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Shea stands above left-sided midfielders
by Ridge Mahoney, December 8th, 2011 7:57PM

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[BEST OF MLS 2011: Left midfielders] His play for the national team has attracted lukewarm interest from foreign teams, and in his fourth pro season FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea, 21, took his place among the best midfielders in the league.

SA's Top 10 Left Midfielders

1. Brek Shea (FC Dallas)
2. Joel Lindpere (New York)
3. Alvaro Fernandez (Seattle)
4. Chris Pontius (D.C. United)
5. Mike Magee (Los Angeles)
6. Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake)
7. Justin Mapp (Philadelphia)
8. Robbie Rogers (Columbus)
9. Jamie Smith (Colorado)
10. Khalif Alhassan (Portland)

Unlike previous seasons when nearly every MLS team played with bonafide wide midfielders, a few have tweaked their systems to open up more room on the flanks. As such, teams such as Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA deploy their midfielders more centrally, which leaves the flanks open for wingers and outside backs. So in a few cases a player has been placed in this category even though in his team's system he's more of a central player than a flank midfielder.

These rankings are listed with the proviso that some players deployed often on the left side have been placed in another category. Houston’s Brad Davis, for example, is ranked as an attacking midfielder, as is the Fire’s Marco Pappa, who played on both flanks as well as in the middle in an ever-shifting Chicago attack.

Shea and Lindpere are nothing alike in how they play the position yet they are both dominant players in their own manner. Shea’s slashing runs to goal and the byline brought him 11 goals and four assists, and many of his driven crosses were squandered by FCD’s misfiring front line. Lindpere played every game for the Red Bulls and his totals of seven goals and seven assists encapsulate his instincts for getting goals as well as creating them.

Fernandez scored nine goals in 29 games and handled the hurly-burly style of most MLS games much better than he did as a newcomer after the 2010 World Cup.

For the second season running, an injury to Pontius (seven goals, five assists) greatly hampered D.C. United in the final portion of the season.

After scoring five goals in the regular season and meshing well with Juninho and David Beckham in the Galaxy midfield, Magee netted one apiece in the three playoff games that led up to MLS Cup.

Johnson plays tucked inside as a member of RSL’s diamond midfield and rather quietly contributes solidly in all aspects of the game. Mapp, who is changing teams again with an Expansion Draft move to Montreal, had another decent-but-not-impressive season (three goals, four assists). Ditto for Rogers, who is pondering a return to Europe off a two-goal, seven-assist performance.

Injuries limited Smith to 20 games as the Rapids failed to repeat as champions, and Alhassan showed some incredible stuff on the ball before struggling as the season wound down.



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