By Ridge Mahoney
Unfortunately, the biggest development for right-sided midfielders during the 2013 season befell the Crew’sEddie Gaven, sidelined by an anterior cruciate ligament tear in early May.
The 2012 top-ranked player had ridden the roller-coaster of up-and-down performances that are normal for those wide men expected to torment defenses by their crossing, dribbling and shooting. In MLS, playing the flank often requires heavy doses of defensive work that take a toll as the games and months add up. A few days after the season ended, Gaven retired from the game at age 27, and not many of his counterparts could come close to his influence. (With four assists in just 10 games he nearly made the top 10.)
Best of MLS 2013:
Right Backs: Sheanon Williams
Right Centerbacks:Jamison Olave
Left Centerbacks:Jose Goncalves
Left Backs:Seth Sinovic
Holding Midfielders:Kyle Beckerman
Central Midfielders: Will Johnson
Marvin Chavez, who notched 13 assists for the Quakes last year, fell so sharply he lost his starting spot, and told the press in November he didn't expect to be back in San Jose next season.
Most right mids in 2013 battled fitness and form. Several were deployed in other positions at times. Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusiplayed up top as well as in midfield, and is classified as an attacking mid for 2013. So is Seattle’s Mauro Rosales, whose forays down the right side often veer into the middle to complement his playmaking.
The 2013 positional rankings are based on performance in MLS regular-season and playoff games.
SA's Top 10 MLS Right Midfielders (2013)
1. (NR) Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union)
2. (3) Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo)
3. (NR) Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact)
4. (NR) Russell Teibert(Vancouver Whitecaps)
5. (5) Patrick Nyarko (Chicago Fire)
6. (6*) Saer Sene (New England Revolution)
7. (NR) Eric Alexander (New York Red Bulls)
8. (-) Carlos Alvarez (Chivas USA)
9. (NR) Lloyd Sam (New York Red Bulls)
10. (4) Nick DeLeon (D.C. United)
Note: In parentheses 2012 ranking of all right midfielders.
NR=not ranked in 2012; -=not in MLS in 2012. *=ranked at striker in 2012.
He started well but Sebastien Le Toux’s season fizzled after a switch to the left side, and he even lined up at right back as the Union stumbled short of the playoffs. His return to Philly thus flattened out, yet nevertheless only one player in MLS (Portland's Diego Valeri) recorded more than his 12 assists. He’s one of many Philly players facing uncertainty heading into 2014.
Oscar Boniek Garcia looks unstoppable at times and unfathomable on occasion. Three goals and six assists in 22 games leave Dynamo fans hungry for more. Justin Mapp worked the off-side with his stronger left foot well enough to notch eight assists and seldom looked out of place among the Impact’s fleet of international players. His future may be murky; new Impact head coachFrank Klopas was the Fire’s technical director when Mapp was traded to Philly in July 2010.
Marvel at Russell Teibert’s skill and workrate, ponder why he can’t sustain a high level for an entire season. Is he forever doomed to streaky play, or would a defined role in a set system enable him to better his career high of nine assists? And don’t forget he just turned 21 this month. Patrick Nyarkomay have stagnated; his totals of four goals and four assists were very "blah" for a sixth-year veteran attacker who started 24 games. Yet he’s fast and loves to run at people and incoming head coach Frank Yallop has always highly valued flank play. Saer Sene, who tallied 11 goals as a forward last year, moved to the right side of a four-man midfield to score five goals and register five assists.
Eric Alexander played in all 34 games, starting 30, and did his gritty work on the left side as well. He’s no offensive force but did manage four goals. After the first two months of the season started promisingly, Chivas USA plummeted into the abyss; Carlos Alvarez livened up the right flank and did more than indicated by his two goals and three assists. Lloyd Sam started just eight games but got enough time off the bench and played on both sides to score five goals. Nick DeLeon’s pace and workrate seldom produced much for United during a dismal season yet he should be a vital piece of the rebuild going forward.
SA's Best Right Midfielders (1996-2013)
2013 Sebastian Le Toux
2012 Eddie Gaven
2011 Landon Donovan
2010 Atiba Harris
2009 Freddie Ljungberg
2008 David Beckham
2007 Ben Olsen
2006 Ronnie O’Brien
2005 Ronnie O’Brien
2004 Steve Ralston
2003 Brian Mullan
2002 Steve Ralston
2001 Steve Ralston
2000 Steve Ralston
1999 Steve Ralston
1998 Cobi Jones
1997 Chris Henderson
1996 Roberto Donadoni