The number 7 shirt in football (soccer) has long been known as the number given to the right winger in the starting eleven. Back in the 1920's when numbers were given to players by their position and for decades to come this is what the 7 embodied. George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo have worn it for Manchester United. Other stars of the game like Kenny Dalglish and Luis Figo have donned the famous digit. In Major League Soccer, the number 7 has an identity crisis.
MLS has a number 7 everywhere on the field except at goalkeeper. Fullbacks, defensive mids, strikers, no rhyme or reason. Let's take a look at where the number 7's in MLS line up.
The Typical Role
Christian Bolanos, Cordell Cato, Cristian Higuita, Burrito Martinez, Dominic Oduro, Cristian Roldan
Of the 20 MLS teams, only 5 teams have what may be considered a "true" number 7. Bolanos, Martinez, and Oduro play high up field as you may expect from their number. Oduro even plays as a striker at times. Cato, Higuita, and Roldan have been used in a variety of positions.
DaMarcus Beasley, Derrick Etienne, John Goossens, Robbie Keane, Emil Larsen, Chance Myers, David Villa
Beasley and Myers are fullbacks but get involved in the attack often. We have yet to see Etienne debut in MLS but he plays mostly as an attcking midfielder. Goossens is also a central player who gets forward a lot. Larsen plays on the left side, not the right as we see from the typical 7, but he is on the wing. Keane and Villa are both goal scoring strikers, more of a 9, but attack minded nonetheless.
He's Number 7?
Brian Carroll, Carlos Gruezo, Will Johnson, Gershon Koffie, Marcelo Sarvas
Defensive midfielders wearing number 7? Now we're deep in this identity crisis. None of these guys would be confused for big threats on the offensive end. They may get forward and set up the occasional goal but not what you'd expect with that shirt on.
A big, burly centerback with a beard. That's Nate Borchers. Basically, the opposite of a number 7. Nothing, against Nat, he's a great player but he's the cover boy of this identity crisis in MLS. If he can wear 7, it's not long until a keeper has it on between the sticks.
In this 21st century soccer world we live in where players are wearing anything from 1-99 (and even higher), there may be only 1 team in MLS not suffering from this crisis. The Colorado Rapids don't have a number 7 on their roster.