With Thanksgiving and the uptick in news over the last couple weeks, I have been slacking on my evaluations, so I'm hoping to knock a bunch of these out in the next week.
2012 was yet another incredibly consistent year for Jair Benitez. You may like that consistency or dislike it, but you're being irrational if you don't at least recognize that the Jair Benitez you get is generally the same game in and game out. For the third straight season, the Colombian logged over 2,000 minutes at left back/left mid for FC Dallas and this year he scored his first career MLS goal with the club.
Benitez, who turns 34 in January, figures to be making his FC Dallas swan song in 2013.
Consistency As I mentioned above, you generally know what you're getting from Jair, game in and game out. Those merits have their ups and downs, but Benitez is generally a good attacking left back who seems to always be teetering on the edge of a cliff. However, he hardly ever falls off that cliff.
Offensive service Jair is still one of the better attacking left backs in the league. He completed more passes this year than any other FC Dallas player according to the OPTA season passing matrix and he does a good job of overlapping the left midfielder, opening space for plays that don't show up in the stats.
Good Locker Room Guy Jair is a huge part of the spanish speaking locker room clique at FCD. His presence is a positive one in the locker room and, like it or not, Benitez has become very #DTID. He's a guy that Schellas can generally trust and he's amazingly one of the most tenured players on FC Dallas.
Moment of the Year
Jair scored his first career MLS goal with the club in fantastic style on a wonderful free kick beating Matt Pickens of the Colorado Rapids. The goal capped a fantastic end to the season for Benitez in which he started 14 of the last 15 matches
Emotional Intelligence Just like I said earlier, Jair is consistent and he is consistently a hot head on the pitch. He pretty much single-handedly lost FC Dallas the game in Houston getting a silly red card just after the FCD equalizer that earned him a three-game benching. Benitez was also suspended earlier in the year for an incident in DC that was not punished during the game.
Age is becoming a factor Benitez will be 34 this year and as Fennsk has pointed out multiple times, age can be a huge enemy for a player that generally relies on speed over positioning in defense. I don't think we've seen much regression in Benitez's game from a physical standpoint yet, but it is coming and when it does, it will probably happen quickly.
While FC Dallas is certainly going to need to start looking to the future for a new left back, I'm perfectly happy with one more year of Jair Benitez on the squad. He provides leadership, consistent play and a solid depth. With the probable addition of London Woodberry as outside back depth as well as the rumored move of Ugo Ihemelu to right back - bringing Zach Loyd into direct competition with Benitez - it's going to be very interesting to see what happens to the Colombian this season and what kind of playing time he will get.
2012 Season Rating
Jair certainly had problems earlier in the season, but I think those who say he was poor in the second half of the season are letting prior incidents cloud their judgement. Benitez had a very solid second half of the season and I think he's earned a 6.0 for the 2012 campaign.