Originally published at nyalabama.blogspot.com.. “After Hurrican Nate” is published by Regina Doi Kollegger in New York to Alabama.
He might be playing left back in Salt Lake City. He scored arguably the team’s goal of the season. He’s getting paid about as much as Kellyn Acosta or Brad Guzan. And he’s been easily the most maligned player on the team throughout the year, despite a great run of form to close out the season.
Through all of that, Yohan Croizet might just be the proverbial X factor for Sporting Kansas City’s playoff run.
The Frenchman? Well… he took some time. And he took a lot of heat, too, Arguably, the success of Guti and Russell gave Croizet an even harsher look when he didn’t spark right from the get-go.
There were questions surrounding him before he even dug his cleats into the Children’s Mercy Park turf. Where was his best position? Where was there an opening in our lineup? What positions could he feasibly play when called upon?
There were times he’d be able to pick out a gorgeous pass, or take a 1v1 and beat his man to create a goalscoring chance. But there were also times when he just struggled to hold onto the ball in the midfield.
The most notable glimpse of the “reborn” Croizet came against Minnesota, with this belter of a goal:
That was what was expected of him when he was bought. A nice diagonal run into a threatening positio, a sublime touch with the outside of his strong foot, showcasing the ball-on-string control he displays on his day, and a clinical moving finish. If he could provide that kind of spark more consistently, maybe he’d stop getting all that flak. And in all his recent matches where he’s gotten a decent amount of time, he’s shown that spark.
Watch this world-beating run that becomes an effortless hockey assist if Daniel Salloi can find Gerso on the other side:
And in a show of patience and chemistry, Croizet receives the ball here and waits until the perfect moment to cut inside and unleash a wicked curler that took a save of the week to stop:
Croizet is an interesting fit in Sporting’s system. As an attacker, he doesn’t have the dynamism of Johnny Russell, nor Daniel Salloi’s cerebral movement. In the midfield, he’s a different breed than the Espinoza engine or the do-it-all Gutierrez. Croizet is a straight-up playmaker, true to the #10 role he craves. While he needs time on the ball to at least get set up, once he has that he’s capable of creating magic for himself or others, and he can do a little bit of everything else Peter Vermes asks him to as well (he had 2 tackles and 3 clearances in spot duty at left back against LAFC). It’s just a matter of getting into the right positions in the first place.
That communication and positioning will be crucial in a couple spots, too. Of course, he’ll need help from Matt Besler, or from someone like Salloi or Gutierrez tracking back to prevent a 2v1 should Brooks Lennon barrel up the wing. But just as important will be an awareness of when Graham Zusi has marauded forward (spoiler alert: it will be a lot). Part of what makes Sinovic a great opposite of Zusi is his conservatism, and while Croizet will likely be asked to keep everything in front of him should he get the call, he’s no doubt more attack-minded than the man he’d be replacing. Pair that with the limited space he’ll have when he’s on the ball, and it’s a risky proposition for an absolutely crucial match.
If Yohan Croizet has shown anything, though, it’s that he just needs a little time to settle in.
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