Now that Kemar Lawrence has left the New York Red Bulls for a new adventure overseas, we couldn't help but ponder where he fits among the all-time pantheon of MLS left backs. Yeah, you know what's coming next.
We combed through the league's first 24 seasons to put together a left back honor roll. There was no concrete formula for comparing all these players, but only time spent at left back in MLS was considered for judging.
For instance, Greg Vanney may have spent most of his European club and US national team career on the port side of defense, but the easy majority of his MLS games came as a center back. Meanwhile, Ashley Cole was a bona fide star left back for years in Europe, but that splendid CV and his overall quality couldn't help him measure up here.
It was incredibly difficult to narrow the list down to 10, and even harder to rank everyone; if you asked me to do this exercise next week, the order below would likely be shuffled. With such tough choices, it should be no wonder that we're left with a deep, impressive honorable mentions group: José Burciaga, Paul Caligiuri, Wilman Conde, Ramiro Corrales, Joe Franchino, Diego Gutiérrez, Jordan Harvey, Joevin Jones, Rónald Matarrita, Ambroise Oyongo and Heath Pearce.
The model of consistent solidity beat out some pretty good players to sneak into the list. He's as reliable in his own end as he's been supporting possession for a decade. Now with the New England Revolution, Sinovic was another reliable part of several good Sporting KC teams, racking up 254 appearances, an MLS Cup and three US Open Cup triumphs with the club.
In an MLS age when many teams struggled to find a dependable up-and-down left back, Real Salt Lake didn't usually have that problem. Wingert worked 289 total contests for the Rio Tinto bunch, and helped them raise MLS Cup in 2009. The Long Island native was a field asset from the jump, stepping up as a rookie to help Columbus Crew SC claim its first Supporters Shield.
The Chicago Fire veteran is one of just eight players who have earned Best XI honors for playing exclusively as a left back. He was also good enough to be one of only three players on this list to play in a World Cup. Before spending several years in Mexico and Israel, Bornstein ably darted up and down the flank in 139 total Chivas USA contests.
Yes, a good portion of Agoos' career was spent at center back, including the entirety of a fruitful second act with the San Jose Earthquakes. In the early days, however, he was the power left back in MLS. Most concerned with defending, but also an underrated long passer, he manned the station as D.C. United won a pile of trophies.
For the first half of his 255 Chicago Fire outings, Segares was a key cog on a pretty exciting team that always seemed to fall just short on the last step to MLS Cups but eased its agony a little with an Open Cup crown. The Costa Rica spent the remainder as one of the few steady contributors on a team falling apart. Through all of it, he was a slick customer whether taking the ball away or moving it forward.
For more than a decade, Barrett was an under-heralded flank bulldog for some terrific teams in San Jose and Houston. Well, we're here for some overdue heralding. He was a tough, speedy jack of all left back trades who would run through a wall to win. And win he did, celebrating an MLS Cup and a Supporters' Shield with the Quakes before captaining the Dynamo to consecutive titles.
There's a lot of guys known for consistency in this ranking, but perhaps no one was maintained an unwavering level of play for longer than Dunivant. Week in and week out, he was organized with the ball and active at the back. After a very impressive rookie season contributed to an MLS Cup win in San Jose, he went on to play the lion's share of his 306 MLS games (and win four more Cups) with the LA Galaxy.
Everyone else in this list played well more than his 129 league games, but the Reggae Boy was good enough in his five Red Bulls seasons to have a strong top spot case. It was nearly impossible to get behind Lawrence when you came his way, and few left backs anywhere shifted gears from defense to the overlap faster. He'll now be keeping opposing flankers brutally honest for Belgian giants Anderlecht.
The Toronto FC mainstay has basically been a poster boy for this position for a full decade now. Whether used as a wingback (which counts in this ranking) or a more textbook left back role, Morrow raids forward with skill and supplemental end product. He's an underrated defender who's routinely among the top tacklers in the league.
He's an eager, adept build booster — left-shading attack stars like Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez don't shine as much without Morrow supporting and spurring their rushes. It's no accident he helped spark turnarounds in both San Jose and Toronto, or he's had a hand in two Supporters Shield wins and three MLS Cup appearances along the way.