So many of the league’s premier left-sided midfielders really aren’t midfielders in the strictest sense. It makes this list even more problematic than yesterday’s roster of the best and brightest right-sided MLS men.
Chris Pontius, Fabian Castillo and Mike Magee have found themselves deployed as much at forward as along the outside, for instance. Lee Nguyen and Bobby Convey are more prototypical wingers than true midfielders.
Brad Davis and Camilo could just as easily operate as central midfielders or as left-sided mids who lean considerably to the inside, the way Fulham used U.S. international Clint Dempsey for much of his time at Craven Cottage.
But never mind all that.
All of this is just for conversation anyway. Our next ordering of positional talent in Major League Soccer, the league’s top left-sided midfielders:
1. D.C. United’s Chris Pontius >
Let’s hope this guy can stay healthy, because the sky is truly the limit. Pontius (pictured above) has the brains, the pace, the desire and the finishing ability out of midfield. Let’s just go bold here and predict a giant breakout year, not just around RFK Stadium, but in finally getting a deserved shot at Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team. (Pontius gets ahead of Brad Davis on my list only because of his age, 25, and potential upside.)
2. Houston Dynamo’s Brad Davis
3. New England Revolution’s Lee Nguyen
4. FC Dallas’ Fabian Castillo >
Someday the Colombian kid’s soccer brain will catch up with those 20-year-old feet. Signs were abundant that it was happening toward the end of 2012 around FC Dallas Stadium.
5. LA Galaxy’s Mike Magee >
LA Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane is wondering openly these days about why Magee can’t generate at least a wee little chatter about U.S. national team recognition. Ummm … that’s a good question!
6. Vancouver Whitecaps’s Camilo
7. Seattle’s Steve Zakuani >
The big question, obviously, is whether the Sounders pacey blazer along the outside can regain pre-injury form? He never gained full speed in 2012 – didn’t get close, really – so this is a big year in displaying a career fully back on track. If so, expect this list to look different at year’s end, because Zakuani could easily climb.
8. Montreal Impact’s Justin Mapp >
Mapp is fascinating in that he’s been at about the same place for years now. We’re talking about a guy who is only 28, but he’s been a starter in this league for 10 years now. He still has some game-breaking ability; if Mapp could apply it a little more often, he’d be a Best XI type and a national team regular, rather than someone relegated to the outer limits of the U.S. player pool.
9. Colorado Rapids’ Tony Cascio
10. Chicago Fire’s Dilly Duka >
This one is mostly about potential. The former U.S. under-23 was unhappy in Columbus but got the move he wanted and has apparently won the starting position in Chicago. It’s on you now, kid!