With MLS on a break for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, this seems as good a time as any to talk about first-half superlatives – in this case, the Midseason Defender of the Year.
We polled members of the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff on the issue, and here are their takes on the best of the back-liners so far:
Benjamin Couch, Senior Editor
Matt Hedges! (UNC reflex, sorry.) Don’t tell my fellow Tar Heel, but I’m actually going with Ike Opara. Best defender on the best defense gets these nods, and maybe it’s just that we’re seeing more of him this year, but Opara has been the one from Week One here. Also, that bike tho.
Matthew Doyle, Senior Writer
I like Ike, and a clip is worth 1,000 words:
Ike Opara's 100% healthy and making open field plays like this. Worth noticing. pic.twitter.com/0ilh7ryJ9F— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) March 16, 2017
I wish Bruce had called him in for the USMNT.
Simon Borg, Editor-in-Chief
He’s clearly not a dominantly athletic or physically overpowering defender who’s going to make the type of plays — on either end of the field — that make it on highlight reels. That’s just not his style. But his ability to read the game and lead the Quakes defense has been All-Star quality.
Benjamin Baer, New Media Editor
He’s been the best defender on the best defense in the league. In my book that will always get you in the discussion for Defender of the Year. But that fact is not the only reason I have him here, as he’s opposed his will on opponents throughout the season with his physicality and tactical awareness , stifling many attacks.
Charles Boehm, Contributor
I've got Ike Opara in a walk here. Anchors the league's stingiest defense – which is on pace to make a run at the MLS record book – and has chipped in couple of (spectacular!) goals. Perhaps most importantly, given his troubled injury history, he has started 18 of SKC's 20 league games to date.
David Gass, Contributor
I think the group had it handled but there is no way to get away from Ike. One takeaway is, "Damn, if he had been healthy where would he/US be the last three years?"
Nicholas Rosano, Senior Editor
OK, while I’m finding it hard to go against the grain on Ike Opara, I will use this space to shout out some other defenders who should be recognized for their strong play in the first half. Take a bow (or at least pat yourself on the back): Matt Hedges, Florian Jungwirth, Antonio Delamea, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Jonathan Spector, Joao Meira, Justin Morrow and Scott Sutter. Chances are I still missed your favorite player — the comments section is below.