[MLS] The solid play of Chad Marshall has earned him the MLS Defender of the Year Award the past two seasons; the Crew All-Star has a lot of competition this year with many teams boasting excellent defensive records. Here's Soccer America's midseason look at the top MLS defenders ...
1. Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake)
2. Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles)
3. Chad Marshall (Columbus)
4. Drew Moor (Colorado)
5. Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas)
Unless somebody goes on a goalscoring tear or starts racking up assists, voting for the 2010 MLS Defender of the Year Award should be squeaky close. If that seems contradictory, to use offensive stats to separate defensive contenders, in any case a lot of close scrutiny will be required of each candidate, game by game, in the next three months.
A lot of defenders are playing very well as the defensive records show. Sure, last year’s Rookie of the Year Omar Gonzalez is a key member of the Galaxy that has conceded a microscopic 0.55 goals per game, but is central partner Gregg Berhalter any less responsible? And what of left back Todd Dunivant, the only guy to have played every minute?
Columbus, Real Salt Lake, and FC Dallas are also conceding less than a goal per game, and another, Colorado, is right there with 16 goals allowed in 16 games. The Rapids didn’t do much defending last year, but in 2010, with Marvell Wynne added to the mix, and a strong core of Julien Baudet and Drew Moor, Colorado is not an easy nut to crack.
Marshall, Gonzalez, and RSL’s Jamison Olave were named to the All-Star team, along with Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Wilman Conde (Chicago) and Kevin Alston (New England). The first three are the familiar names attached to the glamour teams – at least in terms of success – yet not deemed All-Star worthy, but anchoring FCD’s defensive improvement are center backs Ugo Ihemelu and George John. Dallas has conceded the fewest shots per game, which is a stat worth noting. And Jair Benitez is one of the league’s best left backs.
The lower goalscoring totals are not just a function of tighter back lines and sharper goalkeeping. More teams are stronger defensively in central midfield, with Joel Lindpere (New York), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas) and Chris Birchall (Los Angeles) among the guys who are tough to beat. Now that Kyle Beckerman is back in action, RSL might be even tougher to score against.
Of the top candidates, Olave leads the goalscoring totals with three, but that’s only as many scored by Quakes rookie defender Ike Opara. (Might he get some votes?) In the assist race, Pearce leads with five. If a defender can contribute offensively, that’s great, but those back-liners who snuff opportunities and rarely foul are the most important ones.