Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
After missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season, New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps, a former defender himself, made it a point to improve the defense in the offseason.
One of those acquisitions, Jose Goncalves, immediately slotted into central defense alongside A.J. Soares and transformed a middle-of-the-road Revolution team into one of the stingiest in the league. For his role anchoring a defense that allowed just 38 regular season goals, Goncalves was voted SBI’s 2013 MLS Defender of the Year.
The 28-year-old captain also scored twice this season. His game-winning goals in victories over the Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact helped the Revs earn the third seed in the East for the MLS Cup playoffs.
Despite a slow start to the season that saw the Revolution win just twice through mid-May, Goncalves proved to be a rock in the back for the club, especially with starting goalkeeper Matt Reis on personal leave. Through the team’s first 10 games, despite the struggles to score, Goncalves helped them concede just 10 goals and keep five clean sheets. Take out a 4-1 defeat to the New York Red Bulls and it’s six goals allowed in nine games with five shutouts, an impressive feat.
Once the team’s scoring came along through the likes of Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, and Juan Agudelo, the Revolution began recording victories more often on their way to a 14-win season. Goncalves’ veteran presence on the defense also surely helped the development of No. 1 pick Andrew Farrell, who had a very solid season at right back in his first year of professional soccer.
Goncalves beat out a deep field of contenders for the honor. Here is a rundown of the runners-up:
Last year’s SBI MLS Defender of the Year had himself another strong season, helping anchor Sporting KC’s back line to concede just 30 goals this season, tops in MLS. Besler appeared in just 23 games this season due to a large amount of time spent with the U.S. Men’s National Team and some minor injuries.
Much like Goncalves, in Olave’s first year with the New York Red Bulls the Colombian helped lock down what had been a leaky defense and helped turn the club into Supporters’ Shield winners. Olave’s early season goal-scoring gave him four goals in 29 games played with 27 starts.
In his first full season with the Colorado Rapids after being acquired late last season on loan from NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks, Chris Klute exploded onto the scene with his pace and quality passing from his left back position, as well as the energy and ability to track back and defend when needed. Though he didn’t score in 31 games played, Klute recorded seven assists.
There were plenty of other terrific defenders this season, including Omar Gonzalez, Aurelien Collin, and Pa Modou Kah, but the three players above and Goncalves stood out from the rest of the group as voted by the SBI staff.
What do you think of our selection? Which defender impressed you the most in 2013?
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