While not as flashy as other players on the field, defenders are critical for a team's success. In 2015, Andrew Farrell helped solidify the New England Revolution's back line by moving centrally. His efforts were rewarded when he was named as the team's Defender of the Year. Will he repeat in 2016? Let's see what our staff predicts.
Seth: Chris Tierney
Fresh off signing a new contract, Tierney will do what he always does, provide staunch defense and pinpoint service from the left back position. The hardworking veteran has long been a steady presence along the back line, making it a travesty that he's never been named as the team's Defender of the Year. That changes in 2016, even if the trophy is being awarded mostly based on his career achievements.
Jake C: Andrew Farrell
I'm pretty sure I have Farrell as my breakout player of the year as well, so he gets the nod for his second season as a full-time center back. Farrell's consistency last year was pretty good, though his first few games and playoff game in DC were fairly bad. With those experiences under his belt, it will be interesting to see if he can make the leap into MLS All-Star or United States international discussions.
While Farrell's 2015 wasn't on the level of say, Michael Parkhurst in 2007 or Goncalves in 2013, it's pretty remarkable to have a center back only commit 13 fouls in a season. Yes, Farrell was cautioned three times and was red carded against Vancouver (again...), but overall his defensive talent is remarkable and it's high time that the rest of the league, and the country, started figuring this out as well.
Jon: Chris Tierney
With zero reservations, the nod goes to Tierney. His one-on-one defending has improved by leaps and bounds the last several seasons, and his patented left foot is as good as they come. He's arguably the best left back in all of Major League Soccer, too, with only Brek Shea and Ashley Cole (yes, I went there) competing for that distinction.
When discussing Tierney's importance, it's also important to note what he brings off the field. The Revolution are all he's known, as he grew up locally and only ever played under Steve Nicol or Jay Heaps. That inherent passion is invaluable, and it manifests on the field through attacking eagerness, commitment to defending and communication skills.
Jake P: Jordan McCrary
While this prediction may end up being completely off the mark, first-round draft choice McCrary has the tools to succeed at the right back position. At the University of North Carolina, McCrary showed his skills as an exceptional on-ball defender with above average pace. We won’t know for sure whether or not this will transfer to professional-level soccer until he receives meaningful minutes during the regular season, but he received plenty of praise from his coaches in Chapel Hill.
Despite rumblings earlier in the offseason that Andrew Farrell might return to his natural spot at right back, it has become clear that he will remain at center back where he was positioned during last season. There is no clear starting right back on the roster with London Woodberry and Darrius Barnes both competing for minutes as well. This openness at the position gives McCrary the perfect opportunity to break through as the Revs' go-to defender, and a little healthy competition on the side can only help.
In addition, with plenty right back experience in the MLS, Andrew Farrell is the perfect mentor for McCrary. Head Coach Jay Heaps will look to Farrell to take McCrary under his wing, and if the two gel well in the locker room, they will be set up to succeed on the right side of the back line. Fellow defensemen Jose Goncalves and Chris Tierney are also seasoned veterans who both have a lot to teach the youngster McCrary.
Again, this prediction may end up being very wrong, but we can only hope.