The beginning of the MLS season kick starts months of vigour for defences across the league, as they look to keep as many of their opponents out as possible. It will be important to get off to a good start for MLS clubs, with many of them relying on defensive solidity as a base to kick start from. Here are the five defensive lines you need to keep an eye on during the MLS’ opening weekend.
Columbus Crew (vs Toronto FC)
Columbus Crew stopper Zack Steffen is one of the most exciting young American players in the MLS. He has been linked with moves to Europe in the past, but is still at the Crew and will be very important if they are to beat record breakers Toronto FC. 19-year-old left back Milton Valenzuela will be in front of him after joining on loan from Newell’s Old Boys. Alongside the Argentinian full back should be Josh Williams against his former club, Jonathon Mensah and Harrison Afful. This will be one of the toughest challenges the Crew’s defence will face all season, so if they can keep the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez out, it will have been a job very well done.
FC Dallas (vs Real Salt Lake)
Having lost against Panamanian side Tauro in the CONCACAF Champions League, FC Dallas will be looking to bounce back and get their MLS season off to a positive start. Anton Nedyalkov and Reto Ziegler should slot into the back line to make their MLS debuts after joining from CSKA Sofia and FC Luzern respectively, to help Dallas to get back into the Play Offs after last season’s disappointment. Following a poor season last year and their failure to keep a clean sheet in either leg against Tauro, a shut out would be very welcome for Dallas against Real Salt Lake.
Minnesota United (vs San Jose Earthquakes)
Minnesota had the worst defensive record in the whole of the MLS last season, conceding a total of 70 goals. Their biggest defensive acquisition is goalkeeper Matt Lampson who was brought in via a trade with Chicago Fire and will push Bobby Shuttleworth for a starting spot. Outside of that they have brought Tyrone Mears into the defence. There haven’t been any groundbreaking transfers in or out of Minnesota, especially in defence, so it will be interesting to see whether they can keep out San Jose Earthquakes and the talismanic Chris Wondolowski on the opening weekend.
LAFC (vs Seattle Sounders)
On paper LAFC have a very strong backline, which should act as the base of Bob Bradley’s side. There isn’t too much depth, but solely looking at the first game, this could be a very strong defence. LAFC have Steven Beitashour who was an important part of Toronto’s record breaking season last campaign at right back and a centre back pairing of Belgium international Laurent Ciman and MLS veteran Walker Zimmerman. These are joined by left back Joao Moutinho who was first pick in the MLS SuperDraft and has impressed in pre season and Tyler Miller in goal who is getting his first real chance in the MLS. There is a mix of experience and youth in this backline which will make them very intriguing to watch.
Sporting Kansas City (vs New York City FC)
New York City FC have a lot of attacking talent in their side, most notably David Villa, so Sporting KC will have a big task on their hands to keep a clean sheet. However, Kansas were the only team to concede less than a goal a game last season, with Tim Melia winning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and Ike Opara crowned Defender of the Year. KC’s defensive line should look very similar to that of last season, so despite the fact that they will have a big challenge on their hands to keep Villa and co. at bay, Sporting will be confident going into their season opener.