(UPDATED … )
First things first: Landon Donovan would be at the top of this list, and easily so – but he’s not eligible! Feel free to check back April-ish.
As we roll through our positional rankings, the outside midfield position gets tricky; the players manning these flank midfield spots aren’t as sharply defined as, say, center backs, goalkeepers or outright strikers.
(Heck, even Donovan could be classified as a Top Ten at three different spots. By the way, who cares what the guy is doing to the LA Galaxy — look how this rascally troublemaker is mucking up our rankings!)
Plus, an “outside” midfielder in a 4-3-3 is mostly a central mid who leans to one side. In those arrangements, the highest right-sided presence is more of an “outside midfielder.” So, apologies if a couple of names here don’t qualify as flank factors in your book.
Disclaimers aside, here is how we see the league’s Top Ten in right-sided midfielders going into Major League Soccer’s 18th season.
(now revised … reflecting Mauro Rosales as a right-sided midfielder rather than an attacking midfielder)
1. Houston Dynamo’s Oscar Boniek Garcia
2. Columbus Crew’s Eddie Gaven (pictured) >
No, the Crew’s longtime Steady Eddie is not a name brand, not exactly, anyway. But he delivers reliably in a system that demands so much from that spot. And several times a season he goes from work-a-day to outright difference maker.
3. Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi >
SKC’s U.S. international can certainly play interior roles, where he has been found most frequently in Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3. But Zusi usually finds himself outside when national team opportunities arise, and given Kei Kamara’s departure (a tough gap to fill), we can probably expect to see the skillful attacker leaning further to the flank in SKC’s personnel alignment.
4. San Jose Earthquakes’ Marvin Chavez
5. Seattle Sounders’ Mauro Rosales
6. D.C. United’s Nick DeLeon
7. FC Dallas’ Jackson
8. Portland Timbers’ Kalif Alhassan >
This is where we see a wide man in a 4-3-3 stand in as a flank midfielder. There certainly are tracking duties and other defensive chores with these guys. It’s not like they get to stand on the sidelines waiting for their next chance to dribble and cross.
9. New England Revolution’s Kelyn Rowe
10. Philadelphia’s Sebastian Le Toux >
He can sometimes lose tactical discipline, but that little dimple may be mitigated in 2013 since his defensive duty will be slightly reduced; Le Toux will probably be more of a right-sided forward in John Hackworth’s new 4-3-3. Plus, you always get the dependable two-way work from Le Toux.