Rather than limit defense to those players who play as a defender, the Sounder at Heart Defensive Player of the Year Award goes to the player who was most responsible for keeping the ball out of the Seattle Sounders’ net.
Previous winners include Osvaldo Alonso (5 times), Stefan Frei (twice), Yeimar, Gustav Svensson, Kim Kee-Hee, Chad Marshall, Leo Gonzalez, and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
Players nominated for this award include every regular starter at goalkeeper, defense, the back portion of the midfield, and the defensive utilityman who played in every match. We apologize to Jimmy Medranda, Shane O’Neill, and Stefan Cleveland fans. They are presented in alphabetical order. All data is for MLS matches only and via FBref.
Xavier Arreaga — CB
Most often the center of the three-back set, Arreaga earned calls to the Ecuador National Team based on his play. He led the Sounders in blocked shots.
Josh Atencio — DM/CB
Due to injuries and performance, Atencio earned 18 starts. He was fourth on the team for pressures in the middle third of the pitch. He won the SaH Young Player and the SaH Breakout Player of the Year awards this season.
Stefan Frei — K
A two-time winner of the award, Frei was once on pace for the best season of any MLS keeper ever. The late season struggles hit his chance at the record books and he finished with a 0.94 goals against average.
Nouhou — LCB
No one took to the shift to a three-man backline better than Nouhou, who then missed significant time. He finished best on the squad with 2.96 interceptions per 90 minutes, was third for tackles + interceptions per 90, and had the best dribbled against success among regulars, winning 55.2% of the tackles when dribbled against.
João Paulo — DM
First on the team for tackles and first on the team in pressures, JP was a key component for preventing the opposition from entering the final third. He finished third in MLS MVP voting.
Alex Roldan — RWB
The 2020 SaH Breakout Player of the Year was a strong modern right back entering the attack regularly. Alex was also second on the team for interceptions, fourth on the team for pressures in the attacking third, and tied for first for tackles in the attacking third.
Kelyn Rowe — DM/RWB
The best utility player since Brad Evans, Rowe played in every line at some point during the season, but was most often a defensive midfielder. Kelyn tied for first for tackles in the attacking third, was third for pressures in the attacking third, and third on the team for tackles + interceptions.
Brad Smith — LWB
The starting left wingback, Smith was fifth-best on the team at defending the dribble.
Yeimar — RCB/CB
His strong performance in MLS earned Yeimar his first call to the Colombian National Team, but he did not appear in a match. He led all Sounders in tackles, tackles won, interceptions, and was second in blocks and blocked shots. Yeimar finished second in the league for Defender of the Year.
Who was the 2021 SaH Sounders Defensive Player of the Year
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