TORONTO – Richard Eckersley's run as a center back figures to be a temporary occurrence. After all, the Englishman is a right back by trade, and Toronto FC head coach Paul Mariner has indicated that he sees Eckersley as a starter in that spot in 2013.
“Right back is my position, I’ve played that since I was a kid,” Eckersley (above, left) told MLSsoccer.com after training last Thursday. “Center back, I’m quite prepared to play there at the minute and I can’t complain as long as I can try and help the team. But fullback is my position and I enjoy it.
“It’s not long-term, I don’t think, to play center half. I think fullback is my long-term position with this team once we get stable at center half.”
A number of circumstances led to said lack of stability in the center of defense for the Reds.
Miguel Aceval, imported from Chile in the offseason, was supposed to be an answer, but was found lacking and was allowed to leave the Reds in July.
On the injury front, Dicoy Williams has been slow to return to form after knee surgery, while Adrian Cann returned from knee surgery, started for two months at center back, then suffered another injury that has kept him out until recently. Ty Harden has a lower abdominal strain and cannot play.
“So I think Paul now is trying to keep the same back four so there’s not too much chopping and changing,” Eckersley said. “It’s important, especially with the back four, that we all stick together and we know each other.”
The Manchester United youth product has been frequently teamed in central defense with Irish international Darren O’Dea, who has shown himself to be a solid addition since his arrival in August.
“Darren is very good at communicating,” Eckersley said. “He’s a natural center half, so he’s coaching me, like I would be coaching him if he was playing right back. He’s an asset to the team.”
When he plays right back, Eckersley enjoys getting forward, something he still does sometimes from central defense.
“I kind of like to run, it’s part of my game, endurance,” he added. “At center half you don’t really use it too much, it’s more about positioning and anticipating the pass.”