Previously: Attackers.


Defining different central midfield slots is slightly silly since most players suited for the center of the field are at least somewhat flexible, but in an effort to organize our thoughts we'll do it anyway. So: the USA hasn't had a Central Attacking Midfielder or Number Ten or Trequartista or Guy Who Tries To Be Messi of much note pretty much ever. (Clint Dempsey was always a striker.) There were some promising folks over the last two cycles but for whatever reason Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan existed on the fringes of the national team.

American 10s in MLS include those rapidly aging guys, a couple more even fringier members of the pool, and File Not Found. Inserting Pulisic here is an obvious option and may be the way it ends up, or the US could just roll out a couple box to box types like they did when Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were freed to run by the insertion of Kyle Beckerman behind them. I bet one dollar that's this cycle's solution, with a really fast right back who overlaps and frees Pulisic to tuck inside.

But a speculative name or five here anyway, all of whom are absurdly young. Maybe one of these guys will get good enough fast enough to be relevant. All ages are as of 2022, so... yeah.

Andrew Carleton (22), Atlanta United. Carleton has been a next big thing for a couple years now but he's stuck behind a boatload of expensive South Americans in Atlanta and only gets scattered matches for them. Intra-MLS loans aren't really a thing so Carleton's in a bit of a tough spot.

Richie Ledezma (21), RSL. Ledezma is trialing with Dutch powerhouse PSV and turns 18 in September so wouldn't have a full limbo year if he does go. Ledezma is getting semi-regular minutes in the USL already.

Josh Pynadath (20), Ajax. Pynadath had a couple of years with Real Madrid's academy and is now at Ajax—his mom's job got moved to Holland. He plays on both wings for Ajax but a dual-footed guy with the kind of ball skills Pynadath has is a natural candidate to move inside. He could realistically play anywhere across the attacking midfield level of a 4-2-3-1, but he's 16 so he could also be a potato you never hear about again.

Giovanni Reyna (19), NYCFC. Yes, that Reyna. He'll hook up with a European club as soon as his EU passport goes through and from there will hope to bust into a starting lineup. Realistic best case scenario is another Pulisic type rise where he plays a bunch for a big team and gets integrated the year before the WC.

Gianluca Busio (19), Sporting KC. Youngest MLS signing since Freddy Adu, and it's appropriate to mention Adu in a section in which the oldest guy is 18. Can get an Italian passport so could be another quick move across the Atlantic.

By 2021 everyone except Carleton should be pushing to break through at a high(ish) profile Euro club. There's no better example of the academy effect than the next gen of potential 10s; previously American 10s have been limited in numbers and opportunity since MLS tends to target foreign players at that spot. USL opportunities for teenagers have the potential to break out a number of skilled attackers both here and abroad.

This has been the most crootin' section of this post.

[After the JUMP: still fairly crootin sections.]

MORE. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Signed, sealed, subs.

Michigan announced this morning that John Beilein agreed to a rollover contract extension that will keep him with the program through at least 2022-23. From the official press release:

University of Michigan Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics Warde Manuel announced Wednesday (July 18) that he and the David and Meredith Kaplan Men's Basketball Head Coach John Beilein have reached an agreement for a contract extension through the 2022-23 season.

Additionally, the newly inked five-year rollover deal automatically extends one additional year and repeats each year until either Beilein, or U-M, has given proper notice that the renewal will not be exercised by mid-April.

"I am thrilled to ensure John's leadership of our basketball program today and into the future," Manuel said. "I am very pleased with our shared dialog throughout the process, and I am extremely happy that one of the game's great coaches is representing the University of Michigan."

"I am grateful for the opportunity the University of Michigan has given to me over the past 11 years," said Beilein. "Kathleen and I love Ann Arbor, our University, our fans and the state of Michigan. We will continue to work very hard in the future to have our basketball team reflect the greatness of this University. I thank Mark Schlissel and Warde Manuel for their faith and commitment to our coaching staff and basketball program. The future of men's basketball is bright and I am excited to be a part of it."

Financial terms were not released; it's a safe bet Beilein got a nice pay raise and assurance the salary pool for his assistants gets a similar bump.

Analysis: This is very good news!

Can this be fixed? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

This edition of the hoops mailbag begins with a question that ended up being far tougher to answer than I expected.

What are the biggest 3P% jumps over a career for Beilein at Michigan? Is it reasonable to hope that X and Matthews can get up to that 35 percent head-above-water mark?

While there are several examples of players whose three-point percentage improved at Michigan, the nature of high-level college basketball makes it very tough to draw wide-ranging conclusions. Many of the players in that group—Caris LeVert, DJ Wilson, Moe Wagner, to name just a few—posted tiny samples in their first year.

Even among the Beilein players who have more of a statistical base with which to work, it's tough to pick out his impact without a seriously deep dive. Glenn Robinson III never shot the ball very well from the outside at Michigan but he's grown into a decent NBA marksman; would we have seen that if he stuck around another year or two? The same question applies to Kam Chatman, a 26% 3P shooter in two seasons at Michigan who canned 41% on five attempts per game following his transfer to Detroit. Some of Beilein's skill development work surely played into the improvement of each player, but it's impossible to measure the precise impact.

We're left with cherrypicking examples. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has an encouraging combination; his volume and percentage both went up substantially and he had to rework his mechanics. That last bit of of particular relevance since Zavier Simpson is going back to "ground zero" to fix his shot. MAAR also went from purely a spot-up shooter to a player capable of drilling a solid percentage off the bounce, which is definitely relevant to Charles Matthews, who's likely to take on more pick-and-roll possessions.

We've seen a lot of evidence that Beilein can identify and develop good shooters even if they're not necessarily tearing it up from beyond the arc in high school—MAAR, Wagner, and Wilson went from prospects whose range was questioned to integral pieces of one of the country's most lethal shooting teams in 2016-17. It's tougher to say, on a case-by-case basis, if Beilein can always fully tap that potential in the short window a player is on campus; as Jason Kidd can attest, a reliable outside shot can take a long time to develop. For every MAAR there's a Darius Morris.

This isn't a complete punt on the question. I believe Matthews will end up in the passably decent range this season; his form is solid and he knows that's the main thing between him and an NBA career. I don't have as much confidence in Simpson making that breakthrough in 2018-19; he's overhauling his mechanics and his peripherals aren't encouraging—namely, he's a career 55% free-throw shooter. (This is admittedly a concern for Matthews, as well, but at least his free-throw shooting improved from his woeful Kentucky mark. Simpson went the wrong way last year.)

I should note this isn't a death knell for the offense by any means. Michigan made the title game with both of those players starting, after all, and they each should be more effective in the pick-and-roll (here's more detail on that with a focus on Simpson and Jon Teske).

[Hit THE JUMP for the recruiting focus after DJ Carton and more.]

Josh Sargent is my beautiful perfect son and I will fight you if you say otherwise. 

Previously, we looked at maximizing Zavier Simpson in next year’s offense, focusing primarily on how he operated within the pick-and-roll game. As the screener, Teske is a critical component to what could be the primary schematic theme for the team in the fall.

Sick of people complaining that Michigan commits are ranked too low? Well, we found a way to complain that they're ranked too high! VERY ON BRAND


Tracking the changes in star ratings of the 2019 commitments