KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler was voted the 2012 MLS Defender of the Year, Major League Soccer announced on Tuesday.
“I am very humbled, yet ecstatic, to be honored as MLS Defender of the Year,” Besler said. “To be a part of such a great team and backline, you could make an argument for any of the back four for Sporting Kansas City. All year long our theme has been defending as a team from the forwards on back.
“I want to thank all of my teammates, the coaching staff and my family for their support and sacrifice. I am a player who sets team goals as well as personal goals and the number one priority is always to win MLS Cup. This award will continue to drive and push me to help bring the Cup back to my hometown.”
Besler, an Overland Park, Kan. native and Blue Valley West alum, anchored a Sporting Kansas City defense that allowed 27 goals in 34 MLS matches to lead all MLS teams with the fewest goals conceded. He started 30 of his 31 appearances in 2012 and was part of a smothering team defense that held opponents to the fewest shots (328) and shots on goal (102) of all 19 teams during the regular season.
The 25-year-old was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season and was the highest-ranked defender in this year’s MLS Castrol Index at No. 25 overall. Besler, a 2011 MLS All-Star, also contributed two game-winning assists and Sporting Kansas City went 17-5-8 with a 0.72 goals against average with Besler in the starting lineup.
“Besler is a very steady player, which you need at his position,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. “Even though some might think he was a bit under-the-radar, he is consistent, a solid defender, very technical and possesses an excellent soccer brain. His top notch work ethic and determination has seen him get better every year.” Besler was selected by Kansas City in the first round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Notre Dame and has 108 games played in four MLS seasons (including playoffs). His stellar play in 2012 earned an invitation to the U.S. Men’s National Team for the first time at the senior level as part of the 20-player gameday roster for the team’s first-ever win against Mexico at Estadio Azteca in August.
He is the third different Kansas City player to be selected Defender of the Year along with Jimmy Conrad (2005) and Vermes (2000). Sporting Kansas City becomes the first team to have three different players selected Defender of the Year in the League’s 17-year history.
Besler received nearly 50 percent of the media votes, more than three times San Jose Earthquakes defender and Defender of the Year runner-up Victor Bernardez. MLS players and club management also voted on the award.
Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin finished third in Defender of the Year voting. The 2012 MLS All-Star started 28 of his 29 appearances this season and contributed three goals and one assist.