As part of our ongoing package previewing the start of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, here are the best and brightest MLS men who are eligible to play for the United States na tional team:
- GK = Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando
Why we like him: Real Salt Lake’s backstopper is solidly ensconced as Jurgen Klinsmann’s third man in the net. Just 33 years old — not a bit too old for ‘keepers — he is about to begin his 14th season as an MLS starter. How about them apples?
- RB = Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran
- CM = Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler
- CB = LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez (pictured)
- LB = New York Red Bulls’ Heath Pearce
Why we like them: Those who would like to debate the center back scene haven’t been paying attention. Gonzalez is a no-brainer (now apparently a U.S. starter until further notice) and Besler isn’t far behind. Beltran just edges San Jose’s Steven Beitashour for right back. Pearce is an interesting one because the Red Bulls and, before that, Chivas USA, like to use him at center back. But Pearce has 35 full U.S. national team appearances … all at left back. That’s his best spot.
- RM = D.C. United’s Chris Pontius
- HM = Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman
- LM = Houston Dynamo’s Brad Davis
- AM = Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi
Why we like them: Pontius lines up at left midfield or forward for D.C. United; I’m sure he’d play along the right if asked for our little team here. Before anyone reminds me that Osvaldo Alonso is now an American citizen, he is not yet eligible to play for the United States; There are still some fairly significant FIFA hoops to jump. So, it’s Beckerman, who is well in the U.S. national team muddle of holding mids. Between Zusi, Davis and Pontius, you could move them around liberally at the three most advanced midfield spots.
- FW = San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski
- FW = Seattle Sounder’s Eddie Johnson
Why we like them: A total of 41 goals between them last year in league play (27 by Wondolowski)? Yep, we’ll take some of that.