In 2011, Corey Ashe was playing catch up while trying to transition to left back. Now, he is forcing other teams to figure out how to deal with him on the left wing.
Ashe has come a long way since what was supposed to be a one-off start at left back to check then New York winger Dane Richards. Over the past two years, however, the former midfielder has blossomed into one of the league’s best left backs using his strength, speed and soccer IQ to hone his craft on defense.
Ashe has done his job to lock down the left side of defense while still providing the attacking prowess his former life as a midfielder would suggest. His decision-making has improved as well. He was whistled for his first foul of the season against Portland, going six games without committing drawing a whistle.
With a strong start to 2013, Ashe is not only putting his name at the top of left back list in MLS, but is causing people to consider whether his ability can translate to the international level.
“For a guy that grew up as a midfielder, for him to take on his defensive role with such intensity and pride, its fun to watch,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall. “He’s a smart soccer player. He’s so cognizant as a defender that he’s outthought the game to where he’s always in really good spots. Now you don’t just have a defender back there, you have a really good soccer player.
“There’s not another left back I’d rather play with in the league,” Hall continued. “I don’t think Corey exists on other teams with what he brings to the table. I think he’s the best left back in MLS.”
Ashe’s move to defense was not always the smoothest as he got a crash course in the finer points of being a defender like when to step a defender and how to balance his runs forward with his defensive responsibilities. Even today he sometimes gets caught trying to play catch up.
“I keep saying I’m still trying to adjust to this position,” Ashe told MLSsoccer.com. “I think it’s coming along well. It helps having guys to direct you. It’s becoming confident. I have the ability and it’s just believing game in and game out that I have the tools to get it done and then just going out and doing it.”
That confidence is showing as consistency has become a big part of what makes him so effective.
“I don’t think you see bad games from him,” Kinnear said. “We encourage him to get forward and think he’s a good one-on-one defender. The good thing about Corey is he’s consistent.”
With Ashe’s play rising to the level it has, the next question is can he work his way into the national team mix? According to Hall, the left back certainly has the skills to make a case at that level.
“I can only go off of what I saw, but I think Corey would be able to find success,” Hall said. “With what I saw in January I felt that Corey should’ve been in that group and I think he would’ve found a lot of success. I think absolutely he deserves to be called into the mix and given his shot to prove himself.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DarrellLovell.