Debating who is currently the best defensive midfielder in MLS

Jose Martinez - kicking ball - MLS is Back

Responsible for connecting the defense and the midfield, relieving pressure from the backline by breaking up the oncoming attack and often starting the counter for their own team, defensive midfield is an often-overlooked position. On this week’s Extratime, host Andrew Wiebe, David Gass and Matt Doyle discussed their top picks for this valuable role — including some potentially unexpected choices.

David Gass kicked things off, making the case for Philadelphia Union’s Jose Martinez as the current frontrunner. It was expected that the 26-year-old Venezuelan would be fighting for minutes in his first season in MLS, but El Brujo has ended up with the most minutes out of all defensive midfielders across the league and has played a key role in the Union’s success.

“Martinez covers a ton of ground behind everyone else to allow them to push up and have more numbers in the attack he's clean once he wins it back and turns it back over, and I would say with the question marks around Philly, gets that toughness. He's a monster in there. He loves it,” Gass said.

For Matt Doyle, number two on the list is Diego Chara, in his 10th season with the Portland Timbers. The tenacious holding midfielder played his 300th game for the Portland side on August 1 in the MLS is Back Tournament and is known as one of the best in the game, able to make snap decisions and lead his team to either restart the attack or defend in any given moment.

Next on the list was Artur of Columbus Crew SC. While he’s not a true defensive midfielder, Gass argued that since the Brazilian been in that role this season, the Crew have been one of the best teams in the league. Also bringing defensive stability to his side is Nashville SC’s Dax McCarty. The MLS journeyman is climbing the list of all-time appearance leaders in his 16th season in the league while leading a defensive-minded expansion club. “

He's played … not maybe at his highest Red Bull level, where he's pushing into the attack as much because they play differently, but he's played as well as you could expect,” said Gass.

Last but not least, and worth a mention in the discussion to Doyle despite Chicago Fire FC being below the playoff line, is Designated Player Gaston Giménez. The Paraguayan has been called up for his country’s national team for the CONMEBOL 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, which is why Doyle said that Gimenez "might also be the answer to the question of, like, who's going to be missed the most over the next few games, because everything the Fire does is running through his feet. His ability to spread the game out and conduct where it's played — replacing him is going to be tough.” 

Watch the whole discussion and tell us who would you pick as the best d-mid in MLS in the comments below.