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While he might not have been as flashy and outspoken as teammate Aurelien Collin, or as physically imposing as San Jose’s Victor Bernardez, Sporting Kansas City Matt Besler made up for his low-key persona by simply being the best and most consistent defender on the stingiest defense in Major League Soccer.
Besler’s ability to read the game helped thwart countless opposing attacks, and his steady and poised presence helped provide the perfect complement to the volatile Collin on a Sporting KC back-line that allowed just 27 goals in 34 matches. It was Besler’s consistently high level of play throughout the season that made him our choice for SBI MLS Defender of the Year.
One of the best passing centerbacks in the league, Besler’s ability to connect the defense to the attack was another underrated element of Besler’s game, and surely a factor in Jurgen Klinsmann calling him in for a look this summer. While he didn’t score a goal this year, and produced two assists, Besler’s contributions to the Sporting KC offense went well beyond those modest statistics.
Besler started 30 of 34 matches for Sporting KC, and it was clear during the stretch of matches he missed with appendicitis how important he was to the KC defense. The team’s stunning 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union came with him on the sidelines, marking the only time all season Sporting KC allowed more than two goals.
Besler beat out a strong field of contenders for the honor. Here is a rundown of the runners-up:
The imposing San Jose centerback was a true force in the middle of San Jose’s defense when healthy, and an early-season knee injury might have been what ultimately kept him from being our pick for defender of the year. He started 24 matches for the Supporters Shield-winning Earthquakes, and impressed not only with his physical strength, but also with his technical quality.
One of the driving forces behind D.C. United’s late-season surge, MacDonald was one of the steadier centerbacks in the league in 2012. After a less than impressive 2011, MacDonald responded this season by putting together the kind of season D.C. United was hoping for when they made him one of the league’s highest-paid defenders last season. Dominant in the air, and one of the most physical defenders in the league, MacDonald started 33 of 34 matches and almost always delivered solid performances.
When it comes to leading by example, Vancouver Whitecaps defender Young-Pyo Lee did that better than anybody, showing true class and skill as arguably the best fullback in the league in 2012. The South Korean star had no trouble adjusting to the league’s physical style, and he was one of the key factors behind the strong start to the season enjoyed by the Vancouver defense.
There were plenty of other candidates for MLS Defender of the Year who deserved mention, from Aurelien Collin to Nat Borchers to Carlos Valdes and Arne Friedrich, but the four defenders listed above stood out as the best of the bunch. And none enjoyed as strong and complete a season as Besler.
What do you think of our selection? Which defender impressed you the most in 2012?
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