During the past few offseasons, the Crew has struggled to fill one consistent void in its lineup: a proven leftback.
Not since Argentine Gino Padula and the Black & Gold parted ways following the 2010 season has the club had a steady contributor on the left side of the back line. During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, six different players have manned the position. Right-footed Josh Williams started 14 of the final 16 matches at left back last season.
"It's hard to find quality players at any position, especially leftback," Head Coach Robert Warzycha explained. "You'd like to have someone over there who has experience. It's difficult to find a leftback who is left-footed. There are always more right-footed players than left-footers. It's always tough."
With Williams shifting into a more natural position on the right side of the defense heading into 2013 season, the additions of Tyson Wahl, Agustín Viana and Homegrown signing Chad Barson have added a depth at leftback that the Crew has lacked in recent memory. Even Brazilian defender, a natural left-footer, has seen moments at leftback during his career.
By default, Wahl entered preseason training camp as Warzycha's top choice at left back, but has been met with competition following the signing of Viana and emergence of Barson. The MLS veteran has welcomed the challenge from his new teammates to make the Crew defense better as a whole.
"There's always competition," Wahl said. "When I got here there weren't many defenders on the roster and a couple weeks later, we signed two left-footed defenders. It's not something I wouldn't expect though. You want to stand out and make your impression. I want to make the most of my opportunity and I want to be on the field. You expect competition because [MLS] is a high level. As long we're pushing each other and as long as the backline is doing well, it's great."
With the season opener against Chivas USA less than two weeks away, Viana and Wahl are the top candidates to start at left back.
"Viana has played some games at leftback and Tyson [Wahl] has started some games," Warzycha said. "Chad Barson has played some at leftback. Those two guys, Tyson and Viana, have played there the most right now. They've been solid and they're playing well."
"[Wahl and Viana] bring experience and ability," the Head Coach added. "Those guys are good players and I'm sure sure they will work for each other. We haven't been giving up too many goals because everybody has stayed organized. They are also good defenders one-on-one."
The Crew's leftback situation could become even deeper as trialist and Crew Soccer Academy product Kyle Hyland has impressed the Black & Gold's technical staff this preseason. The 21-year-old Bay Village, Ohio native played four years at IUPUI, where he scored eight goals as a senior in 2012. Hyland remains in camp, competiting for a roster spot.
"I wouldn't say he's physically gifted, but he's strong and quick," Warzycha said of Hyland. "He's got a very good left foot and he's a great passer. I think he is one of the players that has impressed the most here in Orlando."
Warzycha will have two more preseason matches to evaluate his roster as the Crew takes on the Montreal Impact on Saturday in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic Final, while the Reserves will play the University of North Carolina in the inaugural Kirk Urso Memorial Match on Sunday.