Ranking the 5 Best Defenders from the 2014 MLS Season
The 2014 Major League Soccer season was all about the impressive attackers who took to the pitches across North America. But there were a few defenders who stood out in a year dominated by goalscorers.
While it may have been a down year for both full-back positions, plenty of center-backs enjoyed successful seasons for their respective clubs.
All five of the players we rank on this list are center-backs who proved to be game changers for playoff-bound clubs.
Here's a look at the five best defenders from the 2014 MLS season.
5. Nat Borchers
Nat Borchers was a defensive rock in the middle of the Real Salt Lake back four throughout the 2014 season.
The man with the best beard in MLS was a key member of a RSL defense, which conceded 39 goals in 34 regular-season games.
Borchers' numbers weren't as high as those of other defenders on this list, but he was extremely effective in front of Nick Rimando regardless of who his center-back partner was.
4. Omar Gonzalez
Omar Gonzalez was one of the few American players to improve on his form after the World Cup.
Unlike his fellow center-back Matt Besler, Gonzalez turned his play up another notch in the stretch run of the MLS season to help the Galaxy clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Gonzalez stood tall at the back during the postseason, as the Galaxy defense held opponents to three goals in five games.
During the regular season, the 26-year-old helped the Galaxy concede a league-low 37 goals in a fiercely contested Western Conference.
3. Matt Hedges
The breakout defender from the 2014 season was FC Dallas' 24-year-old center-back Matt Hedges.
In his third season with the club, Hedges turned into a lockdown defender, which has to be credited a bit to the arrival of manager Oscar Pareja.
Hedges averaged 6.9 clearances and 3.2 interceptions per game in over 3,000 minutes in 35 total matches for the fourth-best team in the Western Conference.
Due to his spectacular season for the Hoops, Hedges should be receiving a call from Jurgen Klinsmann in the near future.
One has to think Hedges will be brought in as a part of the January camp usually designated for domestic-based players.
2. Bobby Boswell
Bobby Boswell's insertion into the D.C. United back four was one of the key reasons why the Black and Red completed their worst-to-first transition.
Boswell spent the previous six seasons with the Houston Dynamo before manager Ben Olsen brought him back to the place where he started his career.
With the 31-year-old in the middle of defense, D.C. conceded 22 less goals than it did during its brutal 2013 campaign in which it finished with 16 points from 34 games.
To show how big of an impact Boswell can make on a team, Houston conceded 17 more goals in 2014 than it did in 2013 with the center-back on its roster.
1. Chad Marshall
Chad Marshall's reunion with manager Sigi Schmid placed a smile on the face of each and every Seattle Sounders supporter.
Marshall brought an experienced presence to the Seattle back four after spending all of his career with the Columbus Crew, where Schmid was in charge from 2006-08.
The 30-year-old averaged a team high in clearances (7.1) and interceptions (4.3) per game for the Supporters' Shield winner.
If you don't believe the stats in regards to the defender's impact on the club, we suggest you look at the two-game span in the middle of the regular season where Seattle lost back-to-back games to LA and San Jose.
Had Marshall been in the lineup for those two games, the Sounders most likely would've earned enough points to clinch the Supporters' Shield before the final week of the season.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.