You’ve seen the United States men’s national team’s June roster. You’ve read the articles dissecting it. You may have even written a thing or two about this group of players yourself. And that’s a good thing. I think it’s healthy to have a sizable breadth of analysis when it comes to these things, and the deeper the analysis, the better. People should be going crazy with the expected goals and the G+ analytics of the world.
This is going to be nothing like all of that stuff.
Welcome to the Anti-Analysis USMNT Roster Analysis, where I’m going to break down the USMNT roster for the June friendlies in the most subjective way I possibly can. There are only two criteria for this analysis: the x-axis, which is how nice a boy is, and the y-axis, which is how much dawg he got in him.
For the uninitiated, if you’re nice, that means you’re talented. You have a lot of skills that are very fun and aesthetically pleasing to watch. And if you’ve got dawg in you, that means you play hard. You’ve got a lot of things like “X-factor” and “intangibles,” and are generally a person that maintains a certain level of intensity in all situations.
Special credit to Kim McCauley for creating the original graph for this. I have stolen it and repurposed it for my own use. Because I’m a writer. And that’s what we do.
No, I did not put Malik Tillman all the way to the bottom left corner of the graph. Malik Tillman exists in a world outside of the graph: the Mystery Zone. It’s a purgatorial land inhabited by prospects who seem very promising but are largely unknown, either because of injury or their presence at the academy of a massive club where senior minutes are difficult to come by.
Simply put, I don’t think I have enough data on Malik Tillman to accurately assess him at the moment. I’m inclined to say he ranks decently far to the right along the x-axis, while dipping below even on the y-axis, but there’s just not many minutes against good opposition to really tell here.
I expect to get a better reading on Tillman after these upcoming games, at which point I will update the plot here. For now, enjoy the Mystery Zone.
NOT NICE + LOW DAWG: A VOID DEEPER AND DARKER THAN THE UNDERSIDE OF TED CRUZ’S MULLET
I copped out and put no one here, because if anyone on this roster truly belonged in this quadrant, it would be glaringly obvious at the international stage. Instead, we’ll check out the general gist of the plot trend in this space and pray fervently that no one on the June roster truly descends into this place.
As you can clearly see, the less nice a player is, it’s a decent bet that they’ve got high dawg. Why is that? Because sometimes there’s no replacement for having that dawg in you. Just ask the 2019 French U-20 World Cup squad about Justin Rennicks.
Conversely, if that boy nice, he doesn’t necessarily need that much dawg to get into the USMNT. You can’t replace nice, even if your dawg is astronomically low. If Sergino Dest was on this roster, he would probably register with the lowest dawg score in the entire group. But he would still be starting for the U.S., because that boy nice.
Dawg doesn’t get you a goal like that. Nice does.
Is the methodology becoming more clear here? Great. Let’s talk about more players, then.
LEAST NICE + EXEMPLARY DAWG: ARRIOLA ISLAND
So, maybe I moved Arriola all the way to the left for the meme here. It’s possible. But I also think it’s true that Arriola is one the best players in USMNT history at getting the absolute most out of his own abilities.
And that’s the dawg in him.
Players like Arriola are always going to be valuable, because even in their absolute worst games, they’re not going to completely and utterly disappear. They’re going to pop up and make an important tackle or find the right place in the box to poke in a goal. You may not like Arriola (in fact, I know with great certainty that many of you have a concerning level of hatred for the man). But you have to admit that he’s got that dawg in him.
NOT NICE + HIGH DAWG: FRANKIE HEJDUK’S DEMOLITION DERBY, SPONSORED BY NATURAL LIGHT SELTZER
DEANDRE YEDLIN, ZACK STEFFEN, CRISTIAN ROLDAN, JORDAN MORRIS
Several of these players are a bit on the fence, mostly because the majority of them have the propensity to pull off some really, really nice plays. Both Yedlin and Steffen have their hero games and howlers in equal measure. Cristian Roldan is exceedingly nice with the Sounders, but there have been very few times where I’ve seen him replicate that form with the national team.
Jordan Morris is an interesting case here. I want to see more from him on both the nice and dawg fronts, because he hasn’t managed to really make an impact with the USMNT lately.
His underlying numbers…. you know what? I told myself we weren’t going to go there, and so I won’t. Suffice it to say, I think Morris can be nice and can have that dawg in him. Neither of those qualities have been readily evident lately, however.
NICE + LOW DAWG: THE U.S. SOCCER X LUPE FIASCO AFTERPARTY
JESUS FERREIRA, GEORGE BELLO, REGGIE CANNON, DJORDJE MIHAILOVIC, JOE SCALLY, HAJI WRIGHT, YUNUS MUSAH, LUCA DE LA TORRE
Yunus Musah is the poster child in this group for wishing someone had just a little bit more dawg in him. We’ve seen it a couple times, but the vast majority of Musah’s highlights usually underline some of the phenomenal ability he brings on the ball.
In a similar vein, Haji Wright is a tall striker who can battle and use his frame, but looks far more content when he’s running in behind and using his speed and skill to take on defenders with Antalyaspor. Both players are nice enough that I don’t necessarily think the low dawg is a huge problem here, but it would also be nice to see the dawg brought on a more consistent basis.
The other interesting case here is Luca de la Torre, who not so long ago was shading into the upper right quadrant of this plot. Things have fallen apart a bit at Heracles, however, and he enters this camp needing to spark something once again.
The rest of the guys in this group have talent, in my opinion, but can really boost their stock with the national team if they get a little more dawg in them. And yes, that includes Jesus Ferreira. He’s been on a hot streak, I know, and being nice is a lot of his M.O. as a player. But I’m very much not convinced by his play as a striker at the international level, and if he’s going to actually claim that position for the U.S., I’m guessing he’s going to do it by putting some extra dawg in his game.
NICE + HIGH DAWG: ROCKETS' RED GLARE
There are actually three pretty distinct groups here and not just a standardized line. Let’s start with the two center backs and Kellyn Acosta, grouped high up on the y-axis and close to a neutral niceness. I think these guys are all very useful players, and they’re at their best when they’re bouncing around the field, winning physical battles, and being vocal leaders for their teams.
Acosta’s Gold Cup semifinal performance really exemplifies this group.
Then, there are the players that are nice, who also maintain a decent level of dawg in them. This appears in different ways. Christian Pulisic gets feisty on the field, but often the dawg in him leads to disappointment and dejection. Aaronson and Palmer-Brown are both people that have that dawg in them, but it’s not really over the top in any way. Turner feels self-explanatory. Ethan Horvath seems like one of the gentlest professional soccer players I’ve ever seen, but that Concacaf Nations League final? DAWG.
Jedi is a bit of an intermediary figure here, who is definitely nice, but no matter what is always running his heart out on the field, and that’s a level of dawg I truly appreciate.
Then, we have the upper echelon: Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, and Weston McKennie. Really, I think that Weah and Adams have the perfect level of dawg. Those are people that fight, that pressure, that will go and give their all for the team every time they’re out there. But they also pull back when it’s time to make the sensible decision. The perfect example of this is Tyler Adams’ yellow card management in qualifying.
Going above the Adams and Weah dawg level? That can be a powerful trait to harness, certainly. But these are also the people that are most likely to get into a fight on the field, or do something else dumb. And really, if I had to have McKennie, Zimmerman, and Acosta back me up in a fight, I wouldn’t complain about it. But I would still like them to not get a red card.