Best centerback duo in MLS? Newly minted Goodson, Bernardez stake claim

#SJvSKC to showcase two of MLS' strongest centerback pairings

MLS Central Back Casting has done its job.

The Earthquakes’ match against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday at Buck Shaw Stadium should showcase San Jose’s newly minted center back pairing of Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson, and SKC’s heralded duo of Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler.

Forwards on both sides could find themselves in immediate double jeopardy.

Although younger than their San Jose counterparts, the SKC center backs are well-established. They merged forces at the beginning of the 2011 season and have been tormenting opposing strikers ever since.

Besler, 26, was the 2012 MLS Defender of the Year, and Collin, 27, a native of Paris, was a finalist for top MLS defender.

By contrast, Goodson and Bernardez, both 31, have played just two games together. But they’re measuring up just fine, literally and figuratively.

Goodson, who is 6-foot-4, and Bernardez, who is 6-2, have earned their international soccer chops. Plus, they’re something special in the air.

“Having two guys like that - anything in the air is going to be something they’ll relish,” Quakes interim coach Mark Watson says. “They’re big, strong guys.”

Goodson, whom the Quakes signed on June 28, also brings a little extra communication in the back.

Those who believe defense wins championships are feeling good about the Earthquakes’ future prospects these days.

Earthquakes radio analyst Chris Dangerfield views the pairing of Bernardez and Goodson as a mirror image of Collin and Besler, even though the Quakes’ duo is just getting to know each other.

“They’ve only been together for a couple games and so they’re still working on their partnership,” Dangerfield, a former Quakes player, said. “But I think everybody in the league will look at them, the pairing, and say that would be something the Quakes would love going forward for the rest of the season and, obviously, next season to be a contender. … It’s good, solid defense that wins championships for you.”

Before joining the Quakes who have held his rights since selecting him in the 2007 MLS Expansion Draft, Goodson made 18 starts and 19 appearances for Brondby IF, the largest club in Denmark, in 2012-13. The former Maryland Terrapin also started all six games for the United States in the Gold Cup, scoring against Panama. He’s in good form.

“We’re really excited,” Watson said of Goodson’s addition. “I think adding someone like Clarence to an already pretty talented back line is something that can only help us. It’s adding quality, adding experience, adding an older head, which is so important at the back, and also competition for places. We’ve added a good player to an already good group, so I think it’s only going to raise the level of everyone.”

Indeed, the Quakes are deep at the defender position, also with Steven Beitashour and Jordan Stewart out wide. Jason Hernandez and Justin Morrow, who both have seen significant minutes, are also in the mix.

Goodson and Bernardez’s styles are different, which is probably a good thing.

“Victor’s probably a little more aggressive and likes to win stuff in front and has good feet and can move the ball out around the back,” Watson said. “Clarence is probably a little more of a positional player. He reads the game really well...his angles are good. He’s very sound as well. He’s very clean, and he makes the right decisions.”

Watson doesn’t think the lack of time together will make much of a difference for Goodson and the Honduran, Bernardez.

“I think with experienced players like they are, they’re going to get a real understanding sooner than later,” Watson said. “With younger guys it takes a little bit longer, but guys that have played at a high level for a long time, the mechanics of a back four is fairly similar around the world. Some places, the fullbacks will attack a little bit more, but for center backs it’s pretty standard, so I expect them to get a good understanding fairly quickly.”

Goodson helped the Quakes blank Chivas USA 2-0 in his debut on Aug. 3. Then, in a 2-0 loss to host Vancouver, he created a chance for Chris Wondolowski with a header across the goal in the 55th minute off a Shea Salinas free kick. Two minutes earlier, Goodson threw his body in front of an attempt by Camilo to deny the Brazilian.

Now, the stage is set for two of the league’s sharpest center back tandems to share the same air space. Buckle up, target men.

- Richter Media