Photo by ISIPhotos.com
The San Jose Earthquakes are known for their high-octane attack, the highest-scoring squad in the league, but as impressive as their attack is, it has been the play of their back-line that has allowed the team to dedicate numbers into their attack and make their offense that much more dangerous.
The Earthquakes defense was led by the imposing presence of Victor Bernardez, who made a smooth transition to MLS and emerged as one of the best defenders in the league. His ability to dominate made it easier for the Earthquakes fullbacks to get forward, and made it difficult for opposing forwards to punish San Jose when they sent numbers forward.
Bernardez’s form in 2012 made him SBI’s pick for MLS Newcomer of the Year.
The imposing Honduran centerback finished the regular season with two goals scored, but his impact on the San Jose defense was a clear one. In the 10 games he missed this year (8 with a knee injury), San Jose posted a 1.50 goals-against average. With Bernardez in the starting lineup, the Earthquakes posted a stingy 1.16 goals-against average.
Bernardez beat out a good field of Newcomer of the Year candidates in a season that saw MLS teams dig even deeper into the international player market. Here is a rundown of the other top contenders for the award:
The Seattle Sounders goalkeeper helped his team deal with life after Kasey Keller by emerging as one of the best goalkeepers in the league. The Austrian netminder finished the season with a league-best 0.70 goals-against average and nine shutouts.
OSCAR BONIEK GARCIA
The Honduran midfielder showed up in mid-season and instantly became a driving force in the Houston Dynamo attack. His energy, tenacity and skill made him the perfect complement to Brad Davis and was a key reason the Dynamo made the playoffs. He finished the season with four goals and six assists in 17 matches.
He may not have been as flashy as some other midfielders in MLS, but Bernier was an outstanding leader in the Montreal midfield and a key reason the Impact had playoff aspirations late in the season. The Canadian midfielder finished the year with nine goals and eight assists for the Impact.
The classy South Korean right back had no trouble adjusting to MLS, stepping in and arguably playing like the best fullback in MLS. Lee was a lockdown defender, but could also get forward into the Whitecaps attack.
There were plenty of other newcomers worth mentioning in 2012, such as Jairo Arrietta and Federico Higuain in Columbus, Jaime Castrillon in Colorado and Saer Sene in New England, but the aforementioned players were the cream of the crop in the MLS Newcomer class of 2012.
What did you think of Bernardez’s season? What newcomers impressed you the most in 2012?
Share your thoughts below.