Skip to content

MLS Championship recipe: start with quality center backs

Apr 5, 2012, 11:25 AM EDT

2011 MLS Cup - Portraits Getty Images

Show me an MLS champion, and I’ll show you a strong center back on patrol at that address.

You would need to go back to 2007 for the last time an MLS champion was crowned without a dominant center back. That year, Eddie Robinson and Ryan Cochrane competently stood as central sentinels along Houston’s back line. Both players were good MLS center backs – enforcers more than craftsmen – although not great ones.

But Houston’s overall team defense was fierce, so the center backs didn’t need to be famously adept at their trade, just solid clock-punchers. And they were.

Look at the teams that have won since then, and the men on watch in the middle of the back four:

  • 2011, Los Angeles Galaxy, Omar Gonzalez (pictured)
  • 2010, Colorado, Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne
  • 2009, Real Salt Lake, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers
  • 2008, Columbus, Chad Marshall

The point is, no team with porous defense will ever hold an MLS title. It’s a sliding scale, of course; if the attack is outrageously talented, perhaps the defense need only be “good” and not “great.” Still, it must achieve something above middling competency. That takes quality center backs.

All of this is to set up one question:

What, in the name of Paolo Maldini, is Toronto FC doing?

The defense at BMO Field:  A) Is terrible. B) Has always been terrible. C) Shows little indication of crawling out of the “terrible” zone.

Last night’s 6-2 loss at Santos is just the latest file in this open-and-shut case. So give me a second to climb my little footstool and place last night’s thrashing right on top of this tall, tall stack of ever-mounting evidence.

John Molinaro from Canada’s Sports Net takes a deeper look at the Toronto’s long-running inability to address its most pressing problem. Hard to argue anything he says.

Latest Posts
  1. So much for bad hamstrings, Costa states he’s ready for Spain selection

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:25 AM EDT

    Costa Getty Images

    Jose Mourinho has pestered the media with information about Costa’s troublesome hamstring all week, but the player himself isn’t listening.

  2. Amid Newcastle crisis, Cheick Tiote says he wants out

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:47 AM EDT

    Tiote Getty Images

    Alan Pardew must deal with yet another off the field issue at St. James Park as reports he’s losing the dressing room don’t look any less true at the moment.

  3. It’s me again! Vincent Tan calls out Malky Mackay

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Are you as tired of Vincent Tan as Cardiff City supporters are?

  4. Mats Hummels says his future is at Dortmund

    Sep 30, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-BRAUNSCHWEIG Getty Images

    The German defender was courted by Manchester United and Real Madrid, but says he is at Dortmund for the long-run.

  5. UEFA Champions League preview: Liverpool face Basel, Arsenal defend the Emirates

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Paris Saint-Germain v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Wednesday features eight Champions League matches, including important matchups for Premier League sides Arsenal and Liverpool.

  6. Xabi Alonso breaks Bundesliga record for touches

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:56 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Munchen v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The newly signed Bayern midfielder had 204 touches in Munich’s 2-0 win over FC Koln.

  7. Norway calls up 15-year-old for Euro qualifying

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    FBL-NOR-OEDEGAARD Getty Images

    Martin Odegaard made his international debut this summer as Norway’s youngest player ever.

  8. Why do Manchester City struggle so much in the Champions League?

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-ROMA AP

    With City struggling in the group stages once again, why does this keep happening?

  9. PHOTOS: David Beckham, Beyonce, Jay-Z among stars at PSG vs. Barcelona

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Stars on show: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Beckham. Stars on show: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Beckham.

    All the stars were out to play as PSG took on Barca in the French capital on Tuesday.

  10. Xavi breaks record for Champions League appearances

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    The Barcelona midfielder appeared in his 143rd Champions League match today.

  11. Kevin Mirallas could miss serious time for Everton

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    The Belgian international was taken off the pitch on a stretcher this weekend with an apparent hamstring injury.

  12. UEFA Champions League roundup: PSG beat Barcelona, Chelsea top Sporting

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-PSG-BARCELONA AP

    Want a recap of all eight UCL games that took place across Europe on Tuesday? Look no further…

  13. Sporting CP 0-1 Chelsea: Blues win chippy UCL affair in Lisbon

    Sep 30, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT

    Chelsea dominated Sporting and should have won by more. AP

    Only Nemanja Matic, much to the chagrin of the Sporting crowd, could beat a fantastic Rui Patricio.

  14. Golden oldie: Francesco Totti becomes oldest scorer in Champions League history

    Sep 30, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    AS Roma Team Presentation Getty Images

    Magnifico from Totti, as Italian legend writes his name in the history books.

  15. Follow live – UEFA Champions League: Manchester City vs. AS Roma

    Sep 30, 2014, 2:18 PM EDT

    Will Yaya Toure and City get off to a winning start at St. James' on Sunday? Getty Images

    Moscow was skunked by Roma 5-1 in the first round of group matches, while City fell 1-0 to Bayern.

  16. Premier League Team of the Week: Find out who starred on Matchday 6

    Sep 30, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Check out if your favorite player made it onto Round 6’s Team of the Week.

  17. UCL: Bayern Munich picks up win over CSKA Moscow in empty Arena Khimki

    Sep 30, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    APTOPIX Russia Soccer Champions League AP

    Mario Gotze drew a penalty that Thomas Muller finished, and Bayern Munich emerged victorious from a relatively-quiet stadium.

Featured video

Week 6: Premier League recap