A little more on this year’s MLS Best XI (which Steve linked you to earlier).
For the first time in 10 years, Major League Soccer’s Best XI has three forwards.
For the first time in 10 years, the team has three forwards, even if a number of the team’s midfielders saw time farther up the field during the 2012 season. But positions have always been a loose thing when it comes to recognizing the season’s best. If there’s any flexibility to be had, you can guarantee a player’s going to be pushed into midfield.
Among the players to make this year’s team, there were no real surprises. Each player that was announced by Don Garber had been discussed among your favorite analysts. Every name appeared among the selections made by your three favorite Pro Soccer Talk content hamsters.
So while there’s sure to be debate about the selections (well, the non-Wondo ones), none of this year’s best XI should surprise anybody:
Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City
This spot seemed allocated to Nielsen early in the campaign, with Kansas City’s hot start and great defensive record (fewest goals allowed in MLS) giving Nielsen a pole position he never conceded.
PST’s picks: Nielsen (N. Davis); Andy Gruenebaum (S. Davis, Farley)
Victor Bernardez, San Jose Earthquakes
Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City
Aurelien Collin, Sporting Kansas City
We knew Bernardez and Besler (the league’s Defensive Player of the Year) would be here. Collin was likely, though competition from the likes of Vancouver’s Jay DeMerit and Chicago’ Arne Friedrich made that less of a certainty. Again, no controversy here.
PST’s picks: Gonzalo Segares, Bernardez, Kevin Alston (N. Davis); Bernardez, Besler, Collin, DeMerit (Farley); Bernardez, Besler, DeMerit (S. Davis)
Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders
Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy
Chris Pontius, DC United
Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City
It’s an interesting midfield, the only qualm with it being the lack of actual midfielders. Again, that’s the norm around these parts. All of Donovan, Pontius and Zusi saw their fair share of time as forwards, but given the crowded field up top, it’s hard to blame voters for sliding some of the league’s best players into midfield.
PST’s picks: Donovan, Pontius, Dax McCarty, Zusi (N. Davis); Kyle Beckerman, Alonso, Patrice Bernier, Zusi (Farley); Alonso, Zusi, Roger Espinoza, McCarty (S. Davis).
Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls
Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes
It’s only the third time in league history three forwards have made the best XI, the trio combining for 58 goals and 28 assists. Kenny Cooper and Alvaro Saborio also had strong seasons, but it’s difficult to argue anybody should unseat these three.
PST’s picks: Keane, Henry, Wondolowski (N. Davis); Henry, Wondolowski (Farley); Keane, Henry, Wondolowski (S. Davis)