Versatility holds great value in Major League Soccer, allowing coaches to seamlessly plug key cogs into different roles while they chalk up wins. Case in point: Each of the last 10 MLS Cup victors started at least one player away from what was considered to be their optimum position at the time.
With all that in mind, we've decided to celebrate the "handyman" by spotlighting a six-pack of the most adaptable, multi-faceted players in MLS today.
Latif Blessing, LAFC
Ever since Blessing landed in Los Angeles, he's made a name for himself as a vital "makes the team tick" cog. And quite fortunately for LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, the No. 7 shirt can be that guy from a variety of places on the field. Recently, he's been putting in work from right back, a position he'd never played as a pro before joining the club.
Of course, the 23-year-old came into the league as a troublesome Sporting KC winger capable of solid production, and he remained that early in his LAFC tenure. Last season, Blessing was shifted into midfield, where he formed a terrific trio with Eduard Atuesta and Mark-Anthony Kaye. Though more of an attack administrator than an outright playmaker, he still put up decent counting stats for the record-breaking Supporters Shield winners.
Hassani Dotson, Minnesota United FC
I would not at all be shocked to see the Minnesota United youngster eventually settle into one role, and excel it in that job. The thing is, at this time it's properly difficult to hypothesize exactly which position Dotson might lock down. Yes, right back and defensive midfield are odds-on co-favorites for the moment (and that's not just because the Loons have a 30+ star currently working those posts). And yet, the smooth and athletic 23-year-old has also put in adept showings from more advanced midfield stations, and even from left back.
Dotson may be so tough to pigeon-hole because of his widely varied skills. He's speedy, but also strong in the air. He loves to get stuck in defensively about as much as he loves lighting off bombs from distance. And at this rate, his versatility could one day become a puzzle for US men’s national team boss Gregg Berhalter to solve, as well.
Julian Gressel, D.C. United
There's no getting around it. The offseason catch has yet to catch fire in a D.C. United shirt. It's a surprising development (and one most probably imagine is temporary), but it can't erase the fact Gressel has been among the very best Swiss army knives in the league over the past few seasons. He raised three trophies in three years with Atlanta United, and it's apropos he worked four different positions to help the Five Stripes earn those three confetti showers.
It's true Gressel has played a lion's share of his MLS matches on the right flank, but it's also true he's played everywhere along it from front to back. To boot, he has played over 30 games in central midfield, operating from all three midfield posts at one time or another. And wherever you'll find him on a given day, the German is quite arguably the best crosser in the league, with service as easy to strike as it is accurate.
Damir Kreilach, Real Salt Lake
One could certainly be forgiven for forgetting the Real Salt Lake veteran arrived at Rio Tinto as a pure central midfielder, and one more likely to be charged with shielding the backline than guiding the attack. Sure, Kreilach was no stranger to producing supplemental offense from a deep station at Union Berlin. Or during his first season with RSL, for that matter.
And then came the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, when then-RSL boss Mike Petke pushed Kreilach into the surprisingly comfy forward role he's played more often than not since. For a team that has had the damnedest time getting a natural striker to pay off as expected, the 31-year-old has repeatedly been a rescue worker, especially in the postseason. He's been a lethal aerial threat, has shown there's a bit of magic in his right foot and still drops back to aid the build.
Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders
When most people think of the Seattle mainstay, they likely view him as a two-way No. 8. That makes perfect sense, as a majority of his MLS outings have seen Roldan roaming box-to-box handling all sorts of midfield jobs. Check the highlights of most any key game from the club's two championship seasons, and you'll see him eagerly providing the bridge between NIco Lodeiro and either Ozzie Alonso or Gustav Svensson.
What casual observers of the Sounders may not realize is Roldan has actually spent nearly two of his five-and-a-half seasons in other stations. In most of these formation sojourns, he has played somewhere along the starboard side, including at right wing and right back. He has also had some run-outs just behind the strikers and directly in front of the defense.
Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution
Perhaps no current MLS player wears the handyman tag better than the New England vet. While he's played everywhere along the midfield line this season, that doesn't even begin to scratch the true surface of Rowe's career record for versatility. In fact, a check of his "all seasons" Transfermarkt page shows that he's seen time in every field position, and that he's made at least 13 starts at no less than six of them.
In the early days of his first go-around with the Revs, Rowe could most often be found either in central midfield or on one of the flank attack spots. A fine case can be made left wing is his ideal assignment, but at this point there can be no denying the 28-year-old typically gets positioned in his team's greatest area of need at a given moment. And that, my friends, makes him a very handy player indeed.