Today, MLS announced the finalists for their awards. Sporting Kansas City has two players up for the year end awards. Matt Besler is up for defender of the year, while Jimmy Nielsen is up for goalkeeper of the year.
Besler's award will be announced next Tuesday, the 26th. For the second year in a row Besler is up for the award. He's up against his center back partner for the national team, Omar Gonzalez, and New England Revolution defender, Jose Goncalves. Full disclosure on my part, I voted for Goncalves first on my ballot, and second I believe I put down Jamison Olave. The thing that knocked Besler in my book was his time away from the team. I understand that he was away representing the US, but I based the awards on their time with their club team. And I felt Besler's absence for KC hurt him. Not just because of missed games, but because of how well his back up, Ike Opara, filled in when he was gone.
The goalkeeper of the year award gets announced on Wednesday December 4th. Like Besler, Nielsen is making another appearance on this list. This year, Nielsen is up against Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, and Portland's Donovan Ricketts. Like with Belser, I did not vote Nielsen for goalkeeper of the year. Numbers wise, Nielsen's 2013 wasn't incredibly different than his 2012, but they were worse. He faced 2 less shots in 2013 (100) vs 2012 (102). He saved 9 less (68 to 77), he posted two less shutouts (13 to 15), allowed 3 more goals (30 to 27), and his save percentage was 7 points lower (68% to 75%). Personally I voted for Ricketts after his performance this season for Portland. Like Besler, Rimando fell victim in my mind to national team call ups. My second nominee was Clint Irwin for Colorado.