By Ridge Mahoney
In the world player market, left-sided players are second in demand only to goalscorers, and whether they deploy them as wingers or floaters, teams with strong players on this flank tend to do well in MLS.
There have been outstanding left-footed midfielders in the 17-year history of MLS yet not all of them have worked mostly up the flank.
Eddie Lewis could swing in serves with the best of them, but a lefty playmaker like Marco Etcheverry couldn’t be confined to one side or the other. There’s also the concept of a midfielder cutting inside from the left to shoot or cross with his right foot, which is the choice several teams make if no left-footed option is enticing enough.
With the classification of lefty Brad Davis as an attacking midfielder, and the understanding many of them were moved around in 2012, here are the rankings for the players most influential on that side:
TOP LEFT MIDFIELDERS (SA 2012 RANKINGS)
1. Chris Pontius (D.C. United)
2. Jamie Castrillon (Colorado)
3. Marco Pappa (Chicago)
4. Brad Evans (Seattle)
5. Mike Magee (Los Angeles)
6. Joel Lindpere (New York)
7. Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake)
8. Lee Nguyen (New England)
9. Darlington Nagbe (Portland)
10. Brek Shea (FC Dallas)
Pontius started the season on the right side and also occasionally played up top as other lineup changes and a late-season injury to Dwayne De Rosario required United to re-tool regularly. Pontius led D.C. with 12 goals, equally divided between home and road games, and contributed four assists to earn his first Best XI selection.
Castrillon (8 goals, 4 assists) took to the teachings of Coach Oscar Pareja better than many of his teammates as they fell well short of the playoffs. Pappa (6, 5) left for Holland in late August yet still finished second on the team in scoring. Evans (4, 4) again played myriad positions for the Sounders as they finally got past the first playoff round. Magee (5, 4) did his usual solid work during the regular season and hit a few timely postseason goals as well.
Lindpere (5, 5) didn’t match his numbers of 2011 (7, 7) yet his presence out wide opened up space for Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper to score a combined 33 goals.
Johnson (3, 3) played on both sides of the RSL midfield diamond and though his stronger games were as good as ever there weren’t as many of them. Nguyen (5, 2) brazenly went at opponents and livened up many Revs games with his touch and daring. Nagbe (6, 1) also played centrally as Portland juggled players and roles to mediocre effect. Shea (3, 2) labored through a terrible start and injuries and some disagreements with Coach Schellas Hyndman, then underwent offseason foot surgery, so 2013 can’t come soon enough.