The process of picking a Defender of the Year in a year dominated by defenses, or at least one marked by low goalscoring, should be more or less straightforward.
Regarding two of the three finalists, it is. Incumbent Chad Marshall
of the Crew is among the trio, and a solid contribution by MLS debutant Colombian Jhon Kennedy
earned him enough votes to make the penultimate cut. Marshall, though, played only 18 regular-season games because of national team callups and injuries.
Not so clear
is the situation regarding Geoff Cameron
of Houston, a second-year marvel moved from midfield into the back line for the majority of his appearances this season. If he's good enough
to start in a defense that tied with Seattle as the stingiest in MLS, that's a recommendation of the highest order. His versatility and confidence shone through sufficiently that Houston coach
traded Julius James
to D.C. United while Eddie Robinson
was rehabbing a knee injury that sidelined him until early September.
One player not among the finalists who also had to change positions was Jonathan Bornstein
of Chivas USA, shifted inside from left back late in the season. Others meriting
mention would include Jimmy Conrad
of Kansas City; Cameron's teammate, ex-United man Bobby Boswell
, who anchored the middle for 29 of Houston's 30 games; and the
Galaxy's Gregg Berhalter
. A strong crop of rookie defenders also performed well.
We go with Hurtado.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid revamped
his back line, particularly the outside backs, several times before settling on a quartet; Hurtado played the most games, 27, of the eight defenders used by Schmid (one more than central partner
Tyrone Marshall), and that number doesn't include Brad Evans, who took a spin at right back.
Hurtado perhaps committed too many fouls (33) and took too many
cautions (eight), yet for a loan player adjusting to a new team, a new league, and a lot of games on artificial turf, he contributed plenty.
MLS Defender of the Year finalists:
Geoff Cameron (Houston), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (Seattle), Chad Marshall (Columbus).
Ridge Mahoney's Pick: Hurtado.