There are good players in MLS, and then there are transformative figures in MLS – the kind of talent that hits the perfect note at a club, moving the entire operation forward in a meaningful way.
That’s Jose Goncalves, who was today named MLS Defender of the Year.
It’s no surprise that he scored this award (especially not if you look at our own staff choices for Defender of the Year.)
Kansas City’s Matt Besler finished second and LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez finished third … but they were both well behind. Goncalves dominated the weighted voting, earning 37 percent of the club vote, 47 percent of the media vote and 19 percent of the players’ vote.
New England tied for third-fewest goals allowed in MLS this year (38), which was evidence enough of the Portuguese veteran’s influence. But the bigger, more telling and certainly far more important numbers were these.
In 2012, Jay Heaps’ rebuilding team finished ninth in the East with just 35 points. With many of the same players, but one huge addition in Goncalves, this year’s version finished third in the East with 51 points. Thanks to that 16-point improvement (second best improvement this year in MLS after Portland)
And, of course, there was playoff soccer around Gillette Stadium. For the first time since 2009, in fact. In the Revs’ post-season bid, Heaps’ team stretched Sporting Kansas City almost as far as possible, eventually falling in a 30-minute extra time at Sporting Park as the teams finished their Eastern Conference semifinal series.