[MLS] Soccer America's position-by-position rankings for the 2010 season continue as Ridge Mahoney rates the league's top center backs.
Center backs work in tandem and in different systems. Sometimes a strict zonal system is used, in other cases one player serves primarily as a marking back with the other sweeping and plugging holes as they occur. Ideally, both center backs will be reliable in the tackle and strong in the air, with at least one blessed with enough speed to run down long balls played over the top.
The players listed here rated the highest for individual performance as well as their effectiveness in the system and formation played by their teams.
Soccer America's Top 12 MLS center backs for 2010
1. JAMISON OLAVE (Real Salt Lake)
2. Drew Moor (Colorado)
3. Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake)
4. Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles)
5. Tim Ream (New York)
6. George John (FC Dallas)
7. Chad Marshall (Columbus)
8. Jason Hernandez (San Jose)
9. Jeff Parke (Seattle)
10. Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas)
11. Marvell Wynne (Colorado)
12. Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City)
Jamison Olave led an RSL defense that set a league record by conceding just 20 goals and led the league with 14 shutouts. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Colombian certainly has the size and strength ideal for a center back, yet he’s also reasonably fast and is seldom exposed due to a shrewd sense of anticipation. With his range he gets into tackles other center backs can’t reach, which explains somewhat his eight cautions. He’s also occasionally punished for simply overpowering players but that’s how it works in MLS, even for its Defender of the Year.
Drew Moor formed a solid pairing with ex-right back Marvell Wynne and defused numerous situations with his ability to win balls in the air and read situations quickly. Nat Borchers performed solidly all season and was a Defender of the Year finalist. Omar Gonzalez played with several different back-line combinations as last year’s partner, Gregg Berhalter, managed just 16 games. In another season Tim Ream could have won Rookie of the Year, so calm and poised were his performances. In just his second pro season John displayed excellent judgment (only three cautions) and ability.
Chad Marshall played sharply and cleanly much of the year but too often he and the Crew fell victim to the top teams. Jason Hernandez played outside back and in the center for a Quakes’ back line severely crimped by injuries. Jeff Parke stepped into a disassembled Sounders’ back line and steered them down the stretch. Ugo Ihemelu and Wynne were vital cogs for the two MLS Cup finalists and Conrad’s experience wasn’t enough for KC to recover from a poor run early in the season.