SBI MLS Newcomer of the Year: Victor Bernardez

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.


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.

  • Nick

    I’d say saer sene could be another one to mention. Had a productive season at New England before his injury.


  • Andy

    Boniek is a monster, but I definitely can’t argue with Bernardez. His play, and the emergence of Beitashour has been key to San Jose’s success this year.


  • Weaksauce

    Blame Bruce Arena for BERNARDEZ game winning goal.

    Everytime he takes a free kick, he does the same thing. Before he was about to kick, I said for the wall “not to jump”

    You only jump if its ronaldinho or beckham


      • Bobb

        Lemme guess… Sounders fanboys?

        Gspurning should definitely be top three with Boniek and Bernardez but it’s absurd to say that 1.1 goals against is too many for a CB to win newcomer of the year. San Jose sends a lot of players forward, they’re going to give up some goals.


      • JRP

        Nope. In fact, the opposite of a SS boy. RSL here. Let’s face it, filling Keller’s spot was nearly impossible both as a leader of the league and the team. Gspurning is amazing between the posts. I hope the league can keep him. May be tough.
        Absurd to say that SJ has huge holes in the defense? I think most SJ fans wish they wouldn’t have given up so many goals which required so many late-game heroics (cliche). Honestly, I think the goals against may be more of a problem with SJ’s midfield and their lack of possession-style soccer. But when you play D, your job is to stop the goals. I don’t think Bernardez deserves it. He has had a great season. Just not tops in my book.


    • chris_thebassplayer

      The back line did give up a lot of crap soft goals, but most of those were due positional/marking lapses by the other CB. Sounds harsh, but I hold my breath every time Hernandez has to mark anybody on a ball crossed into the box. Bernardez is one of the main reasons for the Quake turnaround.


    • nick

      When Indios didn’t get promoted he decided to leave. When Anderlecht stopped playing him he decided to leave them. Might say he didn’t cut it there…but not the case at Indios.


  • Barry W

    Muma is a straight beast…Shut down LA’s attack in the middle and scored on a free kick. This is an underrated player for San Jose.


    • primoone

      Rose-colored glasses also help quite a bit. The guy was solid however, guilty of making critical errors that could have led to San Joses’ demise. OG doesnt jump and Saunders doesnt cough it up then its back to San Jose knotted up.

      It just depends what side of the fence you are looking from. A beast? Hardly


      • Bobb

        Oh no, back to San Jose knotted up… just like San Jose wanted.
        Yeah, that would have been terrible, given that San Jose hasn’t lost a game at Buck Shaw all season lol


  • @Boriuano_10

    I agree.. The Quakes ma have given up a bit of goals but there’s no question that Victor was a definite boost to the impressive Quakes this season.


    • Ives Galarcep

      Didn’t play enough. If you’re only playing 12 games you better do something outrageous like take a last-place team and get them in the playoffs, or score 12 goals. His half-season was a great one though, no question, just not enough to cancel out the full-season contributions of the players we noted.


      • Bobb

        Higuian deserves a mention, though. YP Lee started out strong but then faded late like the rest of his team.


  • Syd

    Despite the playoff loss, LA turned around its season once Marcelo was inserted into the starting lineup.


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