No defense was as stout as Sporting Kansas City's in 2012. Their 27 goals allowed were six fewer than any other team in MLS and their 15 shutouts were three more than any other team.
As big of a part as Jimmy Nielsen was, it could be argued that the outfield players were even more important. It may be unfair to pick one standout player from that bunch. But if you're going to do that, none deserve it more than Matt Besler, which is why he has been named SB Nation's MLS Defender of the Year.
Besler didn't necessarily grab the headlines, but the one-time No. 8 pick in the draft really came into his own this year. He played in all but three matches and was the most reliable defender on the team. It is probably no coincidence that the only time KC gave up more than two goals in a game was in one of the matches he missed.
Besler's emergence should also be something that all fans of the United States national team can appreciate. The former U-20 international is now being mentioned as a potential solution for an aging American back line.
How they voted: Although the vote was relatively dispersed with nine players receiving at least one first-place vote and a total of 18 appearing on various ballots, Besler was the runaway winner. He was named on 21 of 34 ballots and was the first-place choice on 17. The only other player to appear on more than five ballots was runner-up Victor Bernardez (7 first-place votes, 7 second-place votes), who also happened to be named SB Nation's Top Newcomer.
There were 10 other players to appear on at least two ballots: Vancouver's Jay DeMerit (2 first-place votes, 3 second-place votes); RSL's Jamison Olave (3, 0); San Jose Steven Beitashour (1, 2); New England's Stephen McCarthy (2, 0); LA's Omar Gonzalez (1, 2); Philadelphia's Carlos Valdes (1, 1); Kansas City's Aurielien Collin (1, 1); RSL's Nat Borchers (0, 3); DC's Brandon McDonald (0, 2); and Chicago's Austin Berry (0, 2).
What the bloggers said: Matt Besler wasn't the flashiest defender in MLS. He wasn't even the flashiest center back on Sporting Kansas City's roster, that honor going to flamboyant (and physical) Frenchman Aurelien Collin.
What Besler was, all season long, was steady. He didn't need to make the spectacular plays to stop opponents' attacks, because he was already in position to make them look routine. He was rarely caught out of position, which was a huge factor in Sporting's 15 regular-season shutouts.
That steadiness allowed the rest of Sporting's back line to get up into the attack, with fullbacks Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic making overlapping runs on the flanks and Collin pushing up through the middle. If they got caught out on the counter, Besler was there to keep things from getting out of hand.
Don't ever mistake his quietness for a lack of intensity, though. Besler might be laid-back and humble off the pitch and rock-steady on it, but he's a ferocious competitor who wants to win - and wants to take his place as one of the top center backs in MLS.
- Steve Brisdendine, The Daily Wiz
About the voting: Every writer for SB Nation's MLS blogs was eligible to vote, with 34 submitting ballots. On the individual awards, two points was given for each first-place vote and one point for each second-place vote. Voting was conducted after the regular season and was not meant to include any post-season performance.