For the past couple of seasons, the New England Revolution have struggled mightily with injuries on the left side of the park.
Joe Franchino and Brian Kamler missed significant time last season for a variety of ailments, while Franchino and new signing Cassio have each missed the majority of the opening five matches this campaign.
In their stead, Marshall Leonard has emerged as a versatile option on the left hand side. Adept both at left midfield and left back, Leonard has seen time in each position so far this season.
After struggling in the back in the season opening draw at San Jose, Leonard has provided an offensive spark in midfield, scoring on April 23 in D.C. while assisting on Clint Dempsey's 88th-minute winner against Chivas USA on Saturday.
"You have to pat him on the back," said Dempsey. "He's accustomed to playing left back, and we had him at left midfield [Saturday]. He was getting balls into the box. I was lucky enough to get on the end of a couple of them."
Leonard's crosses are potent, direct crosses. With the necessary weight and pace, Leonard has improved his accuracy over the past couple of seasons to create danger almost every time he swings in a cross.
"Marshall's doing well," said Revolution striker Taylor Twellman. "He's whipping in some great balls."
"You just want to drive it in there," said Leonard. "If you loft it up, it gives the keeper a chance to come out and get it."
Revolution manager Steve Nicol is pleased with Leonard's development.
"Last year, we told him that we wanted to see this all the time," said Nicol. "We wanted to see him work one on one without getting beat. We gave him the license to get forward. He's taking his opportunities well."
As for the positional quandary, Leonard believes that he can continue to serve at either left back or left midfield, depending on the team's needs as the season progresses.
"I feel comfortable in both positions," said Leonard. "I like getting forward and attacking, but I can play defense as well."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.