Brooks Lennon - Real Salt Lake - with US U-20 national team vs. Haiti

Howdy folks! Welcome to this edition of the Upgrade, a new series tracking MLS players in EA SPORTS FIFA 17. Check out the previous installment here.


This week, we’re focusing on the U-20 USMNT, who are currently battling it out in Costa Rica in pursuit of a U-20 World Cup berth.



Among the whole roster of Tab Ramos’ IRL 20-man World Cup Qualifying U-20s, 11 ply their trade in Major League Soccer. That’s more than half, so it’s not an outrageous claim to say that as the performances of these young MLSers go, so go the qualifying hopes of this current U-20 USMNT crop.


If you asked me how I felt about what that meant this past Saturday afternoon, following the young Americans’ flat, drab, very bad and also not good 1-0 loss to Panama, I would cry.


However, after they followed that with an authoritative 4-1 victory over Haiti which featured a hatty from Real Salt Lake’s teenage loanee Brooks Lennon, I’m feelin’ alright.


The difference between the two matches largely comes down to the young Yanks’ style of play. In the second half against Haiti, they traded the pragmatic, stubbornly possession-oriented “style” that bogged them down throughout the first 120 minutes of the tournament. Instead, they went for a high-pressing, turnover-seeking frenzy that relied on the execution of counter-attacks during the transition from defense to attack. They scored three goals in six minutes and saw out the match without issue.


But does that style of play currently fit the strengths of the U-20 USMNTers in FIFA 17, too?


Here are all 11 MLS representatives on the current roster:

<strong>NAME</strong>
<strong>POSITION</strong>
<strong>OVA</strong>
<strong>POT</strong>
Danny Acosta
CDM/CB
58
74
Justen Glad
CB
65
75
Tommy Redding
CB
66
74
Erik Palmer-Brown
CB
64
80
Auston Trusty
CB
53
65
Tyler Adams
CDM/CM
57
79
Sebastian Saucedo
CAM
61
71
Coy Craft
CM
60
72
Jeremy Ebobisse
ST
60
76
Brooks Lennon
FW
61
73
Jonathan Lewis
FW
57
69

There’s a lot of potential for just about every one of these players to become solid members (if not game-changers) on your career mode team a few seasons down the line. For now, though, a lot of the relative strength of this squad is in its center backs. Justen Glad and Tommy Redding are the highest-rated players in this squad, and they’ve also been rock-solid during the first 180 minutes of this tournament IRL.


The potential is also fairly high up top, but it was less clear as to who the standout attackers were going to be when this roster was announced. On Tuesday, it was Brooks Lennon and his hat trick. Others who impressed? Jeremy Ebobisse, whose two assists were quality additions to his stellar hold-up play throughout the match, and Jonathan Lewis, who drew the penalty that led to the equalizer, and whose pace and ability on the ball gave Haiti’s defenders fits.


What strikes me as odd is how low the attributes which led to the success of Lennon, Ebobisse and Lewis in this match are currently rated in FIFA 17. For example, Ebobisse’s strength and balance attributes, two key building blocks for a target forward, are only rated at 61. After the quality he showed against Haiti’s very physical opposition, I would venture to guess both of those (among other ratings) will be upgraded pretty soon. If that happens, Ebobisse’s overall rating could be in the mid 60s by mid-March.


Lewis, who is pretty much the opposite of Ebobisse as an attacker in terms of essential skill sets, used his pace, agility, and dribbling ability to harass Haiti’s defenders and really assert himself as one of the key attacking pieces of this US U-20 team. He is also just objectively, criminally underrated in FIFA 17. His sprint speed is rated at a meager 70, his acceleration is at 69, and his agility is at … 58!



via GIPHY

When it comes to Brooks Lennon, though, my qualms about his ratings have much less to do with the physical side of things than they do with how he stacks up mentally. Lennon’s three goals (one penalty, two which took advantage of loose balls during the run of play) summed up his composure, positional instincts, vision, and reactions. However, folks, I regret to inform you that all of Lennon’s ratings in those areas are currently in the 50s. To be fair, his penalty kick rating in the game is a 64, which is like … fine.


Overall, each of the players I focused on significantly out-performed their opposition in the match vs. Haiti. Also, each of these players are expected to be significant contributors to their respective MLS sides IRL this season, and I would say they all took advantage of an opportunity to show why during the match.


If these young bucks stay on that path, they’re going to be very hard to ignore this season, both on the real-life field and in FIFA 17.