If you watched the Union square off with the New York Red Bulls at EverBank Field, you probably noticed that Fabinho started and played the entire first half at left back.
You also probably noticed that Ray Gaddis played the second half at right back, with rookie Robbie Derschang lined up on the left.
All four fullbacks, including shoo-in starter Sheanon Williams, were played on their preferred side of the field.
Jordan Harvey was a left footed player and remained in the left back spot until he was traded to Vancouver in 2011. Gabriel Farfan moved to the backline and played as a right footed left back for the better part of the next two seasons. Gaddis assumed that role in 2013, playing some solid defense despite being in a new position and on his weaker foot at the same time.
Now, in 2014, Union manager John Hackworth says he feels good about the team's outlook at a position that's always been a little bit atypical over the years.
"Fabinho has played well, and he played well at the end of last year, so we felt like we had something to really work with," Hackworth recently said of his left back plans. "We have Ray Gaddis, who we know can play there, and did a fantastic job for us last year. We've played him as more of a right back in preseason."
Let's take a closer look at how the left back spot was utilized last season:
2013 starters at left fullback:
- Ray Gaddis: 27 starts
- Fabinho: six (6) starts
- Gabriel Farfan: one (1) start
Gaddis was the starter on opening day, with Gabriel Farfan pushing up to his natural midfield spot instead.
Gaddis played that role through May 4, when he switched over to his preferred right side after Jeff Parke suffered a hamstring injury in the home draw against Seattle. The following game saw a center back pairing of Bakary Soumare and Amobi Okugo, with Gaddis at right back and Farfan on the left.
It was the only time that Farfan played left back in 2013.
Fabinho was acquired midway through the season, and made his first appearances coming off the bench as a left sided midfielder. The Brazilian first played left back on August 3, subbing in at halftime for Gaddis. He would go on to make five straight starts at fullback, before being reinserted in the midfield. Gaddis took over again at left back, and that formula was used until the season finale against Kansas City.
Looking now at the 2014 season, you have a left footed fullback in Fabinho, a right footed fullback in Williams, and the right footed Gaddis who can play on either side of the defense. That's arguably the most ideal fullback situation that the Union has had since joining Major League Soccer in 2010.
"It's one of those battles, that we do feel like, compared to last year we're in a much better position and we have greater depth," Hackworth said. "You can play a first team, second team, and third team even with guys who have played the position and are comfortable there."
What are your thoughts on the Union's current state at the left back position? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org