Season Preview 2017: Center Midfielders

Edwardson, Watson

PART I: Delirium   PART II: Forwards   PART III: Attacking Mids & Wingers

CENTER MIDFIELD

Edwardson, Watson

For most of 2015 and 2016, Detroit City’s predominant center midfield pairing remained constant. As with several other positions, though, there could definitely be a shake-up this year. With the players that have been added, there will be an unprecedented level of competition and the two starting spots are by no means set in stone.

I’ll begin with the incumbents. First and foremost is Dave Edwardson. He’s a box-to-box type of player who’s geared a bit more toward defense and well-known for his crunching tackles.

He’s also capable of the occasional spectacular goal (yes I know I used this video in last year’s preview but c’mon, it’s too awesome not to include again – video taken by Kelly Haapala).

Now firmly entrenched in the captaincy, he’s the unquestioned leader of the team, the beating heart in the middle that makes everything go.

Playing next to Edwardson for the past two seasons has been the recent/soon-to-be Saginaw Valley graduate Troy Watson. He’s a defensive specialist through-and-through, and his greatest skill is breaking up attacks without diving in or fouling. And while he hasn’t shown it much for City due to the role he plays, he can also chip in on the offensive end, as evidenced by his pair of game-winning goals last fall for SVSU. As a rookie in 2015, he started all 12 regular season matches. He played in all 12 again last season, but his number of starts dipped to 7.

Several of those went instead to George Chomakov, a fan favorite partly because of his perseverance and determination to come back from injury after injury. He joined the club in 2014 but it wasn’t until last year that he was finally able to see extended playing time, albeit while playing hurt. He’s a little smaller than Edwardson and Watson, but more technical and probably the best passer of the three. Hopefully he’s close to 100% healthy so he can finally show off the full scope of his abilities.

The most notable center-midfield addition came just this Tuesday when the club announced Bakie Goodman was joining the team. A four-year starter and captain as a senior at Georgetown, Goodman was drafted by the Seattle Sounders in January. While he failed to make the squad, he has the talent to thrive in Detroit.

Some of those passes are downright filthy, and he shows an incredible first touch. It will be a treat to watch him play with Cyrus Saydee and Jeff Adkins, among others. His knack for getting out of tight spaces and that exceptional passing ability will get him on the field immediately, and I think it’s a good bet that he’ll be a key contributor sooner rather than later.

Coming to Detroit from the University of Maryland, one of the top teams in the Big Ten, is Aaron Franco. Franco’s recruiting profile pegs him as a defensive midfielder, and his college bio has him as a defender, but his high school highlight tape shows a player who’s outstanding at dribbling, passing, and controlling the ball.

Although he can play on the back line – most likely at fullback based on his size (5’9”, 169) – I think he fits best at center-mid or even attacking mid with his skillset. Regardless of where Ben Pirmann chooses to deploy him, his versatility and talent should earn him a substantial amount of playing time.

Luke Hauswirth is yet another product of a major college program. A teammate of fellow newcomer Kyle Coffee (forward) at Washington, Hauswirth is one more flex player who can play on defense or in the midfield. His college bio makes note of his experience playing right back, so in a pinch he could see some time there this summer.

Coastal Carolina is a school that should be familiar to City supporters. Bret Mollon coached the goalkeepers there before taking a job at Michigan State, and both Jordan Tyler and Alex Bouillennec transferred there to finish up their college careers. Now, 6’4″ Frenchman Louis Dargent joins the club, having been a regular starter in the midfield for CCU his first two years (I wasn’t able to find his 2016 stats). While his size suggests he may be more of a defensive-mid, he did score 7 goals over the course of his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Finally, Dalton Amez joins the team after spending last year with the Michigan Stars and finishing up his career at Northwood University. This video is from his high school days, but it gives a little taste of what he brings to the table – dribbling, possession, and a nice shot from distance. Having so many technically-skilled center mids on the roster is a nice asset and it hints at the style of soccer that Pirmann wants to play moving forward.

POSITION OVERVIEW

Center midfield has traditionally been a strength for City, and there’s no reason to believe that shouldn’t continue in 2017. Edwardson and Watson are a good starting pair, but a fresh infusion of talent was needed to challenge them and alleviate the depth concerns that popped up toward the end of last season. A healthy George Chomakov would be a wonderful thing to see, and Goodman and Franco have the look of potential difference-makers. Several of the newcomers have the ability to play multiple positions, and this mix of different skillsets should allow for the deployment of numerous combinations depending on the situation in the match.

One Reason to Be Excited 🙂

While City has typically had good depth at center mid, most of the players have been more defensively-minded and best at playing simple passes or long balls over the top. Overall, this year’s group appears to be more technically sound and adept at playing a quick passing, possession style of soccer. Joining them up with the attacking mids and wingers who are already well-schooled in this department, the results could be entertaining as well as effective.

One Reason to Worry 🙁

Other than the standard concerns about player availability and injury which are the same for every position group, I can’t really think of one. The depth looks good, there’s a nice mix of offensive and defensive-leaning players, and all have a good deal of experience at the college and/or NPSL level. I think the midfield is in good hands.

Player to Watch

I had this section finished and ready to go last week, but seeing that highlight video of Bakie Goodman forced me to rewrite it completely. He looks like a more polished version of Danny Deakin and is an elite passer. City has never had a true, playmaking #10, but he may very well fit that role. I could see him starting at center mid alongside a more defensive-minded partner, or moving up to a more advanced area of the field a la Tommy Catalano. Picking him up on the eve of the season is an absolute coup for Pirmann. I felt good about the center mids without him; with him they’re one of the best groups in the league.


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