Something that we decided to do back when the idea of the virtual Sounder at Heart awards came about was to break the MVP-ish awards into attacking and defending categories. Too often in soccer awards a strong defensive midfielder goes unrecognized as an MVP candidate. What this means is that Osvaldo Alonso won the Defensive Player of Year twice and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado once.
This year's contest shows more clearly than ever that defending happens in a few most significant layers. Your nominees are;
Michael Gspurning - 30 All Competitions Starts, 2585 minutes played
Gspurning only came in third as the MLS Keeper of the Year, but for fans in Seattle they saw him replace a legend. While he missed about a third of the MLS regular season due to injury, when healthy the Sounders defense was as strong as it has ever been. His ability to defend a cross, punch it out and start an attack too often goes unnoticed. Unlike most keepers in MLS he does not make highlight reel saves. Instead his stops are easy, because he's already where he needs to be.
Jeff Parke - 39 Starts, 1 Sub Appearance, 3423 minutes
Without a doubt 2012 was Parke's best year. This despite the fact that he was once recognized as one of New York's best defenders of the first decade of the century. His 2011 was strong enough to get him a call to the January US camp and his first ever CAP. He rode that to a 2012 where he was not the fastest, nor strongest centerback in MLS, but the way he read the game meant that teams were forced to adjust and no longer challenge him. He would then expand his zone and help the rest of his line. His durability and availability are unquestionable.
Osvaldo Alonso - 41 Starts, 1 Sub, 3649 minutes
The heart of the Sounders, while Alonso becomes more of a two way player every year it is his tackling that sets him apart. He doesn't have a zone. There is a ball and he wins it. His closing speed is the best in the MLS. With a fiery temper he rides the edge between hard foul and yellow regularly. While some call him a defensive midfielder we just call him the Honey Badger. Stats updated