In lieu of my immense boredom while sitting home and doing relatively nothing aside from shuffling my feet around the house, I decided to start a FIFA series a couple weeks ago. Here is the second edition of my youth squad only series.
In season one, the team was wildly mediocre, finishing in 21st in League 2 after purging the team of all of its real players and playing solely 50 to 60 overall 16-year-olds from the youth academy.
At season’s end, we had acquired some interesting talent, namely LW Will Robinson, 60 overall, out of England. He’s one to keep an eye on throughout this series. We were in desperate need of forwards after scoring just 48 goals on the year. Oof.
There is much more soccer to be played in this series, so let’s get into season two.
There were quite a few decisions to make once July 1 came around.
I had to cut Rodrigo Ramallo, our lone talented striker, because I mistakenly signed him as a free agent without checking to see if he was a real player — spoiler, he is.
Then in pre-season I made Robinson our striker at the top and moved Cedric van Leeuwan, a Dutch left-winger, our left-forward for the season.
At our first check in, after the January transfer window, where I sold off a large portion of the existing players from the club, Robinson was leading the team in goals with 10 as the team sat in 9th place. We got as high as 6th but started to struggle with our fitness because of all of the young, physically undeveloped players.
Two months later, we got back up to 6th with 63 points, fighting among the playoff spots. Unfortunately, just as things were going well, we got hit with massive injury to starting midfielder Pedro Jesus, who we got in one of our scout future stars. He was lost for the remainder of the season with an MCL tear.
A crushing injury struck again on the last day of the season: Will Robinson sprained his ankle and was out for the playoffs. After fighting for the fifth spot on 78 points, we’d be out our main front man and a starting midfielder for the rest of the season.
Despite the massive losses, in the first round of the playoffs we beat Forest Green in back-to-back games 2-1 away and then 3-1 at home to move on. I was named the manager of the month for May after this display.
Then in round two against the Wycombe Wanderers, van Leeuwan popped up at the right time and secured us a 2-1 win and promotion to League 1.
We finished the season at 23-9-14, but MK Dons easily won the league with 104 points and a 32-8-6 record.
We had the second-best defense in the league thanks to Alain Koffi and Ollie Hall, two rock-solid center backs. Goalkeeper Mazime Thijs led the league with 15 clean sheets on the year.
The team finally unlocked their scoring potential as Robinson finished the year 11th in scoring, with 16 league goals, and midfielder Ivan Miranda led the league with 10 assists. Miranda also scored 11 goals across all competition.
In total, we scored 59 goals and gave up just 41 in league matchups.
Our second year of this experiment was wildly successful, and the team drastically grew. Here was the year’s team sheet:
GK Maxime Thijs, Belgium, 74 overall (plus 14 overall from last year)
LB Michael Schwarze, Germany, 69 overall (plus seven)
CB Ollie Hall, England, 78 overall (plus five)
CB Alain Koffi, Ivory Coast, 68 overall (plus seven)
RB Patrice Fofana, Ivory Coast, 67 overall (plus three)
CM Owen Martin, England, 72 overall (plus six)
CM Ivan Miranda, Spain, 69 overall (plus four)
CM Pedro Jesus, Brazil, 65 overall (plus nine)
LF Cedric van Leeuwan, Netherlands, 62 overall (plus seven)
ST Will Robinson, England, 70 overall (plus 10)
RF Miguel Cruz, Brazil, 68 overall (plus three)
I am generally very happy with this team but there are going to be some changes coming to the side.
Last article, I mentioned that I had been unimpressed with Cruz’ production from the right forward spot. This season he contributed just six goals and two assists in 38 games, which is just frankly not enough from someone in the front three. He just isn’t doing it for me from that spot, so I’m going to try to find a replacement.
I will also be looking to give van Leeuwan’s spot to a newfound winger named Justin Bakker out of the Netherlands. He has 90-plus potential and he’s a much better finisher than van Leeuwan.
For the same reason, I am switching Fofana for a young Argentinian right-back named Hernan Carrizo. He reminds me of a Danilo-type, who’s a Brazilian right back for Juventus. He’s got really consistent 60’s and 70’s for stats across the board, and I even played him in the midfield at times for cup games. He also has 90-plus potential, so look for him to grow fast over the next few years.
Onto next season we go.
Running on the high of last year’s miraculous promotion to League 1, I jumped right into season three, stopping for a granola bar and a glass of iced tea (yes, it was zona hours, boys).
Now tasked with a new league, I decided to start offloading the dead weight left on the team. Throughout July and August my main goal was to move on from the high-40 and low-50 overall youth players we had acquired to get the team off the ground. I also finally got all of the real players off the team, after selling and releasing the stragglers who had been rotting away in the reserves.
We got off to a stunning start, with 19 points by Sept. 13, when we lost our first game. We were miles ahead of everyone in the league, as the level of competition wasn’t particularly different from League 2.
Moving around the attacking situation and inserting Carrizo at right back had been the right move for us — that is, until Carrizo broke his tibia and was out for four months. Yep, it happened again.
As fixtures and minor injuries started to pile up come January, we started to drift off of our mountain. Second-place Burton Albion was just one point down on us as January hit.
Our team just doesn’t have the stamina to play in multiple games in a week yet, so I had to form a second team and more or less alternate them as the season went on. I was forced to play them way more than I’d like to, but at least it helped boost them up as a result.
We slipped even further, falling three points under riser Sunderland with 69 points on March 20. Thankfully, Carrizo came back and was slotted into our defense immediately, while Fofana was sent down to our second team.
With a chance to tie Sunderland on March 31, we were unable to overcome their home pitch advantage, tying 1-1 and squandering a key opportunity.
Then as April’s swath of fixtures came at us, we started to struggle with fitness yet again, which is potentially a massive problem going forward. Especially considering we got hit with the news that Justin Bakker will be out four weeks with a sprained ankle, sidelining him for key games down the stretch.
Despite all of the fitness concerns, we were able to go on a run and tie Sunderland at 80 points on April 21. We promptly took the league lead with a win over Charlton Town with our B-team. We then beat Luton Town on the final day to secure the league win with 89 points, two points clear of second-place Sunderland.
We finished 25-14-7 on the year with 78 goals scored and just 37 allowed, both best in the league.
Jesus and Robinson tied for the team lead in goals with 14 apiece in league play. That is good for T-12 in goals for the both, but Robinson actually led the league with 10 assists, despite playing less matches than anyone else in the top 5.
Thijs came in third in the league in clean sheets with 14, three less than Burton Albion ‘keeper Bradley Collins.
The team saw some more growth, mainly thanks to the training feature and really strong play throughout. Here was the starting eleven come season’s end:
GK Maxime Thijs, Belgium, 77 overall (plus three)
LB Michael Schwarze, Germany, 77 overall (plus nine)
CB Ollie Hall, England, 81 overall (plus three)
CB Alain Koffi, Ivory Coast, 70 overall (plus two)
RB Hernan Carrizo, Argentina, 71 overall (plus 11)
CM Owen Martin, England, 75 overall (plus three)
CM Ivan Miranda, Spain, 73 overall (plus four)
CM Pedro Jesus, Brazil, 76 overall (plus 11)
LF Justin Bakker, Netherlands, 76 overall (plus 11)
ST Will Robinson, England, 77 overall (plus seven)
RF Miguel Cruz, Brazil, 69 overall (plus one)
There were just a couple changes to the team, which is now entirely 70-plus overall except Cruz on the right-hand side. I wasn’t able to find a direct replacement for him yet, but there are a couple prospects waiting in the wings to potentially take his spot going forward.
Carrizo wasn’t able to fully find his footing, likely due to the injury, but he’s grown rapidly so I expect his stats to come along nicely as we proceed.
Jesus made an incredible leap in production this season, and I may even look to move the Brazilian up to the right forward spot. He features great pace and finishing, with 87 sprint speed and 86 finishing, to go along with ridiculous dribbling ability, 94 dribbling and 84 ball control, that could make him a star up front.
Next season I’ll be looking to clear out the lower ranks some more, selling off a trove of redundant 60 overall or so midfielders who just aren’t going to crack the squad. I’d also like to add another center back to help shore up the second team’s defense.
There are some really interesting prospects coming through, and the first team is good enough to compete with the Championship, so I will be focusing my training on the youth squad for the near future.
This was a very successful stretch. Hopefully we can continue it at the next level. Stay healthy, my friends.