MLS Positional Rankings (Centerbacks, Right): Opara's strong season earns top spot

No team gets very far without a solid, reliable set of centerbacks, and in many cases the abilities of the individuals are not as important as how well they work together.

An increased popularity of three-man back lines changes the responsibilities and roles of those in that last line of defense in front of the goalkeeper, yet the basic attributes are unchanged. Centerbacks must be reliable tacklers, solid markers, and tough in the air at both ends of the field. Positioning and anticipation can make up for a relative lack of pace on balls played over the top or into an open channel.

Some players will toggle between the central slots in a four-man back line, yet most prefer one side or the other. The players listed here are primarily right-sided and have been most successful on that side of the defense. If a player appeared mainly as the middle man of a three-defender system, he is listed here.
SA Top 10: Centerbacks (Right)
1. Ike Opara (Sporting KC)
2. Kendall Waston (Vancouver)
3. Drew Moor (Toronto FC)
4. Adolfo Machado (Houston)
5. Johan Kappelhof (Chicago)
6. Jack Elliott (Philadelphia)
7. Roman Torres (Seattle)
8. Victor Cabrera (Montreal)
9. Victor Bernardez (San Jose)
10. Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United)
Sporting KC’s remarkable defensive record – just 29 goals conceded in 34 games – shone the spotlight on several players, and so prominent was Ike Opara he was named Defender of the Year. Always blessed athletically, Opara needed a few seasons to overcome injuries and a tendency to leave himself with too much ground to cover. Alongside U.S. international Matt Besler. he was excellent defensively and he also scored three goals and completed 86.1 percent of his passes.

Kendall Waston rebounded from a rough 2016 to remind everyone how good he was the previous two seasons. He hit a career best of four goals and dominated defensively with 104 headed clearances (tops in the league) and team-best numbers in interceptions (50) and blocks (26).

Veteran Drew Moor anchored the middle of TFC’s basic three-man back line, from which he completed 86.7 percent of his passes. He committed only 15 fouls and picked up just one caution. After losing 2016 MLS Cup, Moor stepped onto the stage at BMO Field wearing a winners’ medal.

Most of the offseason moves made by the Dynamo worked out well and none more so than Adolfo Machado. The Panamanian international missed just one game and played every minute of the other 38, including five playoff matches. His passing (78 percent) wasn’t stellar but he churned out solid averages in tackles (2.1), interceptions (2.5), and clearances (5.6) per game.
Nearly two years ago, the Fire used TAM to sign Johan Kappelhof, who in 2017 matched his games played (33) from 2016 while notching his first four MLS assists. He finished among the league leaders in interceptions (2.9 per game) and racked up a pass-completion percentage of 85.
The rookie class of 2017 included only a few rock-solid starters, and taking his place in that select group was Englishman Jack Elliott. The 77th overall SuperDraft pick, Elliott started 29 of his 30 games and in his first pro season averaged 1.9 tackles, 1.5 interceptions and five clearances per game.

Seattle fell short of repeating its 2016 MLS Cup triumph and the 2017 season also wasn’t quite as good for Ramon Torres, who still ranked among the league leaders with 2.1 aerials won per game. A bad season for Montreal shrouded a decent performance by Victor Cabrera, whose averages of 3.2 tackles and 3.1 interceptions per game were outstanding. He also completed 82 percent of his passes.

At 35, Victor Bernardez can still deal with the demands of MLS. His averages of tackles (2.1), interceptions (2.3) and clearances (4.9) were solid as was a pass-completion percentage of 80.8. One of the coolest and smartest defenders in MLS, Michael Parkhurst brought stability to Atlanta United's fledging season and he also completed 85.8 percent of his passes.

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