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MLS Positional Rankings: Galaxy's Juninho tops central mids
by Ridge Mahoney, November 26th, 2012 12:52AM

TAGS:  mls


By Ridge Mahoney

In his third MLS season, Juninho, one of the league's few Brazilians played a key role as the defending champion Galaxy shook off a poor start to reach its second straight MLS Cup.

Central mids can be of different shapes and sizes, and though few have the exact same set of skills, teams can’t win consistently without good ones.

In this category are players often burdened by both offensive and defensive duties. While they may not be box-to-box players, per se, they are expected to move and keep the ball when their team is in possession and to cut off passing lanes and win tackles to stifle the opposition. They are often paired with another similar type but could also be used to complement an attacking or holding mid.

Two midseason arrivals, Christian Tiffert of Seattle and Ricardo Clark of Houston, strengthened those midfields with their range and experience. As links between attack and defense, they may not generate much in scoring stats but are essential to maintain defensive stability and offensive flow. Sometimes they are most notable for failure; if things are falling apart it’s often the fault of those obligated to play both sides of the ball.

Most important in assessing players in this category is how snugly they fit their team’s system and how competently they responded to its demands. The only constant to them is their value to team success.

1. Juninho (Los Angeles)
2. Dax McCarty (New York)
3. Roger Espinoza (Sporting Kansas City)
4. Rafael Baca (San Jose)
5. Patrice Bernier (Montreal)
6. Gerson Koffie (Vancouver)
7. Pavel Pardo (Chicago)
8. Michael Farfan (Philadelphia)
9. Ricardo Clark (Houston)
10. Christian Tiffert (Seattle)

Juninho juggled duties depending on his central partner; he took on more of a holding role if David Beckham slid inside, and got forward more aggressively if teamed with Marcelo Sarvas. He does get his share of fouls (42) yet still scored seven goals, including a few bombs from distance, as the Galaxy steamed through the second half of the season.

McCarty rekindled memories of his play in 2010 when FC Dallas reached its only MLS Cup with a series of solid, smart, performances as chaos occasionally swirled around him.

Espinoza blossomed into a valuable contributor by passing crisply and tackling surely as others took the attacking roles. Overshadowed by Wondo and the Bash Brothers and a pair of Honduran internationals, the clean and quick Mexican-born Baca neatly serviced the middle.

Bernier racked up some remarkable numbers (9 goals, 8 assists) once he attained regular starts for the expansion Impact.

Koffie cut down on mistakes in his second season and his task wasn’t made easier by Vancouver’s radical lineup adjustments. Pardo notched four assists and assuaged some concerns about his age (36) by playing 28 games and starting 27.

Farfan was deployed in several spots and wound up as an attacking mid; while his modest total of five assists didn’t dazzle, his poise in tight situations and dogged determination stood out as the Union tried to recalibrate its course under coach John Hackworth.

If Clark and Tiffert are as effective for an entire season in 2013 as they were as summer arrivals in 2012, they will be among the leaders.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: November 27, 2012 at 10:20 a.m.
    It's a shame that McCarthy had to play out of position for so many games..a good coach will play to the team's strengths.
  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: November 27, 2012 at 2:22 p.m.
    For once I agree with SA rankings, since Dax McCarty seems to me the most intelligent US born central mid in MLS. I know the USMN team overfloweth at central mid, but without Stuart Holden there is not exactly a calm stable holding presence dedicated to keeping possession. Will McCarty ever even get a look from Klinsmann? He might be able to damp out some of the chaos that often rules in the middle. Come to think of it, why doesn't the same apply to Brad Davis? At least then they'd have someone who can actually take corner kicks in Donovan's absence.
  1. James Madison
    commented on: November 27, 2012 at 3:54 p.m.
    If San Jose's marginal, albeit improving Baca is no. 4, it's a pretty thin lot.
  1. Roland Barral
    commented on: November 27, 2012 at 6:12 p.m.
    I am glad to see the positive comments about McCarty. He is a talented player who plays with passion. He performed admirably for the Red Bulls despite rarely being deployed in the best position by Hans Backe. It would be great to see McCarty given a chance to perform on the USMNT.

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