Once a week (maybe more, just depends) The Full 90 will trek out to Swope Park and the Wizard's training facility to see what's what. This week, we caught the team's scrimmage with the University of Tulsa.
It's hard to really learn anything from a scrimmage against a college team (besides what the players call each other on the field). It's not surprising the MLS side won 5-1. Nor is it surprising that the college kids gave everything they had while the pros seemed slightly disinterested.
But there were a few things we noticed that might be of value to Wizard fans.
First, the basics: The goal scorers were Josh Wolff, Teal Bunbury, Korede Aiyegbusi, Sunil Chhetri and Igor Kostrov. The following players didn't play: Ryan Smith (injury), Roger Espinzoa (injury), Birahim Diop (injury), Jack Jewsbury, Davy Arnaud, Craig Rocastle (though he ran a lot) and Stèphane Auvray. I didn't see Arnaud, Jewsbury or Diop on the field at all.
The Starting XI: Nielsen, Harrington, Conrad, Besler, Aiyegbusi, Kamara, Zusi, Hirsig, Kostrov, Zoltan and Wolff. The Second Half XI: Kronberg, Leathers, Escobar, Hohlbein, Aiyegbusi, Fuzetti, Zusi, Zoltan (Josh Brown subbed on), Kostrov, Chhetri and Bunbury.
Here's the five things you should know:
1. Belser is becoming the boss
Read into this what you will, but Matt Besler made most of the defensive calls (adjusting player placement on throw-ins, calling the offsides trap, moving Aiyegbusi into position, etc.) in the first half. I'm not quite sure if it's part of training (i.e. getting him to be more vocal), if it's natural (i.e. he's a natural leader) or sign of what's to come (i.e. Conrad's future with the Wizards is in doubt), but that's what I saw and heard.
2. Sunil Chhetri is going to be a very good ... sub
After a few weeks of mentioning him without having seen him, I can now say that I've seen Sunil Chhetri play. It's very clear why the team went for him: He's fast, both with and without the ball. His first touch is very good and he moves well to open up space for the attack. But, he's very slight and in a spot where he can't use his quickness (like in a crowd at the edge of the box) he will be dispossessed easily. I firmly believe that (maybe even as soon as May) he will be a game-changer as a late sub. How many teams can bring that kind of speed off the bench? How many teams have the team-speed KC does in the first place? A starting gig is probably a lot further off. 3. Ryan Smith wasn't wearing a cast
I reported earlier this week that Smith suffered a lower leg contusion Saturday night. Well, he didn't play in today's game but he spent some time on the field training and was doing so rather freely.* Also: Chance Myers (hamstring) worked out away from the team with the training staff, mostly running and kicking. He looked okay, but it's really hard to judge someone's abilities by watching them run.
*Thad had a quick interview with Smith after the game that you can watch here. Clif notes version: Ryan Smith is eligible for the U.S. national team. 4. Teal Bunbury is a very good college player
Bunbury looked great against Tulsa: tricky, strong, fast, settled. Of course, he's used to playing with college kids. He needs time to adjust to the speed of the MLS game (especially the speed of the defensive midfielders) before I rate him as anything more than a very talented forward with a ton of potential who shouldn't be on the field in a real game unless the result is out of hand.
5. Peter Vermes said the word "quick" at least 57 times (Octavio Zambrano said it about half as many times)
Most of the coaching from the scaffolding was to the left-side of the pitch (which is not only where the coaches scaffolding is at, but where the youngest part of the squad resided) and it was often just the word, "QUICK." Touch the ball, control it, move it forward, quick. Get the ball, move it along, move into space, quick. Even in practice, Vermes wants his team to respect their ABA's: Always Be Attacking. Star colleague Matt Schofield (who I'm realizing is my go-to guy for cool soccer phrases) calls the team's style "90 Minutes of Hell."
Tulsa felt that today. Right around 50 minutes, the fitness for the college kids went away completely and the Wizards dominated possession and didn't let up until the final whistle. They might be the most fit MLS roster I've seen.
One last thing
The most remarkable thing from the game was Aiyegbusi attempting to switch fields (he admitted as much with a smile afterwards) from just inside the half line but instead lifted the ball into the path of a 20 mile per hour wind and having it land in the back of the net. The keeper makes a bit of a mess of it, here's the video
There were only like five Wizards fans out there today and it was 80 (degrees). What could you have possibly been doing? I just hope you were either working or glued to Arsenal-Barcelona.