TAMPA, Fla. – San Antonio FC’s Mitchell Taintor was on Tuesday named the 2022 USL Championship Defender of the Year. The center back claimed the individual honor after serving as a centerpiece of a back line that equaled the Championship’s single-season shutout record, a key element as San Antonio equaled the league’s regular-season record for wins and advanced to the USL Championship Final for the first time in club history.
Taintor is the second San Antonio FC defender to have claimed the award, following 2022 MLS Cup-winner Sebastien Ibeagha’s award in the 2017 USL Championship season.
The Connecticut native was acquired last offseason by San Antonio from Sacramento Republic FC after spending the second half of the 2021 USL Championship season on loan with the Alamo City club. Taintor impressed in numerous areas, finishing second in the Championship among defenders with 72 interceptions and third with 215 recoveries while also finding the net five times as a set piece threat. He also posted a 61.6 percent duel success rate while ranking fifth among defenders with 157 duels won, and ranked third in aerial duels won with 85 at a 66.4 percent success rate.
Teamed most consistently with fellow center backs Jasser Khmiri and Fabien Garcia in front of 2022 USL Championship Goalkeeper of the Year Jordan Farr, the 28-year-old helped San Antonio record 17 shutouts in the regular season as the club won 24 games to equal two Championship single-season records.
“I think it’s a culmination of hard work and surrounding yourself with people with the same vision,” said Taintor of the award. “Obviously I’m really happy to get the award, there’s a great sense of pride there for me, but it’s a credit to the collective because without the guys next to me this doesn’t happen.”
San Antonio’s defensive prowess was maybe best exemplified in its ability to maintain leads. SAFC only dropped two points from winning positions in the 2022 regular season, fewest in the league. Going into Sunday’s 2022 USL Championship Final against Louisville City FC (8:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2 | ESPN Deportes | SiriusXM FC) the side is undefeated in its last 45 games in which it has scored the opening goal, dating to the opening game of the 2021 regular season.
After reaching the Championship Final for the first time in both his career and SAFC’s history, Taintor believes victory against LouCity would further validate his individual honor.
“Our main goal has always been to win a championship, and I think that’d be the best validation,” said Taintor. “I think winning the trophy would be the biggest testament to how much better the club has gotten, and how I’ve improved as a player, over the three years. The Defender of the Year stuff, it’s a lot of voting. That can go either way so I don’t think that really demonstrates how much better I’ve gotten under [SAFC Head Coach] Alen [Marcina], but I think winning the final would.”
Taintor received 45 percent of the vote to earn the award, while Louisville City FC’s Sean Totsch finished second on 35 percent and the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Aaron Guillen third on 20 percent.
The 2022 USL Championship Awards were voted on by team technical staffs and executives and a league-wide media panel that included representation from every USL Championship market. Voting was conducted following the conclusion of the 2022 Championship regular season.
Goalkeeper of the Year: Jordan Farr, San Antonio FC
Defender of the Year: Mitchell Taintor, San Antonio FC
Coach of the Year: November 9
Young Player of the Year: November 9
Most Valuable Player: November 10
2011: Rob Valentino, Orlando City SC
2012: Troy Roberts, Rochester Rhinos
2013: Colin Falvey, Charleston Battery
2014: Nemanja Vukovic, Sacramento Republic FC
2015: Bryan Burke, Louisville City FC
2016: Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls II
2017: Sebastien Ibeagha, San Antonio FC
2018: Forrest Lasso, FC Cincinnati
2019: Joe Greenspan, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
2020: Forrest Lasso, Tampa Bay Rowdies
2021: Forrest Lasso, Tampa Bay Rowdies