After the dust has settled from Friday’s big trade, and Saturday’s big win (!), I think it is smart to start looking at the new guys. According to Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press, the new faces were practicing today and I assume that they should be available this weekend against FC Dallas, so it is the perfect time to do some evaluation.
I think starting with the enforcing CDM and now former Colorado captain is a good place to start...
Sam Cronin is exactly what the Loons have been missing. I do not think I am overstating this when I say he is pretty much the missing link to an MLS Cup*.
Sam Cronin is a true #6. He is a holding midfielder that was a key part of arguably one of the stingiest defensive teams in MLS history in 2016. Cronin is an unsung midfield stopper that can both protect the backline and start the attack with pinpoint passing.
One of the biggest aspects of the Loons game is the defense, or the lack thereof. A big part of that is the lack of a true holding midfielder. Collen Warner has been the closest to a #6 that MNUFC has had, but he hasn’t been a big physical presence. In fact (and in a complete surprise to me), Warner has had a larger impact on the offensive side of the ball. Cronin has 8 total goals in his MLS career dating back to 2009. I do not expect him to impact the offense as much as I see him as a stopper lining up in front of Francisco Calvo and Brent Kallman.
Cronin will hopefully be used where he thrives.
Finally, there will be some depth along the backline. An issue that has been present since the preseason has a solution.
I think Marc Burch can be best summed up by this eloquent piece written by Rapids Rabbi for Burgandy Wave:
Burch is a solid leftback that has been in the league since 2006. He was used mostly as a depth piece until last year when he cemented himself as an integral piece on (again, I cannot reiterate this enough) the best defensive team in the league.
Justin Davis has been pretty solid at leftback (save for his red card), but he is limited. Leftback is arguably the most important position in any soccer league, let alone MLS, so having a veteran coming in to help Davis is huge. Again, I credit Rapids Rabbi by saying that Burch has an underrated ability to cross the ball. Which, is always welcomed.
Now where do they fit?
I understand the notion of not messing with the lineup after the team’s first win, but that is just what I am going to do! Remember that Real Salt Lake is in a pretty big funk, so I am not going to view the line-up through rose-colored glasses and I am going to do what I do best and pull it apart.
I didn’t change much. This is how I think the Loons can be competitive against Dallas this weekend. For as well as Davis played against RSL, FCD is a different animal. Dallas has been one of the best teams this season and defending them will require experience. While I hesitate to play both trade pieces after only a week of training, the team slotted Jerome Thiesson in after basically one practice.
I wanted Cronin to play in an offset CDM position. For the other CM position, I slotted in Collen Warner, but I could easily see Ibson or Rasmus Schuller in that position as well. (Or even Collin Martin.) Because Cronin sits deeper to protect the back four, it allows for whoever is in the CM position more attacking freedom.
I decided to leave the offense be. I know that Kevin Molino and Johan Venegas could be playing either on the wing or into the center, but I also think that setting it like this right now allows for attacking freedom. The Loons scored four on USMNT GK, Nick Rimando. I don’t think the attack needs to be touched.
*A bit of an exagerration
What do you think? Do you agree that we might see the new guys against Dallas? Let us know below!