Defending is a team game. While three to five players on the field are labeled as "Defender" there are others who stop the ball from going in the net. Just as a midfielder can be a key to the attack some of them can help in defense as well. The keeper is a fairly important player at stopping the other team from scoring as well.
Voters on Sounder at Heart in the past have recognized this as Alonso won the award in 2010, 2011, and 2012. He is again up as a possible winner in 2013. So is 2009 winner Hurtado.
There are few metrics that connect defense to winning so instead the list of nominees is not a table there is a list of names and some thoughts about their seasons.
Osvaldo Alonso - he may have had his worst season as a Sounder. He was still one of the best defensive mids in the league, the best passer in MLS and when he went down the club sputtered.
Leo Gonzalez - the left back discovered a fountain of youth. Leo looked as good as ever and could be short listed as one the best left backs of 2013. His ball winning was strong and he was able to shut down speedy, or technical, or strong wingers. The club also had a losing record without him.
Michael Gspurning - the Austrian missed significant time this season and had two awful games, but outside of those was again a league leader in goals against average and save percentage.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado - at one point he was thought to be back at All-Star form. The team was surging and the tackling and quick transition to attack through Hurtado was a large reason why. Then he wasn't in that form.
Djimi Traore - if the season only lasted the first three months Traore would be listed as a league wide Newcomer of the Year candidate. He came out strong which was particularly surprising because he was signed after having not played the previous half season. Like much of Seattle's defensive core he was both injured and less effective at the end of the season.
DeAndre Yedlin - his on ball skills improved, but it was his ability to intercept passes and recover from advanced positions that drove his ability to defend.
Who was the key man in defense this year? Why?