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Clubs scramble to fill holes
by Paul Kennedy, February 4th, 2014 8:44PM

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[NEW IN MLS: Outside Backs] The quality of MLS's outside backs has improved substantially in recent years, and MLS clubs spent the offseason scrambling to fill holes on the outside. The pickups include a pair of players hoping to parlay strong springs into trips to the World Cups on their respective national teams, a starter at the 2010 World Cup and former MLS Rookie of the Year. For all the key moves at outside back.

BRANDON BARKLAGE (San Jose). Barklage admitted to being disappointed that New York did not pick up his option, but he stands to step in at right back for the Quakes, who dealt unsigned Steven Beitashour to Vancouver and did not pick up the option on Dan Gargan, Beitashour's backup. Barklage recovered from two ACL tears at D.C. United, where he played in midfield, to become a useful defender for the Red Bulls (10 assists in two seasons).

STEVEN BEITASHOUR (Vancouver). The Iranian-American, who hopes to play for Iran in the World Cup, played out his contract with his hometown San Jose Earthquakes but the two sides could never come close to an agreement on a new one. A move to Europe never panned out, paving the way for a trade to Vancouver, where he will replace retired Korean Lee Young-Pyo. Said new 'Caps head coach Carl Robinson following the first day of practice. “Arguably, he's the best right back in the league, in my opinion. I remember when I played against him, he was very difficult, because he kept bombing forward at every opportunity."



MARC BURCH (Colorado). Chris Klute looks to hold the left back spot at the Rapids for many years to come, but Burch, signed from Seattle in the Re-Entry Draft, gives the Rapids a valuable option on the left side. Burch, 29, had expressed a desire to move to Colorado and as a converted forward fits the mold of the attacking player out of the back that Klute is.

RICHARD ECKERSLEY (Toronto FC). Toronto's heavy spending forced it to deal Eckersley and his hefty salary (2013 base: $210,000) to New York. The 24-year-old Englishman will provide competition for Kosuke Kimura at right back, though he can play elsewhere on the backline. “He has a good soccer brain and is an energetic defender who can also provide positive attacking qualities on the flanks,” said Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh in announcing his acquisition.

WAYLON FRANCIS (Columbus). The 23-year-old Costa Rican was picked up from Herediano even before Gregg Berhalter took the reins of the Crew. He should step in at left back, where the Crew used a revolving door of players: Tyson Wahl, Josh Williams and Uruguayan-American Agustin Viana, who finished the 2013 season as the starter after beginning his first MLS season in midfield.

SEAN FRANKLIN (D.C. United). The backline was a mess for United in 2013, and it should field an entirely reconstructed backline. Franklin, a former MLS Rookie of the Year with the Galaxy, was taken in the Re-Entry Draft and should start at right back, allowing Chris Korb to move to left back. Franklin had five goals and 20 assists in 160 games for the Galaxy with which he won two MLS Cups.

ANDY LOCHHEAD (Chivas USA). Chivas USA could use experienced help at both outside back positions, where only Carlos Borja, more suited to play in the middle, and U.S. U-20 Marky Delgado return. Lochhead, the former UC Santa Barbara star who played all three games for New Zealand at the 2010 World Cup, should step in right away and start on the left side.

JUSTIN MORROW (Toronto FC). Morrow earned a call-up to the U.S. national team a year ago based on his play at left back for the Earthquakes but lost his starting job to Englishman Jordan Stewart last season. He'll give Toronto another player to throw into attack.

LOVEL PALMER (Chicago). Palmer's stay at Real Salt Lake will be remembered for his missed penalty kick in the 10th round of the shootout in MLS Cup 2013, but he was a very useful player as a fill-in on the left side for Chris Wingert. The Jamaican is slotted to play at right back for the Fire, who dealt Jalil Anibaba to Seattle for a pair of center backs, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni.

MICHAEL PARKHURST (Columbus). The best outside back in the crop of offseason pickups won't play there for long. Parkhurst, acquired from German club Augsburg, began his MLS career in the middle, and that's where his future is in Columbus. But his hopes of making the U.S. World Cup team are as an outside back -- he can play either side -- so he says he has an agreement from Berhalter that he'll get a shot there at least until the World Cup.

MLS Right Backs, Incumbents:
GP PLAYER, TEAM (COUNTRY)
135 Tony Beltran, Real Salt Lake
127 A.J. DeLaGarza, LA Galaxy
116 Chance Myers, Sporting KC
112 Marvell Wynne Colorado
100 Sheanon Williams, Philadelphia
89 Jack Jewsbury, Portland
68 Chris Korb, D.C. United
52 Hassoun Camara, Montreal
50 Kofi Sarkodie, Houston
34 Carlos Borja, Chivas USA
32 Andrew Farrell, New England
31 DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle
24 Kosuke Kimura, New York
20 Chad Barson, Columbus
15 Steven Kinney, Chicago
13 Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas/
6 Mark Bloom, Toronto FC
-- San Jose
-- Vancouver
GP=games played with current team.

MLS Left Backs, Incumbents:
GP PLAYER, TEAM (COUNTRY)
210 Gonzalo Segares, Chicago
190 Corey Ashe, Houston
174 Chris Wingert, Real Salt Lake
138 Todd Dunivant, LA Galaxy
131 Chris Tierney, New England
127 Jair Benitez, FC Dallas
98 Leo Gonzalez, Seattle
96 Roy Miller, New York
82 Seth Sinovic, Sporting KC
66 Ashtone Morgan, Toronto FC
64 Jordan Harvey, Vancouver
58 Jeb Brovsky, Montreal
49 Raymon Gaddis, Philadelphia
33 Michael Harrington, Portland
32 Chris Klute, Colorado
20 Agustin Viana, Columbus
17 Marky Delgado, Chivas USA
12 Jordan Stewart, San Jose
8 Taylor Kemp, D.C. United
GP=games played with current team.


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