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Defensive DPs (like Richard Dunne) as keys to MLS success

Jan 10, 2013, 12:08 PM EDT

Italy v Ireland - Group C: UEFA EURO 2012 Getty Images

I know it must be difficult for MLS clubs to “sell” the concept of center backs as Designated Players.

But I say, “So what?”  Because selling “Wins” ain’t so tough, is it?

More teams should aim a few more DP dollars on the defensive side. You know what they say about defense, where championships are won and lost.

It’s finally moving a teeny bit in that direction, but almost every DP is still an attacker (a striker, a dynamic winger, a playmaker, a two-way man that leans toward offense, etc.)

But show me an MLS Cup winner, and I’ll show you a team with a dandy “D.” For instance, center back Omar Gonzalez was the most important man on the field as the Galaxy defended its MLS crown last month.

Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni screened Colorado’s back line brilliantly en route to MLS Cup 2010. How about that RSL center back combo Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers back in 2009; pretty tough to get around, eh?

In 2008, Columbus Crew center back Chad Marshall was still at the top of his game. The Dynamo championship teams of 2006 and 2007 were built around two essential elements: “De-Ro” and “De-Fense.”

So, you get the message. Yes, these champions had some wonderful attackers (Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Dwayne De Rosario, for instance), but the defenses behind those fine fellows were all of the hale and hearty variety.

Which is why a story like this excites me: It’s the next bit of speculation about whether Irish international Richard Dunne might find his way to MLS.

The Independent wonders whether Dunne can get healthy enough to find his way out of Aston Villa and into a Galaxy or Red Bulls shirt? In New York, he would be an upgrade over Markus Holgersson. And what a combo the new men in charge would create at Red Bull Arena if Dunne and Jamison Olave could make their way to reliable health.

Speaking of commanding combos: what about Dunne and Gonzalez in Los Angeles? Clearly, there are lots of moving parts there. The Galaxy has one DP slot at the moment (Beckham’s), and Dunne may not fit AEG’s wow-wow requirement for filling that one. But, what if Landon Donovan extends his sabbatical? Hmmm.

And then there’s Gonzalez himself, who has a year remaining on his MLS deal. He may well require DP money to re-up. Or, could it eventually be that Dunne or someone like him is required as the emerging U.S. international takes his talents overseas?

See, lots of moving parts. But it makes for great conversation.

  1. whordy - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    The Independent wonders whether Dunne can get healthy enough to find his way out of Aston Villa and into a Galaxy or Red Bulls shirt?
    Hahahaha. Isn’t it ironic how for all the convoluted, archaic and confusing rules in the name of parity it always shakes down that big name DPs are linked to the big name teams?
    Which is why I don’t see sense in punishing a bad team who got lucky and found a former MLS man or fringe NT player to play for them (in the way of having to trade up in the allocation order or lose this player because of the allocation draft) when the simple reality is that some teams will be more attractive destinations than others.
    Same thing with the GK Galaxy signed from a top 5 EPL team. Bad teams needs to scratch and claw to “earn” the “right” to sign a player, when the top teams can pick off who they want because they have the money for a straight out transfer.

    • Steve Davis - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      Well, I understand your point. But this is just one foreign newspaper’s un-sourced “reporting.” There’s no reason why Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston … anyone … can’t talk to Dunne’s agent. There ARE, as we all know, good places to live beyond NY or LA. I think it’s usually the wow-wow guys, the top names among the names, who gravitate toward NY and LA.

      I have written before about how so many of those guys DO desire NY or LA more than they really desire MLS, per se. The point here is that more teams SHOULD try to convince good defenders to look at them as a legit option.

  2. grangieboobs - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Teams can try to aim money at CBs all they want, but it doesn’t matter if MLS has their say…

  3. charliej11 - Jan 10, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    I think you answer the question of why no DP D guys, as you list the stud Americans that are doing well in that position, without even listing some of the best. They cost less, so why spend more for a lesser player or marginal upgrade ?

    • valiantdraws - Jan 10, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      See, that’s been the problem. No thought to making sure good defenders are happy, so they move on. The team overlooks their worth, the next guy isn’t as good, and the year doesn’t go as well.

      Like LA is about to find out if they let go of Gonzalez if they don’t resign him to fat contract.

      Charlie, your thinking here is exactly why MLS teams DP signing are busts. Teams want high-profile, usually more than high-skill. This is the kind of thinking that will keep MLS in the basement.

  4. theasoccerist - Jan 10, 2013 at 9:49 PM
    Not sure designated players make a lot of sense for the product on the field. This graph shows that they can actually hurt team performance – is the point to put butts in seats for sex appeal or for quality play? I guess its a bit of both cuz if a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one in the stands to see them play…

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