Ropapa Mensah, London Woodberry, and Jordan Dunstan are the newest Boys in Gold

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A couple days back, NSC added some talent. It is time to talk about that talent.

Ropapa Mensah

Mensah was the headliner of Tuesday’s announcement, and indeed is one of the headliners of the roster so far: he’s a proven goal-scorer moving from a situation where he was one of the only bright spots for a team that was otherwise pretty bad.

Mensah made appearances in 19 of 32 games for the Harrisburg City Islanders last year. That may seem questionable, but they were very much a team with no ironmen in 2017: the greatest number of games played for any player was 28, and Mensah played the 12th-most minutes despite striker being a position that traditionally sees more heavy rotation. Given that he was 19 at the beginning of the year and didn’t see significant time until later – and was clearly dominant in that time – I’m willing to mark it up as a non-issue going forward. Despite what one might consider limited usage, he scored seven goals (nobody else on the team had more than three) and added two assists; he was responsible for nine of the City Islanders’ 27 goals last year, outstanding production whether he was getting limited minutes or not.

A 6-1 forward who just turned 20 during the end of last USL season (his birthday is in late August) and has that type of output for a bad team is going to be a hot commodity. That NSC only has him on lone from his parent club (Inter Allies) in his native Ghana gives the impression that they may get just a year or two of production out of him… but from my perspective, it’s more likely that the option to outright buy him at the end of the loan is capitalized upon, especially given the MLS move coming up. He’s the sort of player who should not only be able to contribute to an MLS squad within a couple years, but has star potential in the league.

Here are some highlights:

He has some Clint Dempsey in him: a goal-scorer who nevertheless likes to drop a little deeper into the midfield to collect the ball and distribute it (though he’s also strong and skilled enough to be an effective hold-up striker). He’s not the fastest dude, but has good strength on the ball to shield off defenders, and a knack for finding open space. He’s also willing to shoot from distance, but does a little bit of everything when it comes to scoring his goals.

Let’s do a quick dive into the stats to suss out a bit of meaning from what our lying eyes have told us: He took 47 shots, 23 on-target (and indeed, shots off-target are a pretty significant portion of the above video, given that it’s a highlight reel), scoring six times with the right foot and once with the head. He’s a one-footed shooter all the way. Although only one of his goals came outside the box, you can see above that a couple of them were also right on the edge of it, too – with a couple cheeky chips and the header inside the six mixed in.

In addition to his shooting accuracy (or perhaps decision-making on when to shoot – the old Clint Dempsey “tries shit” can be a blessing and a curse), an area you’d like to see him improve is passing accuracy. At just 73.1% overall and 66.2% in the opponent’s half – where a striker is going to tend to play – there’s major room to grow. Some of that will likely get better by simple virtue of not playing for a very bad team (knock on wood, I guess, until we actually know NSC will be as good as it seems based on the roster acquisitions). Some of it is a matter of youth and not getting into the mix until the initial lineup was a bit established. Some of it is going to have to come from within, though.

This is a very high-upside player, and Gary Smith’s comment “every opportunity to be a real fan favorite” seems legit, especially when he starts pouring in goals.

As alluded to above, Harrisburg was anemic offensively, with their 28 goals the third-fewest in the Eastern Conference (and, in giving up 47, they ended at -19 in goal differential, worse than all but the god-awful Toronto FC II). It’s hard to blame him for his team being bad, and indeed it seems likely that they would have been far worse without him.

London Woodberry

Woodberry, a 26-year old defender, has plenty of high-level experience: he was cut from the New England Revolution after making just three appearances last Summer, but played in 25 (23 starts) and 18 in the previous two seasons for the Revs. The previous two years, he was a squad player but made limited appearances for FC Dallas – for whom he was a homegrown signing.

A stint in USL to revive a career that had been getting dangerously close to “stagnant” in Boston is probably just what the doctor ordered. A guy who was having trouble seeing minutes in MLS is also still very capable of not only contributing to a lower-division side, but being a very high-caliber contributor in it (similar to Minnesota United signing Justin Davis).

“At 26, London is in the prime of his career,” Smith said. “With over 50 MLS appearances already to his name, he has excellent experience. He is a wonderful athlete and comfortable in possession, qualities which make him a great addition to the group.”

Smith highlighting his athleticism likely indicates that Woodberry’s primary role is going to be at right back (though he also worked at center back in MLS), where he can defend pretty well, but also get forward in the attack. In his two heavily-used years with the Revs in 2015 and 2016, he scored a single goal (on a set piece) on nine total shots, but he contributed two assists in ’15, too. He’s not a dangerously physical player, with 13 yellows across both those seasons.

He’s a former US Youth international, though is outside of the national team picture now. New England finished seventh in the MLS’s Eastern Conference last Summer, with 61 goals conceded, better than only LA Galaxy (67 allowed) and Minnesota United (70). That he couldn’t get onto the field for that team – especially after contributing to better Revs teams the previous two years (they matched the finish of seventh in 2016, but had a much better defense, and were fifth in the East in 2015) is a head-scratcher. The Revs had a pretty flexible backline – with several players used in multiple different roles across it – last year, which speaks to why the last squad player was unable to crack it… but also a little more troublesome that he couldn’t do so, even to steal a few minutes here and there.

Jordan Dunstan

The 6-2, 215-pound center back will have to make a quick trip up Interstate 24 for the next stop of his career after playing for the NPSL’s Chattanooga FC last year. He’s been with Chattanooga since 2014, though lost almost the entirety of his 2016 to an ACL tear, so the 2017 campaign is what really got him on the radar.

You can see based on his sheer size that he’s going to be a physical presence on the backline, and indeed he contributed to  very good CFC defense, which allowed seven goals in 12 games (with uneven schedules across the league, that’s one of the best marks, though the results range from three goals allowed in 16 games for FC Arizona to 71 allowed in 14 games for FC Aris). The team finished this in the Southeast Division of the South Conference, behind New Orleans Jesters and Knoxville Force – though thanks to giving up so few goals, CFC was comfortable atop the goal differential chart there. He played primarily left back, but his size (and the depth at that spot as compared to central defense) probably is a better fit for the middle going forward.

Here are his 2017 highlights:

The first 30 seconds are a long-throw reel, so… that’s an aspect he brings to the team, I guess? Much of his traditional passing – the kind that happens with the feet – is also of the long variety, and he puts nice pace and height on those long passes. He’s pretty much all-left, forgoing open players that a right-footed pass could find to play a less dangerous/effective pass with his preferred foot. He’s also physical and willing/able to play the ball with his head, which – if playing centrally ends up being his usage – is going to be an important part of his game if he’s to see the field this year.

“Jordan is a big, powerful, left-footed outside or center back with great potential,” Smith said. “I have high expectations for his first professional season and look forward to seeing Jordan grow into a formidable defender.”

The tone of that indicates a belief that he can develop pretty quickly with professional-caliber instruction.

3 thoughts on “Ropapa Mensah, London Woodberry, and Jordan Dunstan are the newest Boys in Gold

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