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Montreal’s Mr Nice Guy Defenders

Who are the guys who did it cleanly... a little fun with numbers...

Montreal Impact v Seattle Sounders
I wonder how close he was here? Alessandro Nesta never picked up a yellow card while playing for the Impact although he looks a little incensed in this pic. He did however incur one straight red.
Photo by Kevin Casey/Getty Images

Fans tend to look at who gets the most when it comes to goals, assists, yellow cards and reds etc, but in this morning’s piece, we’ve decided to look at our defensive nice-guys...

Have you ever wondered who Montreal’s ‘cleanest’ defender has been down through the years? If there’s a better way to determine this than measuring yellow cards to games, then I’m all ears, but I’ll concentrate on that simple little formula for now.

I wonder if you can pick the player out with the lowest yellow cards to games ratio in Montreal’s MLS existence?

We’ve had a few contenders....

Alessandro Nesta played 31 times for the impact in MLS and was never yellow-carded. He did blot his record however with a red, picked up at Sporting KC in 2013, after taking exception to a challenge from Claudio Bieler in a 2-1 road win.

Nesta looking incensed, butted the Argentinian flush on the forehead, the referee producing an inevitable red card, as Bieler walked away, shoulders shrugged, arms outstretched, the picture of dubious innocence.

Eric Miller the left back who went on to play for Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United, NYCFC and is now with Daniel Lovitz at Nashville SC, has a claim. Eric played 30 games and was yellow carded only once against Real Salt Lake in a 4-1 home victory (remember those?) in May 2015.

So too, does Zarek Valentin, who left for Norway’s Bodo Glimt in 2013, before returning stateside to play almost a century of games with Portland Timbers. He’s now of course along with Maxi Urruti at Houston Dynamo. The American was also booked only once, but only played in half the games Eric Miller did.

Montreal Impact v New York Red Bulls
Full-back, Zarek Valentin (left) 1 yellow card - 15 appearances
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

It may surprise a few that Zakaria Diallo only ever picked up one yellow, but the Frenchman blotted his copybook with a silly red card at the end of a 3-1 success at Orlando City... in the same game as Nacho Piatti picked up the infamous injury, depriving Montreal of his services over much of his last year or so at the club. Zak played 24 games in MLS.

There are some others like Jukka Raitala a tidy defender, 6 yellows in 69, Max Tissot, 4 in 44, and currently Zachary Brault-Guillard 3 in 34.

But as well as Nesta, there are a very select few who played more than 20 games and never saw yellow...

Heath Pearce will never be remembered as part of a glorious period in Impact history, playing most of his games in central defence during the club’s annus horribilis of 2014, but he did manage 23 outings and not one yellow card.

This writer must admit surprise since Pearce was a defender that often appeared to struggle and was a frequent purveyor of the last ditch tackle.

But there’s really no shock when it comes to selecting the top man in our feature, and if you’ve read this far I’m wondering if the name’s popped into your head yet?

Yes it’s one of the classiest defenders we’re ever likely to see in bleu/blanc/noir as long as football is played in this city.

Unfortunately we saw him only in the twilight of his career. It was the fans of Olympique Marseille who really saw the very best of him.

Yes, you will certainly have guessed it by now.... that pillar of strength, touch of class, Rolls Royce of a centre-back, Rod Fanni. Rod never saw yellow (or red) in his 41 appearances, despite advancing years and facing attackers sometimes almost half his age.

I must admit I love a good, hard (but fair) physical defender, and I find it mind-boggling, especially in the modern day how defenders can go through multiple games without caution, but you cannot help admire how the class and poise of Fanni and Nesta prevailed right up until the very end of their playing careers.

It’s probably no coincidence either that each man’s discipline correlates to their greatness in the art of defending... Sergio Ramos they ain’t!

Hat’s off to the pair.

Montreal Impact v Toronto FC - MLS Is Back Tournament
Rod Fanni - Exquisite. An imperious defender....
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 23). Recorded last evening (7 April), the TBIR team discusses CFM’s Florida rendezvous, the goalkeeping situation, the new MLS schedule, opening game v Toronto FC and the MLS pundits’ unflattering CF Montreal predictions... Plus all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine... Don’t miss it!

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