By Ridge Mahoney
There aren’t a lot of dynamic left-sided attacking players in MLS, and so the left midfield slot remains one of the league’s weaker positions.
In some cases, a player’s assigned formation is a product of a formation change. Diego Fagundez also played up top until head coach Jay Heaps redeployed his players with a line of four midfielders (Fagundez out wide left) supporting a single striker. Wide players in a three-man front line -- as played by Portland, Sporting Kansas City, etc. -- will be ranked as forwards for the most part.
Best of MLS 2013:
Right Backs: Sheanon Williams
Right Centerbacks:Jamison Olave
Left Centerbacks:Jose Goncalves
Left Backs:Seth Sinovic
Right Midfielders:Sebastien Le Toux
Holding Midfielders:Kyle Beckerman
Central Midfielders: Will Johnson
Houston’s Brad Davisis classified as a left mid rather than an attacking mid, as he’s been listed in the past. Davis will certainly slide inside if the situation presents itself but worked the flank sufficiently this past season to fit in this category; the Dynamo also got a lot of attacking impetus from Oscar Boniek Garcia on the right side and winger Andrew Driver, who played on both sides.
A few teams, including San Jose and New York, routinely flipped their wide midfielders from game to game as well as within a game. On other teams, either because of injuries (Colorado and Seattle) or “experimentation” (Montreal), used as many as four or five players out on the flanks.
Rankings are based solely on performances in MLS competition during the 2013 regular season and playoffs.
SA's Top 10 MLS Left Midfielders (2013)
1. (NR) Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution)
2. (2*) Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo)
3. (NR) Jonny Steele (New York Red Bulls)
4. (NR) Dilly Duka (Chicago Fire)
5. (NR) Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes)
6. (NR) Luis Gil(Real Salt Lake)
7. (-) Gyasi Zardes (Los Angeles Galaxy)
8. (NR) Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas)
9. (NR) Bernardo Anor (Columbus Crew)
10. (1) Chris Pontius (D.C. United)
Note: In parentheses 2012 ranking of all left midfielders.
NR=not ranked in 2012; -=not in MLS in 2012. *=ranked as attacking midfielder in 2012.
In a few countries, an 18-year-old who averaged a goal every third game would have his own TV show by now and be flooded with offers from foreign clubs. Fagundez hasn’t cashed in big-time just yet, but the Revs’ front office might be advised to collect as much allocation money and/or retention funds in a big hurry. Amazingly skilled, quick in any direction, and a solid finisher, Fagundez increased his workrate and resiliency and consistency. He’s on the brink of stardom.
With four goals and nine assists in 26 games, Davis saw his numbers dip from 2012, during which he set a career high with eight goals and hit double-digits in assists (12) for the fourth straight season. His accuracy and variety left-footed is unmatched in MLS and he can put in a decent defensive shift as well. Jonny Steele swapped sides with Eric Alexander but did his best work on the left side while registering five goals and six assists. He’s tough and relentless on his best days. Had the Fire not struggled so much in 2013, Dilly Duka’s season would have drawn more attention; as it was, he started 24 games, scored four goals, recorded three assists, and more importantly, took some significant strides in consistency and all-around play.
A terrible season for Marvin Chavez in San Jose put the flank burden on Shea Salinasand young Trinidadian Cordell Cato, and Salinas responded with eight assists as well as two goals. Luis Gil matured greatly as a player and contributed on both sides of the ball as well as on both sides of midfield in the demanding RSL system.Gyasi Zardes is a forward pressed into duty by the trade of Mike Magee to Chicago. He looked lost at times but his speed and skill netted four goals and four assists. Fabian Castillo is faster and probably more skilled and occasionally just as lost; he scored twice in 33 games and picked up six assists. Not bad, but also not much for a young DP, and as an attacker capable of getting in behind the defense he must sharpen his finishing.
Bernardo Anor has a potent left foot and toggled between impressive performances and indifferent ones. United’s abysmal season is personified by a player as good as Chris Pontius (No. 1 at left mid in 2012) finishing with two goals and three assists in 22 games.
SA's Best Left Midfielders (1996-2013)
2013 Diego Fagundez
2012 Chris Pontius
2011 Brek Shea
2010 Landon Donovan
2009 Brad Davis
2008 David van den Bergh
2007 Juan Toja
2006 Ivan Guerrero
2005 Mark Chung
2004 Eddie Gaven
2003 DaMarcus Beasley
2001 Manny Lagos
2000 Mark Chung
1999 Eddie Lewis
1998 Eddie Lewis
1997 Mark Chung
1996 Mark Chung