2012 MLS Positional Rankings: Midfield

2012 MLS Positional Rankings: Midfield

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 6, 2012
  • 4 Comments
  • 2012 MLS Power Rankings, 2012 MLS Season, Features

Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman give RSL a big punch in the midfield. (Getty Images)

We are inching closer to the start of the new season and I couldn’t be more jazzed about it. We’ll continue on with our preseason rankings as we get closer to the first power rankings of the new year. Today’s ranking will be all about the midfields for each club.

To recap, here are the keeper rankings from last week and yesterday’s defender rankings.

In a way the midfield is the biggest key for any club in soccer. They are the glue that keeps things together between the defense and the strikers. A quality midfield can make or break a club and as we’ve seen over the last couple years, we’re getting clubs with deeper groups in midfield.

I probably spent more time going through these rankings than any of the others that I’ve done thus far. Just like in other rankings there isn’t a massive gap between teams ranked 6-16 or so, what happens is the depth behind the starters is dictating where clubs end up in this case. The top three teams are about as close together as I’ve ever seen as well. So much talent between them.

1. Los Angeles Galaxy – “Adding” Juninho really did it for me with this club. They lost him and then got him back after adding Marcelo Sarvas. They still have a nice young core in their depth but the flanks are a little thin behind Mike Magee and Landon Donovan. Though saying that key an eye out for guys like Kyle Nakazawa and Michael Stephens to step up and fill the void when needed this season.

2. Real Salt Lake – The main four of this midfield is about as good as it gets in MLS. Behind them they can go a couple players deep but further down the depth chart it gets a little unknown due to some youth that was drafted this winter. Saying that though, I really thought they drafted well in January and knowing Jason Kreis, he’ll bring those young guys up properly and the depth questions will be erased. 

3. Seattle Sounders FC – Just like LA, this group has two DPs in the midfield (Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez) and Brad Evans is a gritty leader that is highly underrated. As much as I like Evans though, the club doesn’t have a true attacking midfielder in the vein of a Javier Morales. But their depth isn’t too bad either, especially if Steve Zakuani can return from injury to be his old self and some other young guys step up.

4. Sporting Kansas City – I went back and forth on where to put KC and they kept landing here for me. This group was highly underrated last year and proved to be a real force in the league with Graham Zusi stepping up. For a team that plays three in the midfield, it makes it a little tougher to rank but I do like their depth behind the starters in their three positions. The big key will be in newcomer Pablo Nagamura to provide quality help off the bench. He can play nearly any of the three spots in Peter Vermes’ midfield.

5. New York Red Bulls – Another team that has four very talented starters. Joel Lindpere is easily the most underrated player in the league in my eyes and thankfully New York re-signed him to a new contract during the offseason. Rafa Marquez is expected to slide into the midfield this season, a place where he belongs really. The depth behind the main four gets iffy and the team doesn’t truly have a main playmaker in the midfield.

6. Philadelphia Union – While the Union lack a true left-winger, everything else seems to be in place. Brian Carroll is another underrated engine in the midfield and if Freddy Adu can rise up and become a big time player for this club, they will be contending yet again this year. The big keys will come down to the Farfan twins and Keon Daniels.

7. Toronto FC – Maybe I am drinking the TFC koolaid or maybe this group is finally getting very good. They are another team that plays three in the midfield and that start two DPs (Torsten Frings and Julian de Guzman). The big X-Factor will be Eric Avila, who really came into his own in Toronto under Aron Winter after his trade from Dallas. The depth is extremely young though all around and will get called into action considering the ages of Frings and de Guzman.

8. FC Dallas – Depending on how Schellas Hyndman goes, this group has the potential to be one of the better groups in the league yet again. If he goes 4-4-2, it puts a ton of pressure on the wings to play well and the center of the midfield to be healthy. If it is the 4-1-4-1, then it relies heavily on the health of David Ferreira. More than likely we’ll see a mix of the two formations until Ferreira is healthy. He looked dangerous at the Disney tournament last week before he got hurt again. Biggest question is their depth on the flanks, outside of Brek Shea they are extremely thin.

9. Chicago Fire – I’ve always been a big fan of Marco Pappa’s game and the Fire are coming into this season highly underrated in my book. There is going to be a bit of an awkwardness to their main four starers though as Logan Pause isn’t a true winger. He’s more of a holding midfielder like Pavel Pardo. So the Fire could be iffy on the right side for that season. This group is fairly deep however, which helps them out. Also, keep a watch on Rafael Robayo, he could be a big factor down the road for this group.

10. Houston Dynamo – This one feels a bit low but I do worry still about the health of Brad Davis. He looked good in the preseason so hopefully my worries about him are done and over with. This team has decent depth behind the main starters but most are fairly young. Luiz Camargo may be the biggest X-factor on this club though, if he can provide the service in the middle of the park to the attackers, the Dynamo could be very dangerous yet again.

11. Colorado Rapids – The switch to a 4-3-3 is what hurt their ranking for me. I think they have talented players in the midfield but I do worry about the longevity of players like Pablo Mastroeni and Brian Mullan. But considering the three they’ll likely start on a consistent basis, there may not be a tougher midfield to go through in the league than in Colorado. The depth however behind them is very thin and unproven so far in MLS.

12. Portland Timbers – This group is still fairly young but I’ve been a big fan of where they are going since the middle of last year. John Spencer went out and added some depth and talent to the flanks and we should see what they really are made of with Diego Chara having a full preseason under his belt with the team. Chara is certainly the key to their midfield while Jack Jewsbury is the guy that will hold it all together. Keep an eye out on Darlington Nagbe’s progression this year as well, he showed flashes last year of what he can be.

13. Vancouver Whitecaps – There are plenty of attacking options in this group (and in this team really). Their depth on the right wing position is thin but outside of that I think this group is pretty set for the moment. They may be a bit young off the bench but I have a feeling this group will be ranked higher at the end of the year.

14. San Jose Earthquakes – I do like the moves this group made this winter but there are still a lot of question marks surrounding them. Marvin Chavez is talented but he isn’t really going to provide a ton of assists from the flanks. But the biggest question comes down to newcomer  Tressor Moreno. If he can be the big signing that they are dubbing him to be and contribute big numbers in his first year, then this group will be much higher at the end of the year.

15. D.C. United – The talent is there, there is no mistake about that. What the big issue with this group is the health of the main guys involved. Chris Pontius and Branko Boskovic are coming off big injuries from last year and the depth behind them is fairly thin and unproven at the moment.

16. Chivas USA – This group has talent all around in Nick Labrocca, Blair Gavin, Michael Lahoud and Ryan Smith. The flanks could be a little thin and they do have a lot of guys that can play in the center of the pitch.

17. Columbus Crew – Depth will be an issue until the younger players prove themselves. A lot will come down to how much Dilly Duka, Eddie Gavin and newcomer Milovan Mirosevic are able to do for this group going forward. This may be a super low ranking but with so many questions surrounding this group and the fact that Mirosevic hasn’t spent a ton of time in MLS yet, it is hard to rank them higher than some of the clubs around them.

18. New England Revolution – Hard to beg Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph so low but it happens. Their flanks are iffy as we enter the season and a bit unproven with guys like rookie Kelyn Rowe. With the flanks iffy and the depth only so-so, it leaves the Revs this low.

19. Montreal Impact – I think they have a good mix of MLS guys and newcomers. The questions will be just how good will their depth be and how will the newcomers handle the league. Davy Arnuad and Justin Mapp will have to step up and be the big time leaders of this group from day one. I think they can do it but for now they start here.

  • Drew, you’re a good guy and a I like you, but if you think for two seconds that the Revs have the second-worst midfield in the league you’re quite literally high out of your mind. Joseph, Simms, Feilhaber, Rowe, Nguyen, plus the unproven but good-looking Cardenas, McCarthy offers depth…it’s a very, very, VERY strong midfield, man.

    • Yeah I agree with all of that…honestly for me teams 12-18 were pretty evenly matched. I probably re-ordered those teams a dozen times. Hate to say it though but the Revs never landed higher than 15 for me. But just like all the other ones I wait to be proven wrong. But yeah, this is the group that will certainly carry the Revs this year, no doubt about that. 

  • Jason

    Wow. You really think DC has the 15th best midfield in MLS? Two of the top wingers last year, a future USMNT (and current U23) starter, and an experienced DP isn’t talented enough to make at least the top ten? Yes, Pontius and Boskovic are recovering from injuries, but both have played major minutes during the preseason and contributed to the offense when they played. I just don’t get the amount of disrespect that you’ve given them in your rankings. Yes, they finished last season poorly, but they have done nothing to make them worse than the playoff contenders they were last year and have upgraded or improved depth in just about every position (especially in midfield). Maybe it’s the homer in me, but I’m not seeing them as the 7th best midfield in the East. 

  • Brian

    The Union player’s name is Keon Daniel, not Keon Daniels