Yesterday, half of you backed eventual winner Jordan Morris for the MLS Rookie of the Year award and today the Defender of the Year gong is handed out.
The nominees this time are Axel Sjoberg, the giant of the Colorado Rapids’ league-best defensive unit; Matt Hedges, who formed one half of possibly the best centre-back partnership in the league with Walker Zimmerman at FC Dallas; and Jelle van Damme, one of the better signings of the 2016 season with the LA Galaxy.
Who gets your pick? Cast your vote in the poll below and let us know in the comments - here are a few of our writers’ choices.
I debated getting on the ‘Drew Moor Got Snubbed’ train, as Moor was such a significant part of Toronto FC going from one of the league’s worst defensive teams to one of the best. Moor only missed two matches all season, and had a better pass-completion percentage then any of the nominees.
Out of the three finalists, Jelle Van Damme impressed me the most. While he was not at the top of the rankings for interceptions or clearances, he was an absolute beast in the air (winning 71% of his aerial battles) and was a physical presence for opposing attackers to deal with. Van Damme played 28 of LA’s 34 games and had a significant impact on the Galaxy’s +15 goal differential this season.
It seems to me that Van Damme could have easily been replaced among the nominees by Drew Moor, who solidified a historically terrible TFC back line. However, I feel both Sjoberg and Hedges are more deserving.
Axel Sjoberg should take this award as he led the Colorado Rapids to a league-low 32 goals against. That is seven less than the Galaxy and Toronto FC, who were Colorado's closest competition in that specific statistic.
Sjoberg's height, his surprising ability on the ball and his leadership in organising the defensive shape of the Rapids makes him the clear winner in this category. When you think of a 1-0 victory in the MLS, you naturally think of Pablo Mastroeni's Rapids, and Sjoberg deserves the credit for this on the field itself.
Axel Sjoberg was the only constant in a league-best defence that rotated both in goal and in the three other defensive positions throughout the year. That's the kind of defensive consistency that puts Sjoberg in the same category as the Marshalls, Cimans and Moors of the league.
Drew Moor has as good a claim to this award as anyone. The difference he has made to Toronto FC’s defence has been staggering, and that’s what I look for when it comes to this award: a quantifiable individual impact. Sjoberg is great and I would have no issue with him winning, but I wonder if he has a slightly more favourable situation than others in that Colorado as a whole are a conservative, safety-first team.
As Moor is not a nominee, my vote - on the same basis - goes to Matt Hedges. FC Dallas lost four regular-season games by three goals or more; Hedges missed three of those games, and as an individual has been as impressive as anyone in my mind.
Who should be the MLS Defender of the Year?— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) November 11, 2016