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Depth Assessment: Despite struggles, squad depth offers encouragement


We've seen enough matches now - with enough of a variety in squad - to really start to assess our depth, even if there is a certain amount of prematurity to it owing to the inexperience of several players within the system.

Goalkeepers: A
Nick Rimando, Josh Saunders, Jeff Attinella, Lalo Fernandez

Our quartet of keepers is perhaps the best in the league, and this is largely because of the addition of Josh Saunders. This isn't to say that Attinella and Fernandez aren't quality, or that they won't be top players in a few years, but they're certainly not here yet. Saunders has only played occasionally and, barring a disastrous exchange with Lovel Palmer against FC Dallas, showed well for himself.

Full backs: B-
Tony Beltran, Chris Wingert, Lovel Palmer, Abdoulie Mansally, Rich Balchan

It's hard to hand this group a much better grade right now: While the top two - Wingert and Beltran - are certainly among the best in the league, Palmer and Mansally have proven not much more than spot backups with their inconsistent play. Balchan remains very much an unknown quantity, but he has looked good in the brief reserves minutes he got before having shoulder issues on Monday. It doesn't sound like a long-term issue.

Center backs: B
Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Carlos Salcedo, Aaron Maund

Had Schuler been showing better at this point in the season, this score would be a bit higher - but as-is, it's not necessarily the depth that makes one worried, it's the starting pair. Borchers is, as ever, dominant and a leader on the pitch, but Schuler has lacked the consistency he needs to push on to the next level. He's not far off from that. Watson-Siriboe has been a good backup and has some real potential in his career. Salcedo is going to be a brilliant center back, no matter where he plays, and Maund has been looking good fin reserves and might find success with us yet.

Defensive midfield: B+
Kyle Beckerman, Yordany Alvarez, Enzo Martinez

Beckerman is brilliant. There's not much more that needs to be said about him when we're talking about depth. But Alvarez, who is likely to be called upon heavily this season, seems like he's really hit a new level in his career. He's done well enough that the occasional substitution while he awaits the next U.S. match (wherein Beckerman departs) will frustrate him. Martinez ends up here, as it looks like this is the position in which he's landed in the system. We'll see on this one.

Outside-of-the-diamond midfielders: B
Ned Grabavoy, Luis Gil, Khari Stephenson, John Stertzer, Cole Grossman

This is where things really start to get tricky. I've opted to include Velasquez in the next category, while Gil sticks back here - it seems broadly to be accurate, although the positions are very much interchangeable on any given match day. That said: Grabavoy is a consummate professional, and he's an essential part of the system. He is neither too attacking nor too defensive for his position, and he links the defensive midfield and the attacking midfield together. Gil has looked a little bumpy at this point in his career, which is to be expected. Stephenson has seemed a good backup in that he is calm and has some real skill, and he injects some distance shooting that we often miss. Stertzer and Grossman both have a lot to prove, and while Stertzer is a rookie, Grossman is still quite young. They both have some good potential, but they're not here yet.

Attacking midfielders: B
Javier Morales, Sebastian Velasquez, David Viana

As before, I've pushed Gil to the outside of the diamond, but Velasquez is being groomed as the successor in attack. Morales is still looking to reclaim his past magic, but he needs the rest of the midfield to be as silky smooth as it once was. Velasquez is showing potential by the bucket load, but he hasn't found much senior time in this spot. But it does appear that he's learning the intricacies of the position well, and he deserves some real praise for that. Viana is sort of floating between here and the forwards, and we haven't seen enough of him this season to make definitive claims, but he's got gobs of skill.

Forwards: A-
Alvaro Saborio, Robbie Findley, Olmes Garcia, Joao Plata, Devon Sandoval

There's more depth in our forward line than we've seen in some time, but this avoids a perfect ranking because we're still not sure who pairs with Saborio week-in, week-out. Fitness has been the first concern here, but Findley, Plata and Garcia have each showed a unique characteristic that we want in a player. Findley has speed and an awareness on the counter, Plata has acceleration and fantastic footwork, and Garcia has strength and inventiveness. Sandoval, for all he's done, simply doesn't partner well with Saborio by the nature of their playing styles, but he's shown well as a backup for the Costa Rican. It does seem at current that Garcia has his hands on the spot next to Saborio, but it'll take a lot for him to lock this down.