Jonathan Spector’s Midfield Adventure

Jan. 30, 2010 - 05413193 date 30 01 2010 Copyright imago Color Sports Football West Ham s American Footballer Jonathan Spector Barclays Premier League West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers AT Boleyn Ground Upton Park 30 01 2010 Credit Color Sports Kieran Galvin PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxPOLxUSAxONLY Football men England Premier League 2009 2010 cut out Single Action shot Vdig 2010 horizontal premiumd.

By all accounts, Jonathan Spector had a fall to forget. After a shaky start in August, he didn’t make another Premier League appearance for West Ham United until this weekend, December 5. US chief Bob Bradley doesn’t seem ready to give up on him, however, and he’s seen more minutes in USMNT friendlies than he has for his “real job” in club soccer.

After his performance today vs. Sunderland (and last week against his former club Manchester United in the Carling Cup, when he bagged a brace), FFG is not quite ready to give up on him as a vital piece of the USMNT puzzle, either. Ironically, it was as a center midfielder—and not a fullback—that he shone against United and Sunderland, displaying revelatory confidence, touch and drive. Even strikers should take note of one run in the first half in which he dribbled past four Sunderland defenders and nearly put the ball past keeper Craig Gordon.

The way he worked with fellow midfielder Scott Parker made it easy to imagine him in that part of the pitch for the USMNT. In fact, his statistics tell the story of a seasoned EPL midfielder, not of a mediocre fullback forced by circumstances to serve as a midfielder.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Spector’s passing completion percentage of 66% is a bit lower than what should be expected – Stuart Holden has completed 78% for the season – but that percentage should go up as he becomes more familiar with the position. Defensively, he was solid. In addition to only losing one challenge, he made two clearances in his own penalty area.

FFG has three reasons for Bradley the Elder to stick with Spector:

1. Versatility: He started his career as a striker, has played left and right back, sometimes platoons as a center back, and proved today he’s an effective midfielder as well. Baseball fans are familiar with the concept of “utility player”—that guy you can put anywhere and count on a consistent performance. If a utility player exists in soccer, Spector is an example.

2. Midfield Fit: FFG has been generally critical of Spector for his fullback performances, but today he showed he just might be the perfect type of player for the way the midfield archetypes have evolved. We aren’t saying he should start over Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu or even Jose Torres, but imagine a scenario in which the US needs to hold onto a lead but must rest a more established midfielder in anticipation of an upcoming game. Spector would be a perfect option to come into a defensively minded formation to serve as the “passer” alongside a creator (Bradley/Torres/Holden) and destroyer (Jones/Edu).

3. Experience: FFG has argued before that the English Premier League is the world’s best training ground for international performance. The pace, high intensity and high profile atmosphere prepares players for the world’s biggest stages. West Ham hasn’t exactly battled for the top of the table, but the experience of playing at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and Emirates Stadium (to name a few), is a whole different experience than a high profile game at say, Dick Sporting Good’s Park. Just ask Clint Dempsey.

So Bob, in a sense maybe we need to apologize. Your faith in Spector may be well-placed and the gesture of a coach with vision. Keep your eye on the EPL, and Spector on your short list.

5 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Blake Owen says:

    This really came out of the blue. He’s been in horrible form since the end of 09-10. But then he moves to a new position and is effective?!

    You’re right, Ben. We need to give Bradley more credit.

    • Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

      No one can deny the intelligence granted by a receding hairline!

      I hope he keeps getting minutes. It never hurts to have competition for spots on the national team. Unless you’re Raymond Domenech.

  2. John says:

    Interesting set of thoughts. I wasn’t quite with you until point 2 of 3. While CM is the only place on the field that the MNT has a glut, a versatile full-time sub always has usefulness. Problem is, who gets bumped? Torres, Feilhaber, or Edu seem the only candidates. Torres, while I love him, seems to have the shakiest hold on Bradley’s trust, a factor whose importance can’t be overstated. Edu is the oldest and that may factor in come Brazil 2014. All of that aside, if Bradley goes with a Best 23 template, then surely any of the mids that’s be kicked out will be more talented and ready than the defender that replaces Spector. As a Claret and Blue through-and-through Hammers man, I love the recent run that Specs is on, but I don’t see it altering Bradley’s lineup.

    • bensten says:

      Yes, when you bring the timing of 2014 into play and consider ages at that point in time it might be hard to imagine him breaking into those 23 because, like you said, it would mean some sacrifice somewhere else. But, if he could continue a nice run now and into the next couple years (man, that would be a LONG run of form!) he could beat out a player like Torres.

      Excellent thoughts. Please keep reading!

  3. John says:

    Embarrassing spelling error. Should have typed “that’d be kicked out”, not “that’s be”. Awful to sound completely illiterate on your first posting on a website.

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