The last time Bernardo Anor played leftback was July 14, 2012. The Crew played Sporting Kansas City on that day, falling 2-0 at home, and it also lost Anor for the season to a torn ACL. The Venezuelan suffered the injury in the 63rd minute, even though he was able to finish the match. He came back strong as the Crew’s OhioHealth Comeback Player of the Year last season, but hadn’t returned to that fateful position—until tonight against Real Salt Lake, when Anor helped Columbus earn a 1-1 draw in what was an undeniably strong performance.
“I’m not going to lie to you, [the injury] actually came to my mind, because the only other time I started as a leftback, I tore my ACL,” said Anor. “I thought about it, but right away I left it in the past. I cannot be afraid of that. It was just bad luck.”
The Crew is certainly thankful that Anor was able to put the bad memories aside, because the converted leftback was one of the best players on the pitch against RSL. He recorded 110 touches throughout the course of the match, setting an individual team record in any one match this season, surpassing Wil Trapp’s 105 against Toronto FC on April 5.
It wasn’t all offense for the former University of South Florida standout—Anor led the team with three interceptions and made several crucial tackles in and around the box.
“Bernie was close to my Man of the Match in terms of what he did at leftback having never played there before,” praised Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “He just kept going and he made a couple great moves and had a couple of great crosses. He really put a lot of pressure on them in the second half.”
Anor at leftback gives the Crew an attacking option from that position in Waylon Francis’ wake; a different dimension than the defensively-minded Chad Barson, who had been manning the leftback spot since Francis departed for the Costa Rica National Team.
“[Berhalter] knew that I could go forward and have the crosses into the box, but at the same time hold myself responsible for the defensive part and deliver in that aspect of the game as well—cover [Michael Parkhurst’s] back and set myself in a good position when we don’t have the ball,” said Anor.
Whether it's Anor or Barson, the Crew leftback position appears to be in good hands, even without Francis. Tonight's performance also creates a new personal option for Anor, who says he will do whatever it takes to stay on the field. That effort was evident all match long, as the tireless Anor continued to get forward even late into the 90 minutes, at one point running down a 50/50 ball away from fresh-legged sub Tony Beltran.
“Whatever position [Berhalter] puts me in, I’ll do my best and I’ll try 100%. I haven’t gotten too much experience as a leftback, but as soon as I heard that I got the chance, I did my research in terms of how to defend and position myself. I listened to [Berhalter] a lot in terms of what he wanted me to do on the field," said the Venezuelan.
“It’s a quick transition, but with the help of Mike next to me and the way we set up the team today, I felt very comfortable and I felt that I was positioning myself and making dangerous passes when we were attacking.”
It remains to be seen what lineup the Crew plans to field on Saturday against D.C. United, but even though Berhalter said he intended to rotate his team this week, Anor’s standout performance at leftback certainly makes him a candidate to stay there for the showcase match at FedExField.
“It would have been great to get the win today, but I’m not leaving the stadium unhappy because I think the performance of the team, the character and the attitude, everything was there,” said Anor. “I feel happy in regards to that. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get the win, but we have to go to D.C. and try to get the three points—come out in the first half with the same energy, and I think we’ll be better off."