While I don't get many chances to merge my two sports obsessions, an interesting article was posted on Yahoo! Sports that gave me a unique opportunity. The article decided to ask the question:
"If NFL athletes were to have chosen soccer as their main sport, what would the team USA world cup roster look like?"
In my personal opinion, the article was written with very little soccer knowledge and didn't really take into account each players physical or mental attributes as far as how they would relate to soccer play. I looked at the formation that team USA will be playing (basically a 4-4-2 with the midfield in a diamond shape) as well as how the US coach prefers to use each position. With that in mind I decided to give it a shot and see what I could come up with. So here is my 2014 NFL/World Cup starting eleven. Enjoy.
Goalkeeper: Calvin Johnson, DET
All anyone needs to see to know that Calvin would be an incredible goalkeeper is on display in this video from ESPN Sports Science.
ESPN Sports Science- Calvin Johnson jr (via kcmc96)
The leaping range Calvin possesses along with his typically sure hands would give me the highest confidence in my keeper being able to at the very least get a hand on just about anything fired at the net.
Defense: Left Back - Patrick Peterson, ARI, Right Back - Richard Sherman, SEA
A bigger, stronger, and at this point faster version of team USA's DaMarcus Beasley, Peterson is capable of defending one-on-one, has a nose for the ball that few others have, and can turn a defensive effort into an offensive attack in a split second.
Every team needs their annoying defender that gets under the skin of the oppositions best player. I don't think even the most focused versions of players like Ronaldo, Messi, or Neymar could keep their cool with Richard Sherman tugging at their jersey and yapping in their ear for 90 minutes.
Defense: Center Defenders - Charles Woodson, OAK & Jordan Cameron, CLE
While this might seem like an unusual combination it gives the back line both the experience and youth needed to protect the middle from crosses and runs coming into the box. Woodson is an experienced and heady defender with a seemingly unlimited amount of fuel in the tank, while Cameron has the size and leaping ability to attack the ball as it comes across the middle on both offensive and defensive crosses and corner kicks.
Midfield: Center Midfielders - Drew Brees, NO (attacking), Earl Thomas, SEA (defending)
When I look at the current team USA roster, the only player I would absolutely have to keep is Michael Bradley. His combination of gutsy attacking, smart decision making, and creative ability to distribute the ball make him an invaluable part of the team, which is why I chose Drew Brees as the "Michael Bradley"-like field general of this team.
To support Brees as he pushes forward, I wanted a sure tackler with speed and the ability to create turnovers. When I looked at positions I considered to have all of these qualities, there were a few players that stood out, but the chemistry already developed between Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas make Thomas a shoe-in to protect the top of the box and break up any potential attacks before they reach the back line.
Midfield: Wings - DeSean Jackson, WAS & Jimmy Graham, NO
As a winger, the ability to overlap with the strikers and get the defenders out of position is crucial. The speed and elusiveness of Jackson will create nightmares for the defense as he makes runs on the outside and receives passes from Brees as well as strikers holding the ball at the top of the box.
Graham provides this team with another big body in the box for crosses and corner kicks. His straight-line speed and his ability to muscle his way around defenders, as well as his chemistry with Brees will give the front end of the formation the same connection that the back end has in Thomas and Sherman.
Strikers: LeSean McCoy, PHI & Adrian Peterson, MIN
Both of these players possess the elusiveness and speed to give opposing defenses serious problems. McCoy's cuts and slipperiness remind me of a Lionel Messi type player. Adrian Peterson dropping his head and running through opponents is very similar to the way Christiano Ronaldo picks up a head of steam and barrels through opponents. Both McCoy and Peterson are obviously known for their ability to make defensive players look silly on their way to the end zone and I don't see any reason why those traits couldn't transfer to a world cup roster.
I know this article wont appeal to most of you, but with the Lions offseason kind of in a slow period and the World Cup in full swing, I thought I'd give this a shot. Hopefully you at least find it a little interesting and enjoy imagining these players in a different sport as much as I did.