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Six Degrees: Five Favorite Defensive Midfielders

Soccer - MLS - Red Bulls Vs Portland Timbers Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

6) There’s not a lot of news in Timberdom this week, so we’ll once again pull out my favorite slow-news-week-gimmick, a list of my five favorite Timbers. So far, we’ve done strikers, wingers, and attacking midfielders. This week, we’ll do defensive midfielders.

We’ll start with a question: should a list of defensive midfielders contain sixes and no one else? Can we throw in some eights? I feel certain there will be some complaints about whether insert-player-here really qualifies as a defensive middie, but I can handle such complaints. Midfielder roles are fluid, players are constantly switching roles, and, in the end, this is just a silly, fun, slow-news-week list. Complain your hearts out.

As always, this is not a list of the five best defensive midfielders, just the ones I like the most. You don’t have to be good to make this list, I just have to like you.

5) My fifth favorite defensive midfielder is Ben Zemanski.

And we start with a deep cut! Zemanski never really got a lot of playing time, but I liked him. He had this really weird way of moving on the field, all bent over in a crouch, which made him instantly recognizable. I’ve also got this strange, useless bit of info stuck in my head: he was the team champion on the beep test. The human brain is bizarre, isn’t it? Why do I remember Zemanski’s beep test ability but I can barely remember my zip code? Science needs to start working on a way to swap out dumb trivia for useful facts. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

4) My fourth favorite defensive midfielder is Cristhian Paredes.

You know we just signed him to a permanent contract, right? The kid’s young, he’s really good, and don’t be surprised if at some point we get a lot of transfer money sending him to some big club somewhere. In the meantime, I predict he’ll score five or six goals for us every year. Not bad for a “defensive” midfielder. (I told you midfielder roles were fluid.)

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Portland Timbers
Christhian Paredes is a solid investment for the Timbers.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

3) My third favorite defensive midfielder is Will Johnson (but only 2013 Will Johnson).

Okay, let’s be clear on this, Will Johnson turned out to be kind of a dick. The longer he was with the Timbers, the more aggressive and unhinged he got, to the point where I think a lot of his teammates just started tuning him out. Then it got even worse after he left the team, until one day he was in the news for hitting his wife. Completely unacceptable and unforgivable.

MLS: Toronto FC at Portland Timbers
Will Johnson returns to Providence Park after his move to Toronto FC.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

All that being said, I thought 2013 Will Johnson was just delightful. He was intense without being unhinged, his referee interactions were still charming, and his never-say-die attitude infused the entire team, leading to a wonderful season for us fans. So, yeah, from 2014 on, Will Johnson wouldn’t make this list. But 2013 Will Johnson? I thought he was friggin’ awesome.

2) My second favorite defensive midfielder is Jack Jewsbury.

The irony here is that I wasn’t even around for Captain Jack’s best season. I came to Portland in 2012, but apparently in 2011, Jack absolutely crushed it. He was farther forward and more goal-dangerous and probably would qualify as an attacking midfielder.

But by the time I started following the team, Jack had begun transitioning to a more defensive role, popping up at the 8, at the 6, at fullback if I recall correctly, and hell, did he ever play goalkeeper? I wouldn’t rule it out.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Portland Timbers
Captain Jack wore many hats for the Timbers...and still does.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The old salty dog was a leader on the field and off, he was versatile, he scored some clutch goals, and he was a class act through it all. It’s no wonder the club were eager to keep him in the community as a Timbers representative when he hung up the boots.

And yet, he’s still not my favorite defensive midfielder...

1) ...because, of course, my favorite defensive midfielder is Diego Chará. He’s my favorite Timber, period.

Just like with Valeri, from the moment Diego Chará arrived in this town, he’s been a colossus both on the field and off. He’s the club’s all-time leader in minutes played, games played, games started, fouls committed, yellow cards earned, ejections earned, promising attacks ended, fires snuffed out, and opposing attackers absolutely blown the fuck up.

All of that would be enough to make him my all-time favorite Timber, but there’s more. He’s a quiet leader on the field and in the locker room, he’s a great citizen of Portland, he represents what we all want this team and this city to be, and I hope he’s here until the day he retires. And beyond. #BuildTheStatue

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Portland Timbers
Diego Chará has been with the Timbers since their transition to MLS in 2011 and will most certainly be remembered as a legend.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

So those are my favorite defensive midfielders. Got any favorites of your own? And remember, they don’t have to be good, there just needs to be something about them you always liked. Any David Guzman lovers out there? How about George Fochive? Let me hear about it down in the comments.