Thursday Q&A: On the USMNT, Jordan Morris, superior athletes and more | Armchair Analyst
Landon Donovan. DaMarcus Beasley. Jozy Altidore. DeAndre Yedlin. Julian Green. John Anthony Brooks.
All US national team veterans. But what else do they have in common?
I'll give you a minute to think about it, and in the interim I'll talk about Jordan Morris:
I haven't seen much of him, but I've seen some. And from that I will tell you the obvious thing: Morris is an excellent prospect. Duh.
I'll also tell you that I don't think he's ready for the international level, an opinion I'm pretty confident about because I watch a lot of college soccer. There is a wide gap between playing St. Mary's (Morris scored vs. them this week) and playing the Czech Republic. Morris shouldn't be expected to contribute in Red, White and Blue.
— LeanderLastNameNoFit (@LeanderOnFOX) August 28, 2014
But... I also don't have a problem with him being called into the USMNT squad for next week's friendly, and it has everything to do with the above list.
Since the dawn of MLS, the above guys are the only ones 20-years-old or younger to make an impact at a World Cup. Donovan was the best young player at the 2002 World Cup; Altidore started four games at center forward in 2010; Brooks and Green scored goals this summer in Brazil.
And what unites them is that they're all exceptional athletes. If you want to know why Morris is going to Europe this week and **insert young MLS or MLS Academy flavor of the week here** is not, it's because he's an exceptional athlete as well. For him it's more about balance and agility than raw speed (Donovan, Beasley, Yedlin) or size and power (Brooks, Altidore), but regardless, when you watch him move his physical ability stands out like a bonfire. You can't miss it.
This doesn't mean "big and strong" is being favored over actual skill - Morris can play. He sees the field well, makes smart runs and works hard to be an option in possession in a "High Soccer IQ" kind of way.
A lot of other young attackers in the US national team pipeline do the same - Harry Shipp, Kelyn Rowe, Luis Gil, Tommy Thompson, Collin Martin, Dillon Serna, etc. etc. etc. There's a lot, and yes, that means it's a good time to be a US soccer fan because the game here is becoming more tactical and technical.
Of that group, however, Morris has the most obvious physical gifts. That still matters, even for a coach determined to institute a "proactive," possession-based game, and this is the important part: Physical dominance and technical skill are not mutually exclusive. The best teams in the world - Germany and Real Madrid - blend the two.
(If you don't think size matters at the very highest level, just watch Arsenal get blown up by the likes of Manchester City & Chelsea again this year. Read Ted Knutson's excellent offering on StatsBomb.com for more on that)
All of this is by way of saying two things: Jurgen Klinsmann is clearly determined to get the "next generation" up to speed as quickly as possible, and he'e not lying to himself about the physical demands of the international game.
I'd imagine some of you have thoughts and feelings about that subject. Let's chat about that, and (almost) anything else on your mind in the comments section below.
EDIT: OK folks, thanks the questions and for spending an afternoon with me. I'll be back next week for another Q&A! - MD