[BEST OF MLS 2011: Left backs] In what is often the bargain basement among MLS positions, Todd Dunivant's consistent performances played a vital role in the Galaxy's Supporters' Shield/MLS Cup-winning season.
SA's Top 10 Left Backs
1. Todd Dunivant (Los Angeles)
2. Jair Benitez (FC Dallas)
3. Chris Wingert (Real Salt Lake)
4 Seth Sinovic (Sporting Kansas City)
5. Gonzalo Segares (Chicago)
6. Ante Jazic (Chivas USA)
7. Drew Moor (Colorado)
8. Corey Ashe (Houston)
9. Josh Gardner (Columbus)
10. Gabriel Farfan (Philadelphia)
As the quality of play in MLS gradually improves, the quality of left backs seems to lag behind. There are many solid players but very few capable of exceptional play.
Since teams rarely spend much money in this position, coaches normally look for a defensively capable player who can shut down the flank, limit service into the goalmouth, and squeeze space. Offensive contributions, for the most part, are a bonus.
Fortunately for the Galaxy, one of their most reliable contributors to a championship season stayed healthy. Dunivant started in all 32 of his appearances and seldom left his corner exposed while also getting forward to set up chances with his crosses and the occasional long throw-in. The last time he helped the Galaxy win a league title, he was traded the following season (2005/2006). His selection to the Best XI in 2011 indicates he’ll probably stick around this time.
Benitez is one of the few outside backs in MLS blessed with searing pace and the bravado to use it in the attack. He’s also a tenacious tracker and tackler but his short fuse tends to cause foolish fouls and careless cautions. Wingert is the reliable, traditional stay-at-home type, yet a good distributor as well. Sinovic, cast off by New England, solidified that corner for SKC as it finished strongly to win the Eastern Conference. Segares started the season poorly before regaining his place among the league’s elite at this demanding position, where one-v-one defending plus strength in the air repelling crosses to the back post are essential.
Jazic is an above-average defender who regularly rings up a fair number of assists (seven in 2011). Moor, a centerback during the Rapids’ 2010 run to the title, shifted to the outside slot he’d occasionally played in past seasons. Ashe made the transformation from left mid to left back reasonably well while retaining his attacking instincts. Gardner, another converted midfielder, reeled off a string of commendable games in his first season back in MLS (Galaxy 2004-6) after a stints with Seattle and Carolina in the USL. (He went to Montreal in the Expansion Draft.) Farfan locked down the starting job during the second half of the season by defending resolutely and using his touches wisely.