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Wahl and Sauro stake claim to center back position

Both have performed this season, but one stands out from the pack.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Gregg Berhalter says he is still deciding on his starting center back for Sunday's second leg of the Eastern Conference Final. Gaston Sauro has been steadfast since coming into the team. Tyson Wahl performed well in his start against a team that had not been shut out since May.

It's extremely unlikely that Berhalter doesn't already have his starter in mind, but let's take a brief look at a comparison between Wahl and Sauro. The numbers are limited on Sauro, but he does have a distinct edge in several areas. All stats are per 90 minutes.


Sauro's defensive stats are generally better that Wahl's. He shines in the amount of tackles and interceptions he's able to make. He breaks up plays effectively. That extends to his abilities heading the ball. Sauro sees more headers and also connects on more. The only place Wahl shines is on clearances.

Sauro's statistics point to a defender who is more proactive and looks to defend with an eye towards countering. Successful headers and interceptions can be turned into offense easier. Clearances usually can't. Looking at passing, Sauro also is impressive with the ball at his feet. He's far more involved in the passing game and completes more passes. It's hard to overlook a player who can pass when the Red Bulls are more likely to press heavily to create turnovers.

Wahl does have a distinct advantage. He's less prone to fouls and cards. Wahl isn't the danger to give up a foul off physical play or possibly even an ejection. A yellow card for either player isn't a problem since there is no card accumulation for the final.

There certainly is more to choosing a starter based on statistics. Berhalter and his staff will be observing throughout practice in an effort to find the player more on form and who fits the game plan. Wahl however was quoted that he expects that Sauro will step back into the lineup.

It's likely that Berhalter does have his choice and his statements are misdirection rather than a statement of intent. When Sauro was suspended, Berhalter originally said that he was debating between Wahl and Emanuel Pogatetz to replace him. Wahl was the starter and Pogatetz didn't even make the 18. Expect similar. Actions speak far louder than words when it comes to Berhalter and that points to Sauro coming back in the lineup.