[BEST OF MLS 2011: Holding midfielders] A return to the national team is one offshoot of Kyle Beckerman's strong play for Real Salt Lake, which relies on him to play a deep-lying yet active role in its diamond midfield.
SA's Top 10 Holding Midfielders
1. Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)
2. Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle)
3. Adam Moffat (Houston)
4. Julio Cesar (Sporting Kansas City)
5. Brian Carroll (Philadelphia)
6. Logan Pause (Chicago)
7. Teemu Tainio (New York)
8. Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado)
9. Clyde Simms (D.C. United)
10. Simon Elliott (Chivas USA)
Screening the back line, plugging up gaps, winning tackles, sweeping up loose balls, and playing smart, accurate passes to unmarked teammates are vital aspects of successful play that often go unnoticed, or at least, unappreciated. Holding mids are not always so designated yet in most games it’s not hard to spot which players are filling that role.
Since Alonso came to MLS along with Seattle in 2009, he’s taken a place among the league’s best at this position. Beckerman is more adept at getting the attack going (nine assists) with his passing and both he and Alonso pack a powerful shot they occasionally unleash. They are tough, strong tacklers highly valued for their ability to win second balls and defuse dangerous situations with clearances. Beckerman doesn’t foul as much as Alonso, who can also be careless with the ball in his defensive third. Beckerman also took over some set-play duties in the absence of playmaker Javi Morales for a large part of the season.
By acquiring Moffat from Portland and pairing him with Luiz Camargo the Dynamo strengthened its spine for a strong finish that landed a spot in MLS Cup. The Scotsman brought a feistiness that had been sorely missed. Julio Cesar played a lot of centerback but once established in midfield he anchored SKC’s march to the Eastern Conference title, and provided a foundation for steady service to its three-man front line.
Carroll brought his eight years of experience and two titles with D.C. United and Columbus to strengthen a Union midfield that often changed its parts and relied on him for stability. The same was true for Pause as the Fire tinkered and tweaked its personnel before mounting a late-season charge that fell narrowly short of the playoffs. Hot-and-cold performances riddled the Red Bulls, for which Tainio provided an honest, heady effort in most of his 28 appearances.
Mastroeni notched four assists while often leaving the more active offensive role to teammate Jeff Larentowicz. He played 30 games before concussion aftereffects took him out of the lineup. Simms is the quintessential holding mid and United’s attacking struggles in the final month and a half laid a heavy workload on him. Elliott’s solid, steady play bolstered Chivas USA’s midfield before injuries and fatigue caught up with him late in the season.