Saturday's Seattle-Columbus match will shine a spotlight on the new centerback pairings at both clubs. Chad
's move from the Crew has helped stabilize the leaky Sounders' backline, while the new Michael Parkhurst
pairing has quickly emerged as one of the best in MLS, which has seen 13 of 19 teams bring in new starting center backs or shift players into the middle from other positions. MLS: Week 4 Schedule
The play of Parkhurst and
Marshall should come as no surprise as both are former MLS Defenders of the Year -- Parkhurst in 2007 and Marshall in 2008 and 2009 -- and Gonzalez is no stranger to American fans as he plays for
Costa Rica's national team. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid
went so far as to say
that Marshall's quality was as good or better than the
center backs being called into the national team.
Seattle's trade for Marshall, whom Schmid had when he was at the Crew, contributed to the reshaping of four MLS backlines in total as
Columbus brought in Parkhurst and Gonzalez from Europe after Marshall's departure, Seattle dealt John Kennedy Hurtado
and Patrick Ianni
to Chicago after picking up Marshall, and the Fire sent Austin Berry
to Philadelphia after he became expendable following the
acquisition of Hurtado and Ianni.
In the first three weeks of the MLS season, only eight of the 19 teams have managed to line up the same centerback pairing. And of those eight, only one
team -- Toronto FC -- is using a duo -- Steven Caldwell
and Doneil Henry
-- that was regularly paired together in the
middle last season. (Matteo Ferrari
and Hassoun Camara
started five games together last season for Montreal, though
Camara usually started at right back.)
Injuries have already taken their toll. Norberto Paparatto
was expected to solidify the Portland backline,
but the Argentine missed the Timbers' 2-0 loss to Colorado with a groin injury. Indeed, neither Portland nor New York, the 2013 regular-season conference champions, have used the same centerback
pairing in any of their three matches.
replaced Chris Schuler
(recovering from ankle surgery)
in the Real Salt Lake backline for the first two games, but he's now out with a hamstring injury. Aaron Wheeler
, a forward for most of his career, was slotted
in at centerback by Union coach John Hackworth
after Berry was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Eriq Zavaleta
forward coming out of Indiana, was used at center back by Chivas USA after Bobby Burling
One centerback pairing is a reunion of sorts.
and Drew Moor
, who started at centerback on Colorado's 2010 MLS championship, are back together in the
middle of the Rapids' backline. Last season, Oscar Pareja
went with Wynne at right back and young Shane O'Neill
in the middle. But a change of
coaches has resulted in a switch as Pablo Mastroeni
, who played on the MLS Cup 2010 team with Wynne and Moor, switched Wynne and O'Neill. 2014 Starting MLS Center Backs: *Chicago:
3 John Kennedy Hurtado (Seattle), 3
Bakary Soumare. Chivas USA:
3 Carlos Bocanegra, 2 Bobby Burling/1 Eriq Zavaleta (on loan from Seattle)
2 Marvell Wynne (moved from right back), 2 Drew Moor. *Columbus:
2 Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg), 2
Giancarlo Gonzalez (Valerenga). FC Dallas:
3 Matt Hedges, 1 Moises Hernandez (Municipal)/2 Stephen Keel. *D.C.
2 Bobby Boswell (Houston), 2 Jeff Parke (Philadelphia). *Houston:
2 David Horst (Portland), 2 Jermaine Taylor. LA Galaxy:
2 Omar Gonzalez, 1 Leonardo/1 A.J. DeLaGarza. *Montreal:
2 Matteo Ferrari, 2 Hassoun Camara (moved from right
. New England:
3 A.J. Soares, 2 Jose Goncalves/1 Andrew Farrell (moved from right back). New York:
Jamison Olave, 2 Armando (Cordoba), 2 Ibrahim Sekagya
3 Amobi Okugo, 2 Austin Berry (Chicago)/1 Aaron Wheeler (moved from forward)
2 Pa Modou Kah, 2 Futty Danso, 2 Norberto Paparatto (Tigre). Real Salt Lake:
3 Nat Borchers, 2 Aaron Maund1 Chris Schuler.
2 Victor Bernandez, 1 Clarence Goodson/1 Jason Hernandez. *Seattle:
3 Chad Marshall (Columbus), 3 Djimi
Traore. Sporting KC:
3 Aurelien Collin, 2 Matt Besler/1 Ike Opara
2 Steven Caldwell, 2 Doneil Henry. Vancouver:
3 Andy O'Brien, 2 Jay DeMerit/1 Johnny Leveron.
*Started same pairing each game.