By Joseph Lowery – (@JoeInCleats)
Welcome back to the second half of the MLS Five-A-Side Game™ roster announcement. Yesterday, we released the star-studded Western Conference roster (Here) to be managed by one of American soccer’s best (and oldest). Today, we are going to break down the East’s roster and look at how their squad matches up with the West’s. If you want a say in which conference would win this small-sided battle, check out the poll on the @MLShocker Twitter page which will be up later today, and cast your vote. Remember, we have a few rules to keep everything reasonable for this game:
- A team cannot have multiple players from a single MLS team (i.e. the East squad cannot have Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron).
- Both teams must have managers from the current MLS player pool.
- Each team must play a 1-2-1(ish) shape with a goalkeeper, one center back, two midfielders, and a forward.
Now, without further ado, announcing the officially unofficial Eastern Conference Five-A-Side roster.
Goalkeeper: Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Matt Turner gets dirty. What more could you ask for from your five-a-side goalkeeper? Turner has come up big for the Revolution over and over this season and has proven that he is not above getting a few grass stains in the process:
Just like Revs fans, the numbers love Matt Turner. So far in 2017-18, Turner is coming in under his expected goals against figure (xG is a metric that measures the likelihood of any shot resulting in a goal) by 5.93 goals, according to American Soccer Analysis. Only four other keepers in the league have better numbers in that category, and three of them play in the Western Conference. Turner is the right keeper to hold down the back for the East.
Centre back: Chris Mavinga (Toronto FC)
Chris Mavinga just might be the most entertaining centre back in Major League Soccer. He is impressively skilled at making unbelievable slide tackles in key moments, like this one:
And this one:
On top of his defensive ability, Mavinga has been very successful passing the ball this season – he is one of the highest percentage passing defenders in the league. Between his knack for making big plays in big moments and his solid passing ability, Mavinga will do a fine job defending and distributing for the East in this inter-conference five-a-side match.
Midfielder: Yoshi Yotun (Orlando City)
There are few players more versatile than Peruvian international Yoshi Yotun. Throughout his career, Yotun has played as a left back, left midfielder, central midfielder, and defensive midfielder and is comfortable on the ball in various situations. He can snuff out a counter attack, play quick passes, and dribble through defenders if necessary:
Yoshi Yotun’s unique combination of defensive and offensive skills make him the ideal pivot between defence and attack for the Eastern Conference.
Midfielder: Kaku (New York Red Bulls)
Tell me you don’t want to see this man dominate a five-a-side match. Tell me.
Forward: Josef Martinez (Atlanta United)
Atlanta United’s own Josef Martinez is in the middle of the greatest goal-scoring season in Major League Soccer history. Martinez has been dominant this year, running circles around opposing defences game after game after game; he has already set the all-time MLS hat trick record and is gunning for the single-season goal scoring record. Playing in a small-sided game would not affect Martinez’s goal scoring form – he is equally capable of taking his anger out on a smaller goal instead of a larger one:
Manager: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger has played in midfield for two of the biggest clubs in the world and has won a World Cup, though not with the Chicago Fire. Schweinsteiger has seen the game played at the highest level and is one of the best players of all time – if there is any active player capable of managing the Eastern Conference Five-A-Side squad, it’s him.
Now, it’s time to look at how the Eastern Conference will line up against the West…
Chris Mavinga will cover the ground in front of Matt Turner’s goal, ready to slide tackle the ball away from any opposing attackers. Yoshi Yotun will act as the connection between Mavinga and Turner and the attacking two, playing quick passes up field. With defensive cover behind him, Kaku will attempt to nutmeg every opposing player during the game while also providing perfect service to his forward. The media has gotten their hands on audio of manager Bastian Schweinsteiger’s tactical instructions to Josef Martinez for this match. Here is the transcription:
Schweinsteiger speaking directly to Martinez: “Josef, score all the goals.”
That is the official Eastern Conference Five-A-Side roster. You can cast your vote on which team would win the inaugural MLS Five-A-Side Game™ on Twitter later today via @MLShocker.