac Normesinu
Men’s soccer had the ultimate right back/right midfielder combination for a few games last season. Shumowitz was an exemplarily modern full back, and there are not many of those in the United States, and Normesinu is faster than Sherman Alston (I have no evidence to prove this, it’s just a guess). Both wide forwards have the skill and talent to work with my false nine, too.
Striker: Johnny Gaudreau
Well, he wouldn’t really be a striker, but he’d take on the false nine role, meaning he starts up top and drops back to gain possession and help in the build up of the attack. In the Hockey East Tournament, Gaudreau performed this exact responsibility when he came into his own zone to get the puck so that he could have enough room to skate at Notre Dame’s well-organized defense. Could he do that with his feet? Probably, and the results would be pretty crazy, considering anyone in that role has to be able to create and finish. Gaudreau can do both.
If I put this squad in Football Manager as is, it might concede over 500 goals and score just 10 in the Premier League, but it’d be an interesting journey.
On my staff, I’d be lost without the people who would make me have fun and give me the confidence I’ve developed in myself. In addition, a public relations department run by a guy who could drive me to games, because I don’t have a license, would be a necessity.
Finally, I have to say thank you to Dick Kelley, who let me cover BC men’s basketball games in high school. He was the Sir Bobby Robson to my Jose Mourinho, and without him, this past year of tactical columns and thoughts would not have happened.
I’ll see you on the Internet and Twitter.
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff