By Sporting KC News
Continuing with the player evaluations series, we move on to defenders. SKC's defense finished 3rd in the league, and find out who stood out more than the others.
The captain made 2018 one of his best season yet. That is saying something for a former MLS Defender of the Year and World Cup veteran. He did have a few momentary mistakes towards the start of the season, but Besler was easily the clubs's best defender in October and November. He was cutting into passing lanes, making vital tackles, and even getting forward when he could. Besler recieved a deserved contract in August that will keep him here for a few years.
Opara didn't quite replicate his success from 2017 when he was named Defender of the Year. Several risks he took last seasons didn't pay off in 2018. Nevertheless, Ike Opara is still a high-quality and valuable center back. He is a pivotal part of this defense, and it would be hard to replace him.
Fontas arrived in late August, and we only got to see him start one game. The million dollar man did well in that one game, but it is unfair to judge him with that small of a sample size. It'll be interesting to see how much the La Liga veteran disrupts the Besler and Opara pairing because it's unlikely he will sit on the bench in 2019.
It’s hard to fill in for players like Matt Besler and Ike Opara as an MLS rookie, but Graham Smith had to do that job. Smith did what most people expected. He made some mistakes but did well on some plays. He did start every single Rangers game after August, even earning the captain’s armband in the playoffs. Smith will be back next season, so clearly Vermes saw something he liked.
Amor was pretty much in the same boat as Smith. He was a young Argentine loanee who had to step in at center back several times in the season. However, Vermes clearly didn’t trust him after an incident in which Amor skipped a team event to watch a World Cup match. After the team had many defensive issues in July, Amor’s loan was cut short, and he went back to Argentina.
Seth Sinovic can’t be replaced. In the first half of the year, Seth shared the position with Lobato, Medranda, and Lindsey. By August, there wasn’t a question of who should start. He owned that spot. Sinovic’s lack of speed or attacking quality keep him from being one of the best, but he is still so reliable. Sinovic will be around for at least one more year.
Zusi did really well in his second season as a right back. He was a dangerous weapon in the attack and stopped many attacks on the other side of the pitch. Also, Zusi played every single MLS minute for SKC in 2018, which is somewhat surprising given his injury-ridden past. Zusi is one of the best right backs in the league, and it doesn’t look like he is slowing down.
It was Lindsey’s first year as a professional, and he did rather well. He’s a natural right back who played all of his minutes on the left side. That change caused some growing pains, but Lindsey showed he can start MLS matches. Hopefully, he can get some more first-team minutes next year.
Colton Storm & Amer Didic
Both of these players were in their second year with SKC contracts, yet they have never made their MLS debuts. Their performances with Swope in USL weren't enough to keep them around, and both of their contract options were declined at the end of the season. Hopefully, these young defenders can improve, but it just won’t be with SKC.
Can we blame Brad Evans for getting injured countless times this season? I’m not going to go down that road, but it was disappointing that he never got on the field for SKC. Undoubtedly Evans will not return.
Jimmy Medranda & Cristian Lobato
Medranda and Lobato played adequately in the spring. They looked like they would’ve had good seasons, and they were the two most versatile players on the team. Unfortunately, they both suffered injuries in early summer and never played again. Medranda will stick around for next year, but somewhat surprisingly Lobato will not.