The second stage of voting has been closed for Sporting KC's Best XI for the team over their prior 20 seasons. After picking goalkeepers, fans have now finished voting for three defenders to place in front of the goalkeeper. KC throughout its history has been blessed with a number of very good defenders, being a city that doesn't necessarily attract the big names building from the back is usually the smart move for "smaller" markets, focusing on stopping the other team and building from there. That has left fans with plenty of options to vote for in the defense, and it’s shown in a list that includes 13 players on, two of whom are current Sporting Legends, while another couple can and should make the list over the next few years. This list includes: Matt Besler, Sean Bowers, Jose Burciaga, Aurelien Collin, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Michael Harrington, Chance Myers, Uche Okafor, Brandon Prideaux, Seth Sinovic, Peter Vermes, and Alex Zotinca.
The process of cutting 10 players from that list down to three certainly isn't easy and cases can be made for many of the players on the list to be included in the Best XI, but there are a few that I think you can immediately rule out simply because of the class of player ahead of them. For example I think Zotinca can immediately be ruled out, as can Prideaux, while both of them were on the back line for teams that made MLS Cup, others on the backline were more responsible for that team's success. The pair has also played some of the fewest games for KC on the list, and with a defender it's a lot more about legacy, especially for a Best XI. I think a similar fate falls on Burciaga, who like Zotinca was on the backline for the 2004 MLS Cup final, and scored a goal in the game, but he was overshadowed by better players on the same backline throughout his time in KC even though he played 130 games and scored 15 goals. He had one really good season but was very hit or miss for games during his career.
With defenders one area that needs to be looked at is how good the defense as a whole was, even under an offensive coach the defense should still be able to shut down the opposition. With that in mind I can't vote for players from KC's early years. Offenses as a whole in those early years of MLS were allowing a number of goals and with that in mind I just couldn't vote for early KC Wizards defenders because the ones that came later were just better all around. With that in mind I cut Bowers and Okafor from my list of players I'd vote for.
That cuts the list of players from 13 down to eight, with Besler, Collin, Conrad, Garcia, Harrington, Myers, Sinovic, and Vermes still available for me. Cutting down further, I feel that while Harrington played more games for KC, he lost his starting spot with the club when he was still in his prime to Sinovic. With that thought I couldn't vote to put both Harrington and Sinovic into my Best XI so I cut out the one that lost his starting job to the other.
The remaining seven players are 2/3rds of the 2000 backline (Garcia and Vermes), the defense that had been considered the best backline in club history until four other players on the list (Besler, Collin, Myers, and Sinovic), and finished up with a perennial defender of the year finalist during his time with KC (Conrad). From here the list is really hard to cut down to the final three, because all seven were a key part to a strong backline in KC's history. For me when it comes to voting for the best defenders it is hard for me to vote for an outside back, it's similar to how you don't see outside backs up for defender of the year for the most part, the center backs just get all the acclaim for their position. In that regard I ruled out the two remaining players who basically solely played outside back, Myers and Sinovic.
Cutting the final five down to just three is a difficult task; it basically comes down to your personal preference from here. One thing I thought about using was defender of the year, which KC has had three, Besler, Conrad, and Vermes, that seemed fairly easy, but the thing with Vermes is his lack of longevity with KC, making fewer than 100 appearances in league play for KC. From there I thought about longevity with the club, and three of the defenders on the list are the three with the most appearances for the club, Besler (219), Conrad (230), and Garcia (273). But personally I wasn't sure I wanted to rule out Vermes and Collin quite yet. So I looked further at trophies that each player had won in KC: Besler (3), Collin (2), Conrad (1), Garcia (3), and Vermes (2). Thinking further I looked at what each player brought offensively to the team, who had contributed the most to the club when they pushed further up the field: Besler (2 goals, 11 assists), Collin (16 goals, 4 assists), Conrad (17 goals, 5 assists), Garcia (1 goal, 5 assists), and Vermes (2 goals, 7 assists).
Thinking about these numbers I was able to select two of my three defenders, Besler and Conrad were my first two choices, in my mind the pair are the best and second best defenders to ever wear the KC jersey, no matter what order you want to put them in. They have each won a defender of the year award, they've been part of championship teams, they've both captained the club in their career, and they’re just two very easy picks to make.
To make my last pick though was much more difficult. Of the three remaining candidates I ruled out Collin, not because he wasn't a great defender for Kansas City, but because of the fact that I felt Besler was the better of the two defenders and I wasn't positive that the team from 2011 through 2014 had two of the best defenders in team history, or if it was just the way that the pair worked together. In the end I decided that it was the way the two worked together and because Besler does a lot of the simply stuff that allowed Collin to be more of the destroyer that made so many fans fall in love with him. I think you're seeing that reason develop again with the early returns on the play by Nuno Coelho next to Besler.
That left the final pick down to Garcia, a defender who has made the most appearances for the club of any defender, a pest on defense that frustrated opponents so much he earned a call up simply to mark Carlos Ruiz in Guatemala, but didn't see the field when Ruiz was ruled out, and a future Sporting Legend, and Vermes, a Sporting Legend, the 2000 MLS Defender of the year and the anchor of the 2000 backline. In the end while Vermes had the MLS defender of the year award, I went with Garcia because of his longevity in being a strong defender for KC, especially since Garcia played almost three times as many games for the club as Vermes did, if Vermes had played more games for KC he likely would have been the third but appearing 273 times in a shutdown defensive role is enough to just have Garcia beat out Vermes for the last spot.
So through the first two votes, here is how my Best XI voting has turned out so far:
Besler - Conrad - Garcia