Juggling Leftbacks

CDLC talks the rotating left back spot

Much has been said about the juggling Fire head coach Carlos
de los Cobos has done with his starting 11 this season. One position that has
seen perhaps the most fluctuation is at left back, where the manager has
started four different players in 22 matches over the course of 2010.

The question of the starting left back position bewildered
many when the former El Salvador boss ran out three different players at the
position in the club’s first three games of the season, choosing Mike Banner on
March 27 at New York, Krzysztof Krol on April 3 at Colorado and then Salvadoran
international Deris Umanzor April 10 vs. San Jose.

Since that time, Krol looked to have locked down the spot,
starting 14 of the Fire’s 22 matches at left back, but the reacquisition of
Gonzalo Segares blurred the line, giving the club a surplus at the position.

Since rejoining the Fire on August 6, the Costa Rican
international has appeared as a starter in every match he’s been eligible,
playing four games before being banned two matches following a red card he
earned for a foul against LA Galaxy midfielder Leonardo September 4 at Toyota

 During the two-game
suspension, de los Cobos again tried Banner as a pseudo left back in a
formation that morphed between 3-5-2- and 4-4-2 and then Umanzor in a straight
4-4-2 this past weekend in Philadelphia.

Those changes were necessitated by suspension but de los
Cobos also said form has factored into the equation as well.

“Deris [Umanzor] had a good match on Saturday,” said de los
Cobos following Tuesday’s training session. “[Kryzsztof] Krol started and
played a lot of matches earlier this season. Players have different levels
during the season and now I sometimes believe it’s better to play with Mike
[Banner]. With Gonzalo [Segares] out for two matches I needed to use a player that
I thought was better at the time and so that’s why I chose Mike and Deris the
past two matches.”

The predicament is an embarrassment of riches in some cases.
Both Umanzor and Segares feature in their national teams, Krol has European
experience and while Banner is not a left back by trade, his ability on the
ball has seen him move around to different positions on the field when the side
is in a pinch.

Umanzor’s inclusion in the Fire lineup Saturday came after
his return from international duty with El Salvador the week before, assisting
on the first goal in his country’s 2-2 draw with Honduras in Los Angeles on
September 4.

“I saw his game against Honduras and thought he had a good
match. He took a lot of confidence away from that performance and deserved to
play Saturday and I thought he played well again – he was focused all the

With Segares now available for selection this Saturday
against Real Salt Lake, the safe money is on the Costa Rican international
returning to the starting eleven though de los Cobos is adamant that play on
the field is the most important thing when it comes to selection for a match.

“When someone deserves to play, the least important thing to
me is the name of the player. I respect all the players but its necessary to
play the ones that I think have earned it.”