IRVING, Texas – The news became official Thursday that Jozy Altidore won't be available when the United States faces Portgual in its second World Cup game on Sunday night.
On the surface, you might struggle to see why an injured soccer forward pertains to the Dallas Cowboys. That is, until you realize Altidore went down with a hamstring injury – something the Cowboys know plenty about.
That quickly turned into a workplace conversation at Valley Ranch: which Cowboys player would you send to Brazil to fill in for the ailing Altidore? The resounding answer was Dez Bryant.
Only we didn't stop there. With a little bit of time and extra effort, we opted to just make an entire soccer roster out of the Cowboys' locker room. The official name of this franchise is technically the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, but today we're taking that a little bit literally and forming up Cowboys F.C.
Here's our Starting XI:
There was some debate about whether Dez belonged in goal or at striker, but he settled it himself when he told us emphatically "Goalie. Nothing would get past me." He's got good size, great hands and we've all seen his acrobatic abilities in getting to tough catches. We tend to agree with his assessment.
You want tenacity and refusal to lose from a defender, so Scandrick fits the bill in that regard. We're thinking of him as a left back, where he'd be able to use his speed and agility to push up the field and bolster the Cowboys' attack.
Ideally, a central defender should be big and bulky enough to box out opposing attackers and keep them from creating chances, but you also want him to have some athleticism. Escobar fits both of those requirements, as he's 6-5 but ran a 4.84 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine in 2013.
He's not quite as big as Escobar, but he's bulkier, stronger and even more athletic. He was one of the Cowboys' leading tacklers last year, and he could fill that role again in central defense.
We wanted Cowboys F.C. to be attack-minded, so we put a dynamic playmaker at right back, once again to help the offense if need be. It doesn't hurt that Harris proved in 2013 he's one of the most tenacious tacklers on this team.
World Cup fever has taken over Valley Ranch, where the staff of DallasCowboys.com came up with the Cowboys??? starting 11, albeit for a different sport entirely.
Any soccer team worth its salt has a box-to-box midfielder who can range all over the field, who understands angles and who isn't afraid to lay down the law as a tackler. That describes Barry Church as a safety, so he seems like a smart choice to be the Cowboys' rugged defensive midfielder.
We had to include the guy with the big left foot on the roster, right? Jones has the distinction as the Cowboys' punter of being left-footed, which makes him a perfect fit for the left side of midfield. If he can down the ball inside the 20, he can lay it into the box on a pinpoint cross.
Across the field from the lefty, why not put the big-footed, insanely accurate righty? Bailey is deadly accurate from anywhere within 53 or so yards, which would make him dangerous on a soccer field. Also, he's got plenty of experience with dead ball kicks – that makes him a natural fit to handle free kicks, corner kicks and even penalty kicks.
Central, attacking midfielders are similar to point guards – they should be among your team's best passers, they should be able to keep possession of the ball and they should make everyone else better. Romo fills that role every week for the Cowboys with his arm, and it's easy to see him doing it with his feet, as well.
By American football standards, Dunbar is tiny. But he's got a skillset that would give opposing defenses fits. He's incredibly fast, as anyone can attest, and his small stature gives him a low center of gravity -- making him hard to knock off the ball. His experience as a running back should also lend him some fantastic footwork.
If you're going to stick a small guy like Dunbar up top, you need a bigger player to partner with him. Williams has size, at 6-2, 209 pounds – for reference, Altidore is 6-1, 175. He's also got the speed to get behind a defense, as the Denver Broncos' secondary can attest. He'd give the Cowboys a bigger target to look toward if Dunbar can't be found.
Off the Bench
Again, he's small, but Beasley's speed and slippery capabilities make him an interesting option in attack – either as a centralized midfielder or an attacker.
Murray's speed and his vision also make him an enticing option for an attacking role. But then you think about him bowling through the line of scrimmage, and it's easy to imagine him in an enforcer role as either a defensive midfielder or a center back.
With an astounding vertical jump of 41.5 inches, it's easy to picture Hamilton flying through the box to deliver a devastating header. It also helps that he's got top-notch speed and a willingness to fight for the ball.