TORONTO – While pundits and fans might question what Justin Morrow’s position is exactly, the Toronto FC star has no doubts himself.
Morrow finished second in voting for the MLS defender of the year award last week, losing out to Sporting Kansas City’s Ike Opara. It was the first such nomination for Morrow, who has spent the majority of his eight MLS seasons deployed as a fullback on the left side of both the San Jose Earthquakes’ and TFC’s defence.
Ever since coach Greg Vanney switched to his now-preferred 3-5-2 formation last year, Morrow has mostly been used as a wingback higher up the field. The Cleveland native has handled the new assignment with aplomb – he remains one of TFC’s most consistent defensive performers, and he chipped in with a career-high eight goals this season, tied with Victor Vazquez for third in team scoring.
His nomination for the defender of the year award sparked an interesting debate on social media as to whether or not wingbacks should even be in consideration for the honour.
Are wingbacks true defenders? Should Morrow have been put into the same category as defender of the year finalists Opara and Kendall Waston of the Vancouver Whitecaps, both of them traditional centre backs?
To be sure, Morrow’s eight goals this campaign were a major reason why he was nominated for the award. But they weren’t the only factor – as influential and an astute attacker as he has been for the Reds, he was also a key contributor to a TFC defence that conceded just 37 goals in 2017, second-lowest in MLS.
“The position I’ve been playing recently has involved attacking and defending. I’ve had success this year attacking, but I’ve always considered myself a defender first. I pride myself on my defensive work rate, my defensive stability that I bring the team,” Morrow said.
Vanney, a defender of some repute in MLS during his playing days, argues that Morrow’s candidacy for defender of the year was warranted – that wingbacks don’t just bomb forward down the flanks; they also have to do quite a bit of defending. Morrow fulfilled both his defensive and attacking responsibilities this season with great consistency.
“There’s some debate whether [wingbacks are] actually midfielders – are they defenders? What is their actual role? … To me, that’s one of the ways [Morrow] ended up in the defender of the year finalist category, because his …read more