In a league known more for its splashy attackers than lights-out defenders, right back has become a surprisingly deep position across MLS.
In the aftermath of NYCFC's 4-0 rout of FC Cincinnati on Saturday, MLSsoccer.com's Ben Baer dished the take that Cityzens' RB Anton Tinnerholm is currently the standard-bearer at the position. That got Extratime host Andrew Wiebe thinking: Is the debate really that simple? Or are there are other candidates who could make a case?
That was discussed on the latest episode of Extratime, and the crew talked about who would be their pick, with Toronto FC's Richie Laryea and Seattle's Kelvin Leerdam surfacing as who could challenge for top billing. Calen Carr said that while Tinnerholm and Laryea each have compelling arguments, his pick would be Leerdam due to the Dutchman's steady presence and versatility.
"It depends what you're looking for. Tinnerholm can give you a lot going forward – we've seen him score nice goals," Carr said. "I think Laryea gives you a little bit something different because he can play in a four-back system, he can play in a three-back system, he can play as a wide guy, he can play as a winger. As far as the top-end potential in these moments that you see from Laryea, he just jumps off the page. You're like 'Whoa, dude.' I like his personality as well, he's a fighter and he's down to scrap. Tinnerholm's got a little bit of that, too.
"Leerdam is a little bit more of a steady force. I feel like he's very solid in possession, he can chip in with goals, he can move forward. He's a little bit more methodical at times, but he's versatile as well as far as the formations he can play in. I think those are my top three. ... I think if I were to look through the entire list, I think the steady force of Leerdam for me is maybe why I would take him, and the versatility, as my pick."
Watch: Extratime debates the best right back in MLS
Matthew Doyle said based on body of work, his pick would be Tinnerholm. But if he was building a team right now, his pick would be Laryea, given his rapid emergence since TFC moved him to the position that Doyle believes could lead to attention from overseas.
"On body of work you have to take Tinnerholm, but if I was picking a team right now I would take Laryea," Doyle said. "He's 25, he just switched positions last year. Toronto rehabbed his career. Orlando City after three years threw him on the scrap pile, only played him 500 minutes over three years. Toronto got him for free ahead of last year.
"He's already, 18 months later, we're talking about him as one of the best right backs in the league – not just in the league, he's one of the best right backs in Concacaf. It would not shock me at all if there were European offers for him at the end of this year. He's a little older than most of the guys you see get sold, but he's not too old. And he's that level of talent."
Who's your pick? Listen to the whole show and leave your thoughts in the comments below.