Editorial (May 28, 2019) — It’s no secret Yohan Croizet has endured a tough 18 months since joining Sporting KC. Promises of Benny Feilhaber’s replacement has offered little more than heavy touches and misplaced passes amid the thrilling, yet brief, glimpses of brilliance.
Since his arrival at Children’s Mercy Park, Feilhaber has returned to reclaim his spot, Felipe Gutierrez fell into the lap of Peter Vermes on a free transfer and Gianluca Busio burst onto the scene as one of the United States’ most promising youngsters. As a result, Croizet has fell down the pecking order, filling in when need be. This could be on the wing or at left back, rather than his natural attacking midfielder role.
Croizet proves his worth against Seattle, adds an extra dynamic to Sporting KC
However, with injuries crippling Sporting KC to the point where it can only produce a match day squad of just 16 players, the Frenchman has seen extended minutes. He may have opened a new tactic for Sporting to fall back on.
With top goalscorer Krisztian Nemeth suspended and backup Erik Hurtado out injured, Croizet slotted into a false nine role on Sunday in Sporting KC’s 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders. He certainly he make that position his own.
“I think Yohan had a really good performance for us today,” Vermes said on Sunday following the victory. “He worked hard, he made it tough on their defenders. I think he put them under a lot of pressure, he’s an explosive guy with a lot of power and speed, and I think they were a little bit surprised with that.”
Playing in a position similar to his attacking midfield role, Croizet caused fits for the Sounders’ back line all night. He played between the lines and allowed wingers Kelyn Rowe and Johnny Russell to cut into space inside. That may be the most important factor — Croizet’s ability to hold up play and allow Russell and Rowe to play inside.
“I’ve been on the other end of that body and you can’t get around it,” Rowe said. “The guy’s stronger than he looks and he just uses that body so well — he’s got tree trunks for legs so you can’t really get around him.”
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) May 27, 2019
Getting involved with the goals
The Frenchman was directly involved in both the first and third of Russell’s goals against Seattle. However, not only was Croizet involved, but his running and positioning both with and without the ball allowed Russell to cut inside onto his favored left foot multiple times.
“I think what he did really well was there were moments were he had to play with his back to the goal and he held their guys up and actually held the ball for us,” Vermes said.
And that’s where the selection headache comes in for Vermes. The space that Russell was allowed to run into is typically already claimed by Nemeth, with much of the attacking play directed toward and through the Hungarian. There’s no denying that Russell would probably have not claimed his second Kansas City hat-trick had Nemeth been playing. There simply wouldn’t be the space for it.
Last Word on Croizet
Is this a claim to drop Nemeth for Croizet? Absolutely not.
Before Russell’s hat-trick, Nemeth sat as the club’s lone top goalscorer in league play with seven goals. It’s also not a claim for Vermes to push Nemeth out wide, a move that would take away many of Nemeth’s out-and-out goalscorer qualities. This can also create even more competition for the wing positions.
However, what is does do is offer Vermes not only an alternative tactic to break through the lines if Nemeth is failing to do so and the wingers are being neutralized, but a potential future partnership between Croizet and Ilie Sanchez in the middle of the park. It’s a partnership that would allow Croizet to get further up the field while Ilie sits back with Feilaber, Gutierrez or Busio filling in the space in-between.
The timing may have just not been right for Croizet when he arrived. Sporting KC didn’t really employ his true attacking midfield role in its current formation. However, with 18 months of MLS experience under his belt now, he may have just added an extra dynamic to a Sporting KC side looking to rebound from a poor start to the season.