The Wizards game tomorrow game against AC St. Louis (5 p.m. @ Swope Park) is likely going to be the last chance in a game situation for players who are on the bubble to make their case for a spot on the final squad. Currently there are 27 players on the training roster (if you count Sunil Chhetri, it's 28*) competing for 24 spots. So trims must be made. Some might be key players from last year. Really, there's a high possibility that the only players you'll recognize are Davy Arnaud, Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff come opening day. *International transfers to the MLS — if you haven't noticed — are a bit like the ending of "No Country For Old Men." You think you know what's going on, but it's completely possible that the things you think you know aren't even relevant at all. And the truth might be something you never even considered. Actually, come to think of it, the process might resemble the end of "The Crying Game" a little bit more.
Who's definitely going to make it? And who's going to be left out? The team has brought in 9 (or 10) new players for this season. I'm going to include them on the definite list along with players I think have cemented their positions. NOTE: (SI) means the player is categorized as a "senior international," (SD) means the player was drafted in the 2010 SuperDraft and (GA) means the player is a Generation Adidas player.
Jimmy Nielsen* (SI), Eric Kronberg
Jimmy Conrad, Matt Besler, Pablo Escobar* (SI), Roger Espinoza (GA), Korede Aiyegbusi* (SD/SI), Michael Harrington
NOTE: Espinoza has been training and playing as an over-lapping left wingback, so I'm lumping him with the defenders.
Chance Myers (GA), Stephanè Auvray* (SI), Birahim Diop* (SI), Craig Rocastle* (SI), Igor Kostrov* (SI), Ryan Smith* (SI)
Davy Arnaud, Kei Kamara, Zoltan Hercegfalvi (SI), Josh Wolff, Teal Bunbury* (SD/GA) and maybe Chhetri* (SI).
There are only three-four more spots and it's highly likely that any of the following seven guys may not be with the Wizards when the season starts.*
*Right now, MLS roster rules allow a max of 20 players with senior contracts. We are below that, I think. Not knowing the complete contract status of the players makes this process slightly more difficult. Having three Generation Adidas players (Espinoza, Bunbury and Myers) should help keep us under that number.
Aaron Hohlbein, defender.
I'd like to keep him on the team for depth and his MLS experience, but the addition of Escobar makes him a little expendable. He was benched last year when Peter Vermes took over. Jack Jewsbury, defender/midfielder.
Losing Jack's versatility would be a huge loss. But, right now, where does he play? It isn't up the middle. Maybe he pushes Harrington to the bench in the wing-back role. I'm not sure. He's recovering from injury and that might be him some time. He could be trade bait in the future.
Santiago Hirsig, midfielder (SI):
Our big-time international signing last year appears to be the odd-man out this year. He was linked in the off-season to a few clubs (notably Colo Colo in Chile
) and could be a target for a mid-season transfer. Though, I wouldn't be surprised to see an Auvray-Hirsig midfielder partnership to start the season. Jonathan Leathers, defender.
Not sure if he's a wing-back in the mold of Harrington/Myers/Espinoza and he might be too small to play in the middle. I think that, if Jewsbury moves to right back, Leathers will probably ship out. Graham Zusi, midfielder.
I think he's going to be on the team... Well, maybe. Mauro Fuzetti, midfielder.
How many central midfielders will they keep? Fuzetti, a 2010 draft pick, is behind Auvray, Diop, Rocastle, Jewsbury and Hirsig in the middle of the pitch. I could see him staying for contract reasons, but it's hard to argue an unproven college kid deserves a spot over Hirsig/Jewsbury. Michael Kraus, forward.
Our strikers weren't good (putting it lightly) last year. So a few new attackers have been added since Curt Onalfo was shown the door. And, while I like Kraus, I just can't see them keeping eight
strikers on the roster. He's the least skilled of the bunch.
I look forward to watching how these seven guys (and all of the new guys) are utilized. What do you think? Could you see Jack Jewsbury not in a Wizards jersey this year? What about Hirsig? Who would you cut if you had the chance?