We're continuing with our 2015 Position Battles series, with Part 4: Center back. Well obviously one of these spots is locked up with Matt Hedges. I don't care what Pareja says about competition, there's no one on the roster that comes even close to his level of play at the moment. That being said, the privilege to line up against Matt Hedges is still up for grabs. It could go to the emergency center back Zach Loyd who ended up making that spot his own towards the end of last season. It could be 2013 1st Round SuperDraft pick Walker Zimmerman. Also in the running is fan favorite and a gif maker's dream, Stephen Keel.
So let's break it down and don't forget to cast your vote down below!
Loyd's stats are a bit off because he logged some time at right and left back, so it's not a clean like for like comparison but it is what we have to work with. Not surprisingly, Zimmerman is the leader in terms of % of aerial duels won. But don't discount Keel's stats here either. Generally when is on the field, he's working more in a sweeper type model where he's not man marking but rather pockets of space.
Case for Hedges
I don't really need to get into this do I? OK. Fine. He is the team's best all around defender. He's confident on the ball, good passing range, great one on one marking skills, excellent in the air and so on. He is really the only and completely indisputable player with an automatic spot on the team.
Case for Loyd
I keep hearing that his height works against him and I kept waiting last season for a team to try to exploit it. Funny enough, no one could ever do it. His ridiculous vertical helps but Pareja, Hedges and Loyd have figured out ways to minimize the height disadvantage and in many ways, the Loyd-Hedges partnership looks very similar to the Omar Gonzalez-AJ DeLaGarza thing that LA has. Loyd is the faster of the center backs and when faced against strikers with pace, Loyd is the perfect match up against them.
Case for Keel
He's a veteran who got significant minutes last season. He isn't spectacular but he doesn't make many mistakes either. While certainly not the most exciting option, you do want a steady center back who will play mistake free soccer and that's what you get out of Keel.
Case for Zimmerman
His ceiling could be the highest among anyone in here, including Hedges. His biggest problem has been his injuries. For me, this is his make or break season with FC Dallas. I do think he'll be healthy, and when he has been able to play, he's looked very much the part of a dominating MLS center back. He has made a few mistakes, which is common for a young player but the potential for something great is there and he can only achieve it by logging minutes in.
So what do you guys think? Vote below in the polls, sound off in the comment section. When we've covered all positions on the field, I'll tally the votes up and put together the Fan's Choice Starting XI.