Remarkably composed and consistent at the heart of the best defense in the league, Sporting Kansas City centerback Matt Besler was rewarded Tuesday as the 2012 MLS Defender of the Year.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
“It’s a big compliment to his growth as a player and a very rewarding accolade,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “It says a lot about the hard work he’s put in, so it’s a good reward for him in that aspect. It’s also a good reward for the team.”
Besler, 25, and fellow centerback Aurelien Collin, who also was among three finalists announced last week for the honor, anchored a backline that permitted a league-low 27 goals in 34 games.
“I think our entire team was a really good defending team and (Besler) was very good for sure,” Vermes said. “Collin was good as well. They both brought different things, so it’s a good tandem and good partnership back there.”
Besler, a Blue Valley West graduate, appeared in 31 matches, including 30 starts, and was the highest-ranked defender at No. 25 on the MLS Castrol Index, which measures a player’s impact on his team’s games.
Led by Besler, Sporting KC also allowed the fewest shots in the league (328) and fewest shots on goal (102) while posting a club-record 0.79 goals-against average.
With Besler, who missed three games in late June after an appendectomy, in the starting lineup, the regular-season Eastern Conference champions went 17-5-8 with a 0.72 goals-against average.
“He’s a consistent performer and he’s left-footed playing in that left channel, which is a big asset,” Vermes said. “He reads the game well and he’s a smart enough guy that he continues to always strive to be better and he’s a very good teammate.”
Besler, who received 47 percent of media votes, becomes the MLS-record third league-wide defender of the year in club history, joining Vermes (2000) and Jimmy Conrad (2005).
Out of contract for 2013, the price for Sporting KC to re-sign Besler, who also chipped in two game-winning assists this season, might have just jumped a bit higher.
“I would say you’re probably right,” Vermes said. “It is what it is, but you don’t go into the season wanting a guy to do bad because he’s not under contract and it might cost you money. That’s just how it works.”
San Jose Earthquakes defender Victor Bernadez finished second in voting by the media, clubs and players with Collin checking in third.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.