Season Preview 2016: Center Midfielders

PART I: Reclamation   PART II: Forwards   PART III: Wingers

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CENTER MIDFIELD

Edwardson, Watson
Edwardson, Watson

Center midfield has always been an area of strength for Detroit City, and despite the departure of two players – Latif Alashe and Kevin Taylor – who enjoyed loads of success with the club, that track record of excellence should continue in 2016.

Dave Edwardson has been an engine in midfield for three years running and is the odds-on favorite to become the club’s next captain. He typically plays a box-to-box role, with slightly more duties on the defensive end. That doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of contributing in the final third, though:

His biggest challenge won’t be to maintain the level that he’s always played at; it will be to take on more leadership responsibilities if he’s indeed given the armband.

Next to him in the middle will be Troy Watson, a complete unknown at this time last year who ended up appearing in every single match and became an automatic starter by season’s end. He’s a pure defensive midfielder who relies on well-timed tackles and good positioning to break up attacks rather than physical intimidation and sliding in late. I’ve posted this what feels like a hundred times, but it just perfectly sums up what his game is:

watson

He tracks down the attacker, eases him off the ball while staying on his feet, maintains possession with a basic dribble, and passes it out wide to start the attack going the other way. If guys like Deakin, Bautista, and Adkins are to truly shine, a big reason will be Watson winning balls in midfield and feeding them up top.

That’s not to say Edwardson and Watson are automatic starters with no competition, though. One newcomer who should challenge for time right away is Brett Nason, who started every game for Michigan in 2015 and was a top-50 prospect coming out of high school. He plays a defensive/holding midfielder role and looks a safe bet to see significant playing time.

The two other center mids on the roster both happened to have their finest moments of 2015 in the same match, June 20th at Cincinnati. Matt Ybarra’s weak-footed thunderstrike drew City level at 1-1…

…and Danny Dragoi’s goal a few minutes later proved to be the game winner. It also resulted in one of the most iconic images in club history:

CIAQ0uUUsAAE1XQ.jpg large

Many a brave young firetruck was confused on that day.

Back to the seriousness, Ybarra’s style is box-to-box, similar to Edwardson. While Dragoi is the oldest player on the team (34), he plays with energy and enthusiasm and likes to get forward. An excellent option to have on the bench or to make the occasional start.

POSITION OVERVIEW

While the center midfield won’t roll seven or eight deep as in some years past, this year’s group should be just fine. A possible bonus, Tommy Catalano played in the Windsor friendly on April 24th and by all accounts acquitted himself well. If he rejoins the team, that’s just one more bullet in Pirmann’s clip.

One Reason to Be Excited 😀

Troy Watson’s growth over the course of last season was stunning. If he continues on that trajectory, he’ll be one of the best midfielders in the NPSL Midwest in 2016.

One Reason to Worry 😕

As with winger, there’s really not much to fret about here. I guess one concern is that with the Saints moving to Dayton, the local fire department there hasn’t been through a false alarm and might get caught off-guard come May 15th.

Player to Watch

Dave Edwardson – If Troy Watson’s play from last year carries over, it might allow Edwardson more freedom of movement and we could see him chip in a few more goals and assists than in previous seasons.

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