FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Every year, there are at least a half-dozen MLS teams in search of a left back. And 2014 is no different.
It's easily the hardest spot on the field to fill, and once most teams find a left back, they do their damnedest to hold onto him for as long as possible. Guys like Todd Dunivant, Chris Wingert, Leo Gonzalez, Gonzalo Segares and Corey Ashe have been with their current teams forever, and striking SuperDraft gold means finding the next in that long line.
But this may not be the draft to do it. Here's our list of the top five left backs in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft:
1. Ben Sweat (So. Florida) – An elite athlete who can get up and down the flank all day, which is one of the prerequisites for most overlapping fullbacks. He also defends well 1-v-1, but can struggle against combo play and is still learning how to support in possession. (WATCH Sweat's senior season highlights) Range: Mid-to-late first round
2. Robbie Derschang (Akron) – Derschang, like many of his left back peers, was actually a left winger before being moved to the backline by his college coach (some guy by the name of Caleb Porter). Adds a bunch in attack, but is still learning the ropes defensively. Range: Early-to-middle second round
3. Jacob Bushue (Indiana) – Split time between central defense and central midfield in college, but has spent almost the entire Combine at left back. That tells you everything you need to know about what MLS managers want to know about him. Hasn't stood out, for good or for bad. Range: Third round
4. Travis Golden (Campbell) – Not a Combine invitee. He spent his college career as a slender, ball-playing central defender (think Tim Ream), but most scouts say that he'll have to learn to play outside to make it as a pro. Has the athleticism, but may lack the instincts. Range: Fourth round to undrafted
5. Mayowa Alli (Bucknell) – Not a Combine invitee. Shook off an injury-plagued 2012 to post a strong 2013, starting all 20 games for the Bison and registering three goals. Top-level athlete who attacks set pieces, but doesn't have great feet. Would need to develop several years at USL PRO level before he's ready for MLS. Range: Fourth round to undrafted