Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's Gonzo-bulous

Okay, so I'm not great at the flashy puns. Guess I'll leave those up to Greg.

Omar Gonzalez's career year (I said it) paved the way for his first MLS defender of the year honor, announced today. He can add the piece to his growing mantle, which already includes an MLS rookie of the year honor. He can add an MLS Cup trophy next week. I know it's only a popular opinion vote, but hopefully Klinsmann sits up and takes notice as Tim Ream inevitably begins to fade from view and Gonzalez steps forward for a more earnest look. Since they wouldn't fit next to one another on the same back line - and who would be daring (or foolish) enough to try that experiment right now? - I've long viewed Gonzalez as Ream's natural alternative, certainly since Ream's ill-fated karate kick against Panama in the Gold Cup. Call me a "Gonzo guy" if you must, but I'll be glad to see him get more call-ups. Hopefully it comes to that sooner rather than later.

Anyway, we've got a somewhat different top three from my short list from August.

Defender of the Year
George John, FC Dallas
In the running: Nat Borchers, Jeff Parke, Jamison Olave, Chad Marshall
Notes: FCD knocking down both defensive plaudits is a credit to their recent run (eight shutouts in nine), but of course a late lapse could throw this into the blender. John is second on the MLS Castrol Index behind only Henry, and his size and considerable positioning ability will have the Greeks pushing hard for his services. With Klinsmann now at the helm and the CB position anything but solidified for the USMNT, I'd expect John to get some more in-person looks than he did under Bradley.

I mentioned a late lapse dooming John, and that's precisely what occurred. I'm not sure how or why John shuffled off this mortal coil after the Blackburn deal fell through, but he was a non-entity over the last two months of the regular season/playoffs. Where he was resolute earlier in the year, he was flighty and weak as the year drew to a close. I watched him brush off defenders with a brusqueness earlier in the season that simply wasn't there late. For whatever reason. Perhaps the failed deal took an emotional toll. Schellas Hyndman was pretty blunt with his comments when it appeared John was gone, saying that it was obvious John wanted out. Nor do I necessarily blame him. But when that escape valve snapped shut, perhaps John simply lost the will to scrap. That is speculation of course, but what else could cause such a rapid decline from a defender that was a consensus pick as the league's best through the summer?

In any case, that RSL got both Borchers and Olave into the final vote wasn't a surprise, and the fact that I omitted Gonzalez from my list was pretty stupid. I know he gets some criticism for being soft at times, some of which is warranted, but he stepped into a lot of challenges he might have passed up his rookie year. And you've gotta love a defender who can mix it up in the box like this. 

- Will Parchman

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