I’ve never had much interest in soccer. My ex-boyfriend tried to get me into it years ago, when “his team” was considered a contender for the World Cup. I genuinely couldn’t even say what year or what team.
This year is different. This year, my own motherland is a contender for the first time since 1998. Croatia had only recently gained independence from Yugoslavia. The nation wasn’t even admitted into FIFA until 1992. Yet six years later, they made it all the way to the World Cup semifinals.
As I was watching the Croatian match against Russia on Saturday with baited breath—the teams going into penalties, mine with an injured goalkeeper, I began thinking about the complications that face this classy, aptly-named sport, in conversation with our “football.” If we put 11 New York Giants players on a soccer pitch, who might they be?
Placing the New York Giants Projected Starters on a Field With Fewer Lines
The differences between soccer and football may not be as stark as argued. They are both, undoubtedly, full body sports. Soccer is played with feet, primarily, other than when the ball comes in contact with the goal when a goalkeeper can use their hands to deflect. In football, feet are used in field goals and kickoffs. That aside, the same kind of strategic play is necessary to keep the ball in check, and in soccer, that requires players who burst with versatility.
For starters, we’d need a fearsome but agile pass rusher as goalkeeper—someone to horrify the little strikers who dare to challenge him in the penalty box, but who can also get their hands on the ball to reject the ferocious attempts that come his way. Lawrence Taylor or Michael Strahan would have excelled in this role, were they still around, but rookie Will Hernandez could also be that guy. At 6’2″ and 327 pounds of visible mass, and a wealth of experience and hunger as seen from his time at UTEP, he has the potential to be just as terrifying in the goal as he is to the defensive linemen who will attempt to block him this upcoming season. He has the passion and agility of Croatia’s Danijel Subasic, plus strength and frame to fill the net and intimidate the opposition.
A traditional 4-4-2 formation features four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. Choosing a large defense and a smaller offense plays to the Giants strengths, since the midfielders play a good amount of both offense and defense as it is, and we have the two dexterous speedsters we need to support a big corps of blockers.
In the midfield, they’d have the support of some big guys who aren’t afraid of handling the ball in a protective nature. Janoris Jenkins may have had a shortened season this past year, but made his first Pro Bowl after his inaugural season with the Giants, and in his 24 games with the team, has recorded six interceptions and two touchdowns, deflecting 27 passes, and performing 70 tackles with an additional nine assists. He clearly has the versatility of skills to be a very effective midfielder.
Evan Engram has the size and running game to join forces with him as both a defender and passer and Sterling Shepard has a solid track record with 1,414 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in his two-year career with the Giants. Rounding out the middle of the field might be Cody Latimer, who is new to Big Blue after four years with the Denver Broncos, from which he holds a title from Super Bowl 50. He has a background in basketball and at three different American football positions. His ability to control the pace on field gives him a useful skill for a FIFA field. And after the termination of Brandon Marshall’s contract, his hunger for play has made him a predicted starter on this year’s Giants team, and a potential force to be reckoned with on any field.
Speaking of hunger, let’s talk defenders, shall we? The best move a Giants soccer team could make would be to put Damon (Snacks) Harrison in front of the goalie, to protect Hernandez. Newly-acquired two-time Super Bowl champion Nate Solder is an obvious fit as well, in his ability to cover the team’s forwards—much like what he does so well on the American football field. Of course, Olivier Vernon, who will be transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker in Pat Shurmur’s new 3-4 scheme, exudes adaptability, and boasts 44.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles, alluding to his ability to throw off the opposing team’s forwards. To close out the defense, Landon Collins, the strong safety, would play a similar role. The G-Men’s interception machine has the agility and run to dance around his fellow competitors in a strategic and useful way.
And sure, it wouldn’t suck to have Eli Manning on the side for throw-ins and maybe Riley Dixon for corner kicks. Unfortunately, soccer doesn’t have specialists for those things—which would drive our SINGULAR coach absolutely insane.
Perhaps the idea of a Giants soccer team is totally flawed, but the skills that I’ve examined in our team can definitely translate from one game to another, and we’ll see how they materialize onto a field with many more lines this coming fall.