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Season Preview: Center Back

The center back position will determine a lot in how the Red Bulls defense looks, in more ways than one.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

With the MLS season just a few days away, we preview the Red Bulls with daily position-by-position previews. You can read all of them here. Today: The Red Bulls' situation in the middle of the defense.

The only lock for the interior of the defense seems to be Jamison Olave.

The former Real Salt Lake defender came over in a huge trade that included Fabian Espindola. In the preseason, he's started a number of games and seems to be the only constant as Heath Pearce and Markus Holgersson rotate around him.

The big question in this part of the back line is who gets the call: Pearce or Holgersson.

Holgersson, last season's Defender of the Year, makes a pretty decent case. Olave compensates for his lack of pace. Holgersson is an underrated passer. He's got great size and his improvement over the course of last season shows how well he can adapt.

Probably the biggest part of Holgersson's case is that Pearce can be pushed out wide to left back. While there's some crowding in that position, both Roy Miller and Connor Lade can be defensive liabilities. Pearce, though, hasn't played a lot of minutes at left back during the preseason, which makes one wonder if Head Coach Mike Petke sees him in that role.

Backing those three up are Digao, who may or may not be part of a nepotistic ploy to get Kaka in a Red Bulls kit, and possibly Tyler Ruthven, who was cut, but has had nice showings in his preseason appearances.

What happens at the center back position will likely shape how the rest of the back line looks, thanks, mainly, to Pearce's versatility.