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Tracking MLS Defender of the Year race: Matt Besler leads, but it’s wide open

Aug 21, 2013, 10:45 PM EDT

Matt Besler head shot

The final nine rounds of play will tell all in this one, especially as one of my top three choices has just turned up injured and will miss one match, possibly a second.

1. Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler

Whereas some center backs will have nights of dominance mixed with nights of wobble, Besler (pictured) is as steady as the most loyal high school sweetheart. He never looks rattled back there, never seems to have a bad match. Plus, Besler’s confidence keeps growing, in MLS and in international waters.

Fellow KC center back Aurelien Collin adds a lesser stable element along the club’s back line, but so long as Besler is around, things always seem under control in the whole.

2. New England’s Jose Goncalves

Who knew that the Portuguese veteran would become one of the most important off-season additions around MLS? Goncalves is providing the stabilizer arm that Jay Heaps’ team lacked in the back last year. And don’t underestimate his influence on rookie Andrew Farrell, who is starting along the right.

New England’s defense is third in goals allowed, with 23 conceded in 24 matches.

3. New York Red Bulls Jamison Olave

Yes, Olave has suffered the odd rickety performance here and there. But on his game, no MLS center back is more dominant. The guy is so big that it’s easy to forget how fast he is. And all that speed helps cover for mistakes made by the Red Bulls outside backs – and there are several of those each match.

We’ll know more about how valuable the veteran Colombian is to New York this week, as Olave sits out injured. He may miss a second game with a quad tear picked up last weekend.

  1. httv14 - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    I would also include Drew Moor on this list

  2. hildezero - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:45 AM

    Uuhhh… Has anybody heard of Omar Gonzalez?

  3. wfjackson3 - Aug 22, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    I have noticed Besler’s consistency this season. I think if he has improved in any one area as a result of USMNT play, it is in his consistency.

  4. dreadpirate82 - Aug 22, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    “Aurelien Collin adds a lesser stable element” has me giggling. Good work and completely accurate.

  5. bobinkc - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Ah, dread, if you watch all the games, not only is Matt in complete control of himself in the back line, he adds a governor to the erratic play of Collin. When Matt is out for any reason, all us SKC fans quake in terror because we know that Collin will be anywhere from the goal mouth to the back line without justification. Collin is frequently somewhere north of the midfield stripe and is not fast enough to beat speedy strikers back to defend the goal. Were it not for Matt, Jimmy would frequently be back there facing 2 or even 3 speedy opponents all by himself. Witness the action during Besler’s callup for national duty when Nielsen was burned badly because Collin was up front somewhere playing striker and Ike Opara or Lawrence Olum were back there trying to handle a massed attack for Jimmy all alone.

    With Matt in position, Collin has a tendency to play too far forward, but Matt can keep him farther back than either Lawrence or Ike. Matt provides balance and stability to the back line and provides an excellent center pivot for the defense.

  6. blarsenafc1886 - Aug 23, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Goncavles, no question. New England doesn’t get enough credit due to the support/media coverage (would be better if in Boston…), but defense has been solid. Addition of Goncalves has been absolutely immense!

    Newcomer of the year (if loans are eligible) (perhaps) + defender of the year.

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