Revisiting The 2011 Rankings: Defense

Revisiting The 2011 Rankings: Defense

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On October 19, 2011
  • 2011 MLS Power Rankings, 2011 MLS Season, 2011 MLS Season Review, Features, MLS Power Rankings

LA's defense has been on top form this season. (Getty Images)

I am moving on in my look back at my preseason positional rankings. Yesterday we looked at the keepers, today we’re diving into the folks in front of those keepers – the defense.

Again these rankings are all about the starters and the depth behind them. The keeper discussion yesterday kind of reminded me that maybe next season I will lump the keepers and the defenders together. Thankfully once we get out of the keepers section the rankings are a little more cut and dry in terms of looking at the starters and the depth behind them.

1. LA Galaxy – Far and away the best defense in the league this season. Consistent, tough to break down, and rarely gives up a lot of goals. Their 25 goals against this season is tops in the league with the next clubs coming in on the list at 35 and 36 goals against. Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, AJ DelaGarza, Greg Berhalter and the rest have been on top form all season long. (Preseason Ranking: 3)

2. Real Salt Lake – I had them at the top to start the season and for the most part this season they have been one of the best. Their play as of late concerns me but overall their depth has shown up nicely when needed and their 35 goals against this season is tied for second in the league. Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave continue to be two of the very best in the league. (Preseason Ranking: 1)

3. Seattle Sounders FC – A fairly consistent bunch of defenders. No big name that stands out and makes headlines like you have with LA, RSL and FC Dallas. They have given up one more goal than RSL and Dallas but given the amount of extra games this season that they have had to deal with I won’t hold that against them. Really 2-4 is a total guess for anyone as it is. (Preseason Ranking: 5)

4. FC Dallas – Ugo Ihemelu and Geroge John were once again one of the better center back duos in the league this season but their form lately hasn’t been as stellar. The potential transfer for John caused some issues. But the group of defenders for Schellas Hyndman continue to be some of the best in the league as the depth is there with guys like Zach Loyd and Jair Benitez. (Preseason Ranking: 2)

5. Philadelphia Union – Several said I was too harsh on them in the preseason and you were correct. Their depth is still shaky in my mind but you have to give it up to Peter Nowak as he knew what he was doing with this bunch. Should they reach MLS Cup he will have to go out next year and get more depth for this group however. Still between the Farfan brothers, Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes, this group was very strong this season. (Preseason Ranking: 15)

6. Columbus Crew – A very underrated bunch are the Crew’s defense. To be honest, this is the group that probably got them into the playoffs this season. Chad Marshall and Julius James ended up forming a nice partnership in the middle of the defense and guys like rookie Rich Balchan ended up being very good for them. (Preseason Ranking: 10)

7. Sporting Kansas City – This group ended up being much better than I expected – and much better than most people thought as well. Aurelien Colin was a beast for them in the defense and we finally saw guys like Chance Myers step up and play to his potential. Matt Besler also had a strong year and snagging Seth Sinovic from New England ended up being a good move. (Preseason Ranking: 13)

8. Colorado Rapids – I feel like this is low for the Rapids but again their defense is an underrated part of their team. They have given up 40 goals this season – which is near the top/middle of the pack. They’ve battled with some injuries this season and have been a little inconsistent at times too. Still, they are a playoff team and could end up being a dangerous one if they get on a roll come playoff time. (Preseason Ranking: 6)

9. Houston Dynamo – Another club that has give up 40 goals on the season but they’ve come together so much more lately than they did earlier in the season. Had I done this back in June or July this club wouldn’t be ranked so high. Having Geoff Cameron in  the defense makes this group miles better though. (Preseason Ranking: 11)

10. Chicago Fire – Here is another group that has come together better as the season as moved on. They’re still a bit iffy on depth but rookie Jalil Anibana has been solid this season and guys like Cory Gibbs have stepped up well. I think they will continue to make strides next year as well. Maybe a piece or two more and they’ll be a top six defense in 2012. (Preseason Ranking: 14)

11. Chivas USA – Health Pearce in the middle of the defense worked very well until he got hurt. His injury showed the lack of depth this club had in defense and really ended their slim playoff hopes for 2011. Still the Goats only gave up 40 goals this season which is middle of the pack for the most part. As long as the owners of this club don’t give up on Robin Fraser this winter, he’ll be able to continue turning this club into a potential winner. (Preseason Ranking: 8)

12. New York Red Bulls – Another club that I was way off on. I thought the Rafa Marquez-Tim Ream combo in the center of defense would be one of the best but it turned out not to be the case. For the most part the Red Bulls don’t win with this duo in defense. They’ve given up 42 goals on the season and could be staring at a long winter if this week doesn’t turn out well for them. (Preseason Ranking: 4)

13. San Jose Earthquakes – Here is a club that has given up 43 goals on the season and really didn’t play well for the better part of three months this season. They had spells were they looked good in defense but the large chunk of the season they failed to convert chances into points. Injuries and inconsistency in the back caused them to fall down my list here. (Preseason Ranking: 7)

14. Portland Timbers – The expansion Timbers come in a little higher than where I had them to start the year. The depth still isn’t there but we’ve seen quality play out of guys like Eric Brunner and Mamadou Danso. John Spencer will have to work on this bunch in the offseason and possibly find a veteran to trade for to help improve the bunch. (Preseason Ranking: 17)

15. Toronto FC – Yes the Reds have given up a league-high 57 goals this season but I think the talent and depth is there for 2012 already. Adding guys like Andy Iro and Torsten Frings have gone a long way in correcting the issues this club has been plagued with in the past. As long as Aron Winter can continue to improve this group in the offseason, they will be contenders in 2012. (Preseason Ranking: 18)

16. DC United – Yeah, this feels a little low for the Black-and-Red but giving up 50 goals in a season will do that to you. This group is still very young and while the talent is potentially there. Perry Kitchen, Ethan White and Brandon McDonald are a good foundation going forward but Ben Olsen has some work to do to help correct this group from giving up 50 goals in a season. (Preseason Ranking: 12)

17. Vancouver Whitecaps – Just about where I had them to begin the year. The Caps gave up 53 goals this season, near the bottom of the table. Lately we’ve seen how much better they can be with Alian Rochat and Jay DeMert in the lineup together. Depth is still a big issue with this club in defense and they will have a long, hard offseason to fix it. (Preseason Ranking: 16)

18. New England Revolution – The talent is certainly there with this club but the results speak for themselves. Giving up 56 goals in a season is one less than Toronto’s league-high. Again the talent is there but this group did nothing but regress this season. Major changes need to happen this winter in New England. (Preseason Ranking: 9)