2013 Year In Review: Defenders

Our look at the season performance of the different positions continues with the defenders, which were highlighted by the stellar rise of fullback DeAndre Yedlin.

In part two of our four-part series looking back on the 2013 season, we assess the defenders.

This year was an up and down season on the defensive side for Sounders FC and the highlights were certainly memorable.

DeAndre Yedlin burst onto the scene as the club’s first Homegrown Player and was an instant success, but he wasn’t the only standout in 2013 for Seattle’s back four.

UEFA Champions League winner Djimi Traore signed in preseason and brought a veterans savvy to the center back role while Leo Gonzalez had his best season in five years as a Sounder at left back. Others had very strong stretches, but that year-long consistency was the only thing that kept it from being a great season for the Seattle defense.

“Sometimes the mix doesn’t work right or there are some injuries or lack of confidence and those things can affect the back four,” Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson said. “That’s part of it, where we need to be more consistent.”

When Yedlin signed in January, it was envisioned that he may be able to split time with incumbent and Swedish National Team right back Adam Johansson. However, an injury to Johansson and Yedlin’s rapid adjustment to the pro game accelerated the transition and the Seattle native overtook Johansson and earned a starting spot.

Yedlin would go on to lead Seattle with 30 starts, while also appearing in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey and representing Sounders FC in the MLS All-Star Game, becoming the first rookie to earn All-Star honors since Michael Parkhurst in 2005.

“He was really a great surprise for us. We really felt we had a good, young player, but he stepped in and started and he was consistent,” Henderson said. “He was dangerous coming up the flank.”

He finished the season with one goal and two assists in MLS play, one goal and one assist in the MLS Cup Playoffs and one goal in CONCACAF Champions League.

On the other side of the defense, Gonzalez was something of a revelation, too. The 33-year-old Costa Rican matched his career high with 27 starts and was a consistent stopper on the left side until injuries hindered him late in the season.

“Leo was very consistent and at times was one of the best 1-v-1 defenders in the league,” Henderson said.

Gonzalez was voted Sounders FC Defender of the Year by his teammates, as Seattle was 14-9-4 while allowing one goal per game in his starts and just 1-3-3, allowing 2.13 goals per game when he didn’t.

Traore and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado were the most-often used center backs, each starting 25 matches and starting together in 16 matches. For stretches, Hurtado was reminiscent of his 2009 season in which he was a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year, while Traore provided stability alongside him after joining the team during preseason.

Zach Scott, meanwhile, had a career year at 33 years old, starting 16 out of a career-high 21 matches, utilizing his versatility to start all along the back line. Patrick Ianni suffered a fractured foot in preseason and started just seven matches while Marc Burch split time between left back and left mid, registering a career-high four assists in 20 matches. Second-round SuperDraft pick Dylan Remick played 25 minutes in his lone regular season appearance, seeing most of his time in Reserve League play as he continues his development.

Burch left Seattle on Thursday through Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft when he was selected by the Colorado Rapids. Sounders FC has made efforts to shore up the defense, adding 2008 and 2009 MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall in a trade with the Columbus Crew.

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