021813_boydterrence_isi_usmnt0909123224 John Todd/isiphotos.com
The Striker

Terrence Boyd Is the Future of the American Striker

The young American forward is making a name for himself in the Austrian Bundesliga. As Will Parchman writes, he could soon be doing so as the head of the United States attacking corps.
ASN Slideshow 52113_boydterrence_isi_usavsel_salvador03262012017
BY Will Parchman Posted
May 21, 2013
3:00 PM
About two months ago, I classified the American striker into a few broad categories for ASN. One of those was the Prototype 2.0. In a nutshell, he's an improved model on the typical hold-up striker that pervades American soccer and MLS. If you had any doubts that more of these American forwards are still rolling off the assembly line, Adam Jahn says his hellos.

Terrence Boyd is an exotic peculiarity in this rolling sea of sameness. If you'll permit me a dose of hyperbole, his skill set represents the kernel of the true 2.0 that can transform the cult of the American striker.

U.S. soccer has never really produced a 2.0. It's a tough niche to fill. On one hand, the 2.0 has the off-ball ability to breach slivers of space and graft himself onto the only free patch of grass available. On the other, he has technical foot skills and lavish ideas you don't typically see from guys who play up front. Think Cavani, Van Persie, Ibra.

Strikers, especially in the hold-up American mold, have more in common with defenders than most would care to admit. They can be capricious and clumsy in possession. The majority of the world's strikers are trusted consistently with hoofing the ball the final few yards it takes to snap off a shot. Other than that, a striker is a glorified dummy. This applies to Steven Lenhart in more ways than one.

In fact, wingers are so scarce and in such demand in the highest tiers of the U.S. pyramid that even the slightest bit of aptitude on possession will generally get you moved back or outward. Every now and then, though, a technical improvement trickles through the clogged pipe and lands at the very tip of the trident.

This is Boyd.

I'm doing my best to avoid embellishment because, after all, Boyd is only 22. But what potential. He has the tools; at this point, his maturation is about coalescence. In 28 games with Rapid Wien in the Austrian Bundesliga this season, Boyd has 12 goals and six assists. He had three more and an assist in nine Europa League matches and yet another goal and assist in the Austrian Cup.

But how Boyd makes things happen is perhaps more exciting than the fact that he does make things happen. One of the great wonders of a world-class soccer player is the ability to more or less subdue the flamboyant impulses. The truly great players are programmed with the ability to stay compact and flip on those abilities only in the tightest of spaces. Look at Iniesta. Everything appears so staid, until in a moment he's clicked a pass off his back heel and he's into space. It's the surprise, my friends.

Boyd is not without his imperfections, but he appears to have a latent understanding of this lofty ideal. The reason we know he can do things normal prototypes either cannot or will not try is because of the bike he rode against Roma last summer. It wasn't something you see from Americans. You doff your top hat and bow deeply. But that represents a very small entry-point into why Boyd can make such an enormous difference for the U.S. His Austrian highlight reel isn't a dozen bikes. While yes, Boyd has proficiency on the ball, he understands shrewd positioning. He's very much like Herculez Gomez in this sense, only he's been outfitted with a more impressive bag of physical tricks. That should excite you.

Watch Boyd's goals for Rapid Wien and the common thread is that most of them come off wide crosses. In most he's a step ahead of his marker. He'll whirl into place just as the cross comes into view, and often he's already done the difficult work before the ball arrives.

One of his most impressive displays to date was a two-goal, one-assist performance against Wacker Innsbruck last summer. Let's walk through his performance. You can start with his first here with his first goal, a sublime effort that, yes, sees him a step ahead. Fast forward to the 4:05 mark and you'll see the interjection of that tantalizing acrobatic ability. His sideways bike skids just wide of the target. He smiles wide after the effort, as if to say, yeah, pretty ridiculous.

Start at 4:30 for his assist. He shields off his defender and flat-out wins a 50/50 ball. Here you can see a brief flurry of his on-ball ability as he cleaves into the box and then feeds for a nifty, easy-as-you-like 1-2 goal.

The movement on his third goal (cue up the movement at about 5:10) is one of those Altidore-vs-Spain goals. He's done the heavy lifting before the shot, and a less-than-perfect connection still manages to beat a keeper who might've been expected to do more. What impressed me most here is that Boyd was able to keep his spacing perfect between his two backs. Not the most powerful of goals, but what matters is that they go in.

The problem with this approach is that the U.S. is service-deficient on the wings. When Graham Zusi is deployed on the right, he tends to pinch inward and look for movement through the middle. When Brad Davis is deployed on the left, he tends to fall through the earth. With those two crossers out of the equation, the burden will generally be put more on Boyd to produce without overt assistance.

This isn't beyond him, but it helps explain why strikers in our pool are often starved for opportunity. If Altidore wants the ball, he often has to go get it. This is why Clint Dempsey is typically the most productive, consistent goal-scorer on a routine basis. He's not stranded up top because he routinely drops deep for the ball. He forcibly injects himself into the proceedings.

Boyd will have to figure all this out in time. As every U.S. national striker who plays in Europe discovers eventually, you have to work a bit harder to excel here. If anyone's been outfitted with the tools to do it, it's Boyd.

And I didn't mention Clint Mathis once. What a waste.

Thoughts? Comments? Objections? Is there another U.S. striker who warrants the Will Parchman analysis? Tell us below.

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