Saturday, October 29, 2011
MLS: Best XI? Here's ours
By Scott French
HOBOKEN, N.J. -- The Galaxy and Seattle Sounders were by a great margin Major League Soccer's premier teams this season, and they're on course for a Western Conference final to remember next weekend -- if they can get past difficult first-round playoff series, and there's no guarantee either will.
Their dominance shows up on our MLS Best XI and Second XI selections. Seven players on our first team are Galaxians or Sounders.
Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA): The Goats' MVP was spectacular, and he needed to be. His big saves and solid work with a backline that endured major injuries, plenty of turnover and youngsters learning roles was catalyst for their failed fight for a postseason berth.
Omar Gonzalez (Galaxy): The big center back took a huge step forward in his third pro season, and that after snatching Rookie of the Year and MLS Best XI honors in his first two years. He was virtually flawless in the back and contributed to the attack, too, and not just going forward on set pieces.
George John (FC Dallas): Another tall center back, John emerged as a force for the Hoops last year, then climbed another level in his third season, providing a foundation for the league's No. 4 team and gaining appreciation in Europe, where he has no shortage of suitors -- and could pursue a spot with Greece's national team if he so chooses.
Todd Dunivant (Galaxy): The best left back in MLS? Nobody's going to argue that. The veteran always has been known for his consistency, but his quality in 2011 -- both going forward and defending -- has accompanied an iron-man performance that was pivotal in L.A.'s success.
Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle): The Cuban veteran slipped into MLS almost as an afterthought, but there is no better defensive midfielder in the league. He shuts down foes, provides a foundation for the Sounders' league-best attack and is widely considered Seattle's true MVP.
David Beckham (Galaxy): Our choice for MLS MVP finally got a full season in the league and was a difference-maker for the league's best side. His service is impeccable, but as impressive is his leadership, his willingness to do the dirty work and his defensive acumen.
Mauro Rosales (Seattle): The league's unquestionable Newcomer of the Year orchestrated MLS's best attack, which hardly missed a beat after winger Steve Zakuani's devastating injury.
Brad Davis (Houston): The best crosser of the ball in MLS not named Beckham won the assists title, getting his 16th in the season finale against L.A. Like several on this list, a should-be U.S. call-up.
Landon Donovan (Galaxy): The Galaxy's leader saw his numbers fall off this year, and especially later in the year, but he's a master at providing the intangibles necessary to win, and his work off the field was pivotal to L.A.'s second straight Supporters' Shield.
Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia): A slow start statistically shrouded fine work building the foundation for the second-year Union's playoff run, and his finish -- 11 goals in 11 games -- nearly got Philly a conference crown.
Fredy Montero (Seattle): The Sounders' primary finisher also started slow, struggling while his arm was in a cast, then took charge the latter part of the season, scoring 11 times in 11 games, all competitions.
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake): Steady as always, Rimando's net play was pivotal in the dark moments for the Utahns.
Jan Gunnar Solli (New York): Norwegian right back was tremendous, especially in attack.
Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake): There might be no more intelligent backliner in the league.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (Seattle): What a difference a healthy Hurtado meant in the middle for the Sounders' defense.
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake): The veteran holding midfielder took the Lions by the scruff and carried them after Javier Morales' injury.
Jackson Goncalves (FC Dallas): Speedy, versatile and consistent beyond expectation.
Juninho (Galaxy): Big, spectacular goals are just part of the second-year Brazilian's rising game.
Brek Shea (FC Dallas): A late slump ended his MVP claims, but for a good part of the campaign nobody was more dangerous than the lanky winger.
Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United): Nobody had a better individual season than the Canadian vet, who won the Golden Boot with 16 goals (plus 12 assists) while shuffling from Toronto to New York to the capital.
Luke Rodgers (New York): The Red Bulls won just once when the English newcomer -- the heart of the club -- wasn't in the starting lineup.
Andres Mendoza (Columbus): The Peruvian striker made up for early missteps with 13 goals.
Here are 20 more players we really, really liked:
M/D Geoff Cameron (Houston)
G Tally Hall (Houston)
F Thierry Henry (New York)
M Jack Jewsbury (Portland)
M Shalrie Joseph (New England)
M/F Kei Kamara (Sporting Kansas City)
G Kasey Keller (Seattle)
F Danny Koevermans (Toronto FC)
M Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)
M Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado)
D Chad Marshall (Columbus)
G Faryd Mondragon (Philadelphia)
F Dominic Oduro (Chicago)
D Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake)
D Heath Pearce (Chivas USA)
G Josh Saunders (Galaxy)
M Teemu Tainio (New York)
D Carlos Valdes (Philadelphia)
F Chris Wondolowski (San Jose)
M Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)