One of the most recognizable ways that Paul Buckle has changed the Republic in his time as Head Coach is the focus on generating chances from wide areas of the field. In this installment of our continuing Depth Chart series, the focus is on just who those wide midfield players will be.
1. Danny Barrera
There is no question that Danny Barrera should be at the top of the depth chart here after the 2016 season he had.
He appeared in all 30 of the Republic’s USL games last season (starting 29) and set a team record for appearances and starts. He also recorded nine assists, setting another record and bringing his all-time total to 12, just one below the Republic’s all-time assist leader, Rodrigo Lopez. He also scored three goals of his own. To cap it all off, he was deservedly named to the All-USL First Team.
Barrera is a talented player, one of the best on the Republic’s roster. He has good vision, good passing ability, and the ability to unlock a bunkering defense better than most.
2. Tyler Blackwood
Although he is listed as a forward, Blackwood seems to be Buckle’s first choice to partner with Danny Barrera on the wing at the moment. And why not? He was playing out wide when he destroyed the Republic defense for (then) Arizona United.
I don’t care if it cost the team a point last year. I love this goal.
Blackwood has appeared in four of the Republic’s five preseason games, only sitting out the game against Sac State. He’s started in all of the team’s high-stakes friendlies (the ones against San Jose, FC Cincinnati, and Reno).
His shining moment for the Republic so far this year came in the recent match against Reno, when he recorded a goal and an assist in the team’s first-half offensive bonanza.
3. Gabe Gissie
When Gabe Gissie first came to the Republic, he was fresh out of the New England Revolution Academy and none of us knew what to expect from him. By the time he left for Bethlehem Steel FC in 2016, he did so as a talented young player with potential but relatively little to show for it.
Now that he has come back to the Republic for the 2017 season, his worth to the team is still more in his potential than his current ability. Which is not to say Gissie cannot hold his own at the USL level. He did play 690 minutes in 18 games for Bethlehem, scoring only one goal.
It remains to be seen how much time Gissie will get this season, as he has only had limited minutes during this preseason.
4. Daniel Trickett-Smith
Trickett-Smith joined the Republic last year amid a good amount of hype from Paul Buckle, who called him “very, very talented” in the club’s initial press release. DTS’s talent and skill with the ball was evident in many of his eight USL appearances last season. His production during the his limited playing time was not terrible, with one goal and one assist.
DTS has played primarily as a wide midfielder with the Republic. However, this season we have seen Buckle experiment with putting him in central midfield with mixed results. DTS’s preferred role is apparently that of a number 10, which is still an advanced central role and a far cry from the more box-to-box central midfielders that Buckle typically has in the middle.
Time will tell if DTS gets more time out wide or in the middle. Looking at his skill set and past experience with the Republic, let’s hope it is out wide, where he may have more success.
5. Lamin Suma
Even though he has seen a decent amount of time throughout the preseason (167 minutes in three appearances), Suma is still mostly an unknown at this point. Most of the games he did appear in were the ones against less-than USL quality opponents.
From what little we have seen and what Buckle said when Suma was first signed, it seems as though he brings a lot of speed and verticality to the team. Whether or not he moves up the depth chart remains to be seen. For now it seems as though we will mostly see Suma as a substitute or in US Open Cup play.
How do you see the Republic’s depth chart at wide midfield playing out? Sound off in the comments below!