Ten Best: Defensive midfielders
September 7, 2019
When Metro entered the offseason, it was obvious to anyone but a lamppost that replacing Tyler Adams should have been the first priority. Anyone but a lamppost and Denis Hamlett, apparently, for no replacement was found, and defensive-midfield-by-committee has failed utterly. Sean Davis and Marc Rzatkowski are good players, but neither are true defensive midfielders. Cristian Casseres has the potential to be one, but rarely plays in that role. So we will not include any of them on the following list...
10) Mike Sorber, 1997-99
Sorber's best days were behind him when he patrolled the midfield for three years. Alas, Metro made the playoffs just once in those three. He did score six goals and added 11 assists in his time here.
9) Daniel Hernandez, 2000-02
When Hernandez came to Metro in 2000, he formed a three-man backline with Mike Petke and Steve Jolley, which pushed Lothar Matthaus to defensive midfield. (Note: Lothar is not on this list.) When he returned from injury in 2001, he took over the d-mid role. Remembered for nasty tackles and the memorbale free kick goal that beat Miami late.
8) Michael Bradley, 2005
Cries of nepotism hit Giants Stadium when 17-year-old Bradley won the starting spot under his father. They mostly subsided as he had a solid rookie campaign that ended with his lone goal for Metro, the one that clinched a playoff berth. (By then, Bob was fired, thanks, red-headed clown Alexi!)
7) Seth Stammler, 2004-10
Stammler played all over the field, but he was probably best in defensive midfield... or was it left back? Center back? Remember when he was fantastic at left wing in the playoffs? No, clearly, he was best in defensive midfield.
6) Richie Williams, 2001, 2003
Hated when he was with DC, "Little Dick" Williams had two stints with Metro, and acquitted himself well in each one, calming down the defense when needed. He then became the first ex-Metro to coach the team, in an interim gig in 2006... and then in 2009.
5) Ricardo Clark, 2003-04
Drafted second overall, Clark was immediately thrust by (Bob) Bradley into a starting role, and did not disappoint early on... before hitting the wall late in his rookie season. Like (Michael) Bradley, his best years were obviously spent elsewhere.
4) Felipe Martins, 2015-18
The nasty pest was ever-present for the first three years under Jesse Marsch. Hated by opponents but beloved by Metro fans, he always rode the line of decensy, stepping over just enough not to get sent off. Had a memorable game versus Houston in 2016, first scoring on a blast, then completing Metro's comeback on a direct free kick.
3) Teemu Tainio, 2011-12
Rafa Marquez was the big name (Note: he is not on this list), but Tainio was the better d-mid. The team was clearly better when he was on the field; alas, injuries prevented his prowess. If only he wasn't taken off injured in the 2011 playoffs...
2) Tyler Adams, 2016-18
His 2018 season, when Metro allowed 33 goals in 34 games en route to a record-breaking point total, just might be the best d-mid season in MLS history... and he was only 19. The facts that he stepped right into a Bundesliga team and that Metro's defense became a sieve without him to protect it speak volumes.
1) Dax McCarty, 2011-16
When he came on board, McCarty was used on the right flank by "Clever" Hans Backe, but Tainio's departure move the red-headed wonderboy into his true position. Patrolling the field, sending perfect long passes, scoring memorable headers (the late winner versus Salt Lake! Two in the 7:0 drubbing of blue poseurs!), winning two shields (the last as captain)... it will be hard to top the Ginger Ninja.