[BEST OF MLS 2011: Attacking midfielders] The third installment of Soccer America’s 2011 Positional Rankings puts the spotlight on attacking midfielders, and league MVP Dwayne De Rosario’s remarkable season earns him top spot.
SA's Top 10 Attacking Midfielders
1. Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United)
2. Mauro Rosales (Seattle)
3. Brad Davis (Houston)
4. David Beckham (Los Angeles)
5. Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)
6. Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
7. Davide Chiumiento (Vancouver)
8. Marco Pappa (Chicago)
9. Benny Feilhaber (New England)
10. Simon Dawkins (San Jose)
The classification of attacking midfielder is not limited to players who are deployed centrally, and in a few cases is assigned arbitrarily to those who were deployed in different spots during the season. Some attacking mids are playmakers looking to pass, others prefer to attack directly, i.e., shoot.
Some, like Dwayne De Rosario, do a lot of both. He not only played up top and out wide in addition to attacking mid, he started the season in Toronto and played briefly for the Red Bulls before yet another trade sent him to D.C. United, which leaned heavily on his prowess after another creative influence, Chris Pontuis, went down with an injury.
Players who often take up wide positions yet carry the brunt of their team’s attacking impetus – Mauro Rosales, Brad Davis, Davide Chiumiento, Marco Pappa – have been put in this category rather than as flank midfielders. This is far from a perfect system and in a fluid sport such as soccer such designations will never fit every player snugly, but more importantly, they define a role within a team, not a specific, rigid position on the field.
Because a broken leg limited him to 10 regular season games, RSL playmaker Javier Morales – without question one of the league’s best – is excluded from this year’s rankings. So, too, is FC Dallas catalyst David Ferreira (six games).
During his 11-year MLS career, De Rosario has been called a midfielder playing up top as well as a forward deployed in midfield. He’s all of that and in 2011, scored an impressive array of amazing goals. Seldom has a player been as equally dangerous going for goal as while setting up a chance, as his 16 goals and 12 assists attest.
Rosales finished among the league leaders with 13 assists and his late-season absences due to a sprained MCL greatly hampered the Sounders’ attack. Davis floated inside from his customary spot on the left side notch a league-high 16 assists and without him in the title game Houston didn’t get much going offensively. David Beckham’s unerring deliveries on set plays were accompanied by some great passing displays as he totaled 15 regular-season assists and four more in the playoffs. Nick LaBrocca tailed off in the last two months of the season yet there in some games he outshone everyone else on the field.
Graham Zusi played at the advanced point of a three-man midfield triangle and while doing a fair share of defensive work funneled the ball efficiently to SKC’s attacking tridente. Chiumiento labored through some cold spells while also bedazzling the opposition on his way to nine assists. Pappa played on both flanks and in the middle as a goal-threatening catalyst who scored eight times.
Benny Feilhaber came to MLS in hopes of reviving his national-team career and while influential at times, his decent numbers (23 games, four goals, seven assists) were a product of inconsistency as well as a sputtering team.
The Quakes sorely need to retain the clever and incisive forays of Simon Dawkins after he got six goals and two assists while on loan from Tottenham.