Question:

Can you fill in the blank? Harry Maguire would be the ___ best center back in MLS.

Answer:

This question was submitted by Jonathan G. 

Let’s just get this out of the way: if an MLS team purchased Harry Maguire this summer, he should be the best center back in the league. Should.

I say that largely based on the qualities that make him such an important part of one of the best international sides in the world: England. He’s very good at getting the ball up the field and can be a deceptively clever passer. He’s very good in the air and especially very good at winning duels in set piece situations, which is one of the most important skills any center back can have. And he seems to take his role as a leader on teams seriously. He doesn’t strike me as the type of player that would come to MLS and simply assume the league is easy, but would rather step into a role where he was expected to be a leader in a team without hesitation. Those are good things.

A far better question than “how good of a CB would Harry Maguire be in MLS” is “would an MLS team actually know what to do with Harry Maguire?” Because Manchester United don’t have a friggin’ clue. And I think many of the MLS teams that could actually scrape together the money to hypothetically sign Harry Maguire at this present moment wouldn’t, either.

Maguire simply isn’t a “put out all the fires” kind of defender. He’s not great when he’s asked to chase down attackers in space and he’s prone to mistakes when he tries to step up into the midfield to make challenges, hopefully preventing the transition opportunities that United’s midfield gifts opponents in numbers rivaling the amount of clowns you can fit in the trunk of a car.

He’s a very good defender in the right system; we know this. But he’s not superhuman. And if an MLS team signed him today, I almost guarantee that they would expect him to go and be superhuman, since they paid a bunch of money for him. And, to be fair to those MLS teams, it would still probably work out pretty well for them, because MLS isn’t as fast as the Premier League, nor their attackers as efficient. Plug him into a setup like, say, Inter Miami’s? He’s probably a top-5 MLS CB. But he’s not number one.

This may sound like I’m cheating my way around the answer, because I am. But, in general, I think too much is made of Harry Maguire’s mistakes for United and not enough about just how often his club hangs him out to dry. MLS is a bit easier and a bit more forgiving. He would do well in the league. But it’s also a place where I think he would be asked to perform some minor miracles, when in reality, he’s much more of a sergeant than a savior.

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