Orlando City SC and New York City FC will meet for the third and last time this season on Sunday night (7 pm ET; FS1 and FOX Deportes in US | MLS LIVE in Canada), as NYCFC will try to salvage some pride after losing the first two games to the Lions.
The two teams boasted a couple of the worst defenses in 2016, with Orlando conceding a league-high 60 goals and NYCFC not far behind at 57, but both units are much improved this season.
NYCFC have conceded just 13 goals, the second-lowest total in the Eastern Conference, and Orlando letting in 14. There are many reasons for these improvements, including tactics, player acquisitions and improved play from specific players, but two of the main reasons lie in the central defense of both teams.
Chanot was acquired last July but failed to find a permanent place in the starting XI under head coach Patrick Vieira, making just five starts. He did not play in NYC's final five games of the regular season before being pushing into the starting lineup for both MLS Cup Playoff games against Toronto FC.
Orlando's big move this offseason was to sign Spector, a veteran of the English Championship and former US international. He mostly played at right back while in England but his tactical IQ and technical ability have been a fit at center back under Jason Kreis.
The Audi Player Index shows just how great these two players have been in 2017, with Chanot ranking 10th overall (No. 1 among defenders) and Spector at 21 (No. 5) in the Audi Player Index Award leaderboard.
Chanot has been special in the air, averaging 95 Audi Player Index points per game in aerials won, well above the league average of 19. Spector has his defensive actions to thank for his high ranking, as he has averaged 165 points per game in clearances (league average: 36) and 107 in interceptions (league average: 41).
Both will look to show to why they are the best center back in MLS on Sunday with the players and teams battling to get to the top of the Eastern Conference.