FIVE-A-SIDE | Josh Williams' picks

5-a-side - Josh Williams

We asked defender Josh Williamsto pick his own five-a-side team consisting of players he's either played with or against during his career, including one current or former Crew SC teammate.

David Villa (Forward, Retired)

Background: The two players briefly played with each other during their respective stints in New York City, and as a defender, Williams gave an in-depth interpretation as to why he chose some like Villa - one of the greatest Spanish strikers of all-time - to his five-a-side team.

Josh's Explanation: "I tried to think of a five-v-five match with tight spaces, a lot of shots on goal. You’ve got to be able to create your own shots, and when you do create your own shots, you’ve got to be able to finish it. Being around him, for the time that I was in New York City, he’s just an absolute poacher. You give him a sliver of space and he’s going to make it. Whether it’s near-post, far-post – he’s one of the best pure strikers on the ball that I’ve ever been around. To me, if you want a number nine up there in a five-v-five game where space is compact and you want to get a quick goal, there are not many other better players that I’ve played with who can find space, create space for themselves then punch for themselves.

I thought [during] my time with David, his ability to see the ball and create space and then wiggle, he was always a little deceptive. When he came to the league, people thought he was a little past his prime and slow, and I remember training, almost every day you would see him in tight spaces proceed a ball, turn a guy, and then be able to explode just enough to create separation and once he had separation, he was an absolute killer."

Sebastian Giovinco (Forward, Al-Hilal Riyadh)

Background: The Italian striker was the driving force behind Toronto FC's rise throughout the late 2010's, and is the second MLS MVP on Josh's list, along with Villa. The two players overlapped at TFC, with Josh recalling some unreal moments from the "ultimate creator of space."

Josh's Explanation: "That year [2015] he was incredible. In training every day, he would pull something out of his hat, and would do something that I hadn’t seen before, so it was an absolute pleasure playing with him. He’s just so, talk about unassuming, he was the smallest guy on the field by far, and he’s another guy where you always thought you could get a touch to him or body him or be physical with him, but he would just slip under your arm or slip out of a tackle. What makes him so special is I think his balance is incredible: he was able to ride tackles. I can’t tell you how many times I myself tried to foul him or at the least, tackle or bump him and he just kind of rides your momentum and kind of jumps through it and lands on both feet and be gone. 

The MVP season that I played with him, he was absolutely unstoppable. He did stuff in games that just had me screaming on the field like a fan watching. There would be times where you’d find yourself watching a couple steps back and out of position because you expected him to pick it up, dribble a couple guys and bang one in.

I think, especially in a five-v-five game imagining in my head, talking about being able to create space, this guy was the ultimate creator of space, and I feel like you could give him a ball any place: you could hit it at his chest, thighs, head and he would collect the ball, spin a guy, hit his left and right foot. His ability to hit the ball equally with his left foot as his right is incredible. You cannot top that ability and I think that is so undervalued, as he’s known for free kicks and scoring goals but his underrated quality is passing. He could hit any ball, outside foot, and be perfect. So to have a guy like that who would be quick and create space and also a killer, along with that other killer, Giovinco was an easy one for me."

Michael Bradley (Midfielder, Toronto FC)

Background: The two crossed paths during Josh's time in Toronto, and from a centerback-to-midfielder perspective, he had an interesting vantage point into the intangibles of Bradley and things that you may not easily notice as a fan from the stands. 

Josh's Explanation: "Michael was another one that was pretty easy. He’s the best that I’ve ever played with being able to close guys down, like almost sprint at them, and he almost was going too fast where you could get beat, but his ability to arrive in the tackle and come away with the ball was second-to-none for me. On top of that, he’s just a great passer. His touch is always great, the weight of the pass is always good, he covers an incredible amount of ground, his work rate is second-to-none. Sometimes you don’t necessarily see that if you’re a fan, or you don’t necessarily appreciate that for who he is and what he brings to the game but as a teammate, he puts out so many fires.

On top of that, his passing range: he’s able to start, he’s able to literally collect the ball, run back, approach a guy, break down on defense, steal the ball and then hit a long ball. He is able to recover a ball, then start the counterattack. To me, having a guy like who is a midfielder would work in a five-v-five game where lot of it is one-v-one. It’s good having a midfielder in the center of the park who is safe on the ball, and can play both sides of the ball, so I think Michael Bradley is a good fit there."

Chad Marshall (Defender, Retired)

Background: From one centerback to another, this was an easy choice, according to Josh. Forget the logistics of 5-v-5; if Josh needed a centerback in any game, Marshall is his choice, he explains.

Josh's Explanation:  "Yeah, this was probably the easiest one for me. Keeping in mind the five-v-five game, having played with him, he’s the best one-v-one defender I’ve ever played with. He could actually hit a ball. He’s one of the best strikers of the ball as far as defenders I’ve ever played with, and that’s something not that many people know or even focus on. He can hit a ball so clean.

His shot-blocking: when I’m thinking about five-v-five, it is a lot of one-v-one defending but occasionally you have to wiggle somebody in order to block and have the ball deflect out. His ability to block shots is second-to-none, and he is the biggest body I’ve played against. This one was the easiest for me. If you want a defender in any game – I don’t even care what game you’re playing, if you want a defender – Chad Marshall is who you get."

Milton Valenzuela (Defender, Crew SC)

Background: Fit, tenacious, disciplined, left-footed; there's not much Valenzuela isn't capable of (though he's always asking for feedback, as Josh notes). With Valenzuela on the left and Marshall on the right, Josh's back two is set.

Josh's Explanation: "This is a running joke: Milton is my favorite player on the team right now. I try to tell him that every day. I’ll text him and tell him that I miss him [laughing].

As far as a five-v-five, he’s such a competitor. He’s young, he’s agile, he’s an absolute dog on defense, he hardly ever gets beat on one-v-one, and on my team, I’d have Chad on the right, Milton on the left because he’s a left-footed player. Offensively, he’s able to get up and down. He’s super fit and can create his own shot if he needs to or he can create a cross. He’s always disciplined on defense and he’s willing to get into a tackle. He listens and is an awesome guy. 

He’s open to criticism and he’s always asking how he can improve himself and he’s the ultimate team-guy. He’s in it for the team every game, so this is another easy one. Oh, and he’s my favorite player [laughs]. 

He’s a great guy and a great teammate, and if the fans don’t appreciate him, they need to because he’s a special player and as young as he is, you hardly come across a player who is quick to learn and mature at his age like Milton."

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