Jose Goncalves

Which 11 players make the cut for PST’s MLS Team of the Year?

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Perhaps there hasn’t been an easier time putting together a buzz-worthy XI in MLS history. While defenders rarely get their due, this season brought some names to the forefront in ways that garnered MVP talk, like Chad Marshall in Seattle. And the World Cup and qualifying provided some other defenders a cannon from which to launch their stars into the sky.

Yet it’s still pretty tricky to cull 11 players from the hundreds who dot rosters around Major League Soccer. So we’ve brought in two XIs for you (and I may sneak in a third). Myself and Joe Prince-Wright will now put our Teams of the Year out for your perusal, hatred and laurels.

[ MLS: Playoff predictions/preview | Season-ending awards ]

Joe Prince-Wright is up first, being the lead writer/editor and all, and starts with USMNT backstop Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake as his netminder. Marshall makes his cut as one of four Seattle Sounders stars. Matt Besler slides in at back after his tremendous World Cup.

source: AP

JPW’s MLS best XI (3-4-3)

Nick Rimando (RSL)

Jose Goncalves (NE) – Chad Marshall (SEA) – Matt Besler (SKC)

Lee Nguyen (NE) – Clint Dempsey (SEA) – Osvaldo Alonso (SEA) – Diego Valeri (POR)

Robbie Keane (LA) – Bradley Wright-Phillips (NYRB) – Obafemi Martins (SEA)

As for me, you’ll see a lot of the same faces, but seeing as I’m the guy compiling the post, I’ll submit a second XI as well. Take that, JPW.

For me, to watch the ‘Caps is to watch the best goalkeeper in the league, as David Ousted has been simply phenomenal. Just his play in the final 20 minutes against Colorado was a reason for cheers, high-fives, fist-bumps and other modes of congratulatory sentiment. Landon Donovan gets a nod from me for his record-setting season in L.A., while Matt Hedges may’ve quietly been the best defender in the league.

source: AP

Nick Mendola’s MLS best XI (3-4-3)

David Ousted (VAN)

Matt Hedges (DAL) — Chad Marshall (SEA) — Jose Goncalves (NE)

Diego Valeri (POR) — Lee Nguyen (NE) — Landon Donovan (LA) — Clint Dempsey (SEA)

Robbie Keane (LA) — Obafemi Martins (SEA) — Bradley Wright-Phillips (NYRB)

As for a second XI, it pains me as a Buffalonian to slot a player in over New England’s shot-stopper Bobby Shuttleworth, but what Steve Clark did in Columbus this year was fantastic. His two PK stops put him just past Bill Hamid in my book. I had a very difficult time not slotting in Kendall Waston, who only played 10 games for Vancouver but was simply wonderful. Twenty-two games, however, was enough to get Omar Gonzalez a look in my second side.

source: Getty Images

Nick Mendola’s MLS second XI (3-4-3)

Steve Clark (CBS)

Bobby Boswell (DC) — Chris Schuler (RSL) — Omar Gonzalez (LA)

Tony Tchani (CBS) — Javier Morales (RSL) — Osvaldo Alonso (SEA) — Pedro Morales (VAN)

Thierry Henry (NYRB) — Dom Dwyer (SKC) — Erick Torres (CHV)

What do you think? Harsh to leave out Gyasi Zardes, Chris Wondolowski, Seb Le Toux, Federico Higuain and Ethan Finlay? My goodness, I could’ve put together more XIs and still felt like I was uppercutting the league!

A disquieting contract kerfuffle playing out with New England defensive centerpiece Jose Goncalves

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There was so very much for New England Revolution fans to be excited about this year. Finally!

Youngsters like Kelyn Rowe and Scott Caldwell have quietly become two solid MLS starters. (Well, Rowe made some noise here and there, but Caldwell’s development really has come on the down-low.)

Right back Andrew Farrell seemed set for a nice sophomore season under manager Jay Heaps, a young manager now into his third year on the job, surely learning new ways to improve himself and the team every single day.

Lee Nguyen remains a dependable attacker, although he still needs a front-line striker to feed. And it’s all built around defensive centerpiece Jose Goncalves, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, among the top league revelations of 2013, someone coming back to police the back line at Gillette once again.

Wait! What?

Uh-oh. Seems that Goncalves isn’t quite ready to commit to a second year for the Revs. And that is some terribly disquieting news for Revolution fans.

Goncalves seems to feel less than fully loved around Gillette. The Revs say they love him dearly – while reminding us that he’s under contract. This is either a negotiating kerfuffle that will be stitched up quickly … or it’s a big ol’ mess.

A few things seem clear:

  • There is some talking out to be done between these parties.
  • This conversation will evolve into the next pressure point as MLS supporters boo-hoo the salary cap and its restrictive implications. The counterweight is, as it always has been: without a salary cap, the league probably would already have died. That’s always the larger context for these conversations, although fans hate to hear that.
  • If this is just negotiating tactic for Goncalves, it’s hard not to connect some dots here and think that Major League Soccer made a major mistake in not playing hardball with Vancouver striker Camilo, who forced a move with his recent gambit.
  • All of this is complicated by the fact that Goncalves’ was originally a loan player (from Swiss side FC Sion) who played so well that the loaner turned into a purchase.  See Kyle McCarthy’s good work via Twitter for more on that.
  • Fairly or not in this case, this will be filed in plenty of minds alongside other evidence that the Kraft family doesn’t like to spend money on its MLS team.

Oh, and there’s this: The New England Revolution is a playoff contender with Goncalves in the lineup, especially if they secure that striker. Without him … probably not.

Reactions and thoughts as MLS reveals its Best XI team

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First the basics … this is how MLS players, club leadership, and media members voted for the league’s top 11 players in 2013:

  • Goalkeeper – Donovan Ricketts (Portland Timbers)
  • Defender – Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
  • Defender – Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution)
  • Defender – Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)
  • Midfielder – Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)
  • Midfielder – Will Johnson (Portland Timbers)
  • Midfielder – Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
  • Midfielder – Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
  • Forward – Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact)
  • Forward – Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
  • Forward – Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)

The one who shouldn’t be there: Donovan Ricketts reminded us in 2013 that big, flashy, flying saves will get you a bunch of attention. And there were some jaw-dropping and praise-worthy moments. But the less glamorous stuff, the precise footwork, the business of not leaving rebounds in bad places, the providing of information to defenders … it’s all important, too. And for me, Ricketts wasn’t always good enough in these more mundane matters. Ricketts was a good goalkeeper in 2013 – but hardly the league’s best in my opinion.

(For the goalkeepers that we liked, see this link.)

And one more who looks a bit questionable: Omar Gonzalez had another good season for the Galaxy. But was it his best season? Hardly. And compared to how dominating he was after coming off injury in 2012, this one suffered by comparison. Perhaps it was the extra strain of international duty, or the distraction of ongoing contract negotiations … but Gonzalez dropped a short notch this go-round.

The math that doesn’t add up: THREE men from Portland Timbers? C’mon. There are 19 clubs, and THREE Timbers find their way to this team? If that’s the case, Portland should have won 24 or 25 games, right?

Johnson is deserving. Ricketts and Valeri … not necessarily.

A couple of snubs: We get reminded (sigh…once again) that holding midfielders are undervalued in MLS. No Osvaldo Alonso or Kyle Beckerman? Hmmmm. Will Johnson is the closest we get to a holding mid, even though he’s really more of a two-way man in Portland’s 4-3-3.

Nothing wrong with Graham Zusi, Diego Valeri or Tim Cahill – but their seasons weren’t any better than the ones had by Alonso (who made a very, very average Seattle defense look better than it really was with so much faithful soldiering as a midfield screener) or Beckerman.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s staff choices for Best XI)

ProSoccerTalk’s MLS awards choices: Staff picks for Best XI

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We continue to roll out our choices for the league’s top defender, top goalkeeper, top rookie, MVP and more:

Today we look at ProSoccerTalk’s writer’s picks for Major League Soccer’s Best XI teams:

Steve Davis’ MLS Best XI (3-4-3):source:

  • GK: Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
  • DF: Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City
  • DF: Jose Goncalves, New England Revolution
  • DF: Chris Klute, Colorado Rapids
  • MF: Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake
  • MF: Will Johnson, Portland Timbers
  • MF: Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders
  • MF: Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers
  • F: Mike Magee, Chicago Fire
  • F: Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy
  • F: Marco Di Vaio, Montreal Impact

Richard Farley’s MLS Best XI (4-3-3):source:

  • GK: Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
  • RB: Hassoun Camara, Montréal Impact
  • CB: Aurélien Collin, Sporting Kansas City
  • CB: Jose Goncalves, New England Revolution
  • LB: Chris Klute, Colorado Rapids
  • DM: Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake
  • MF: Will Johnson, Portland Timbers
  • MF: Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers
  • FW Mike Magee, Chicago Fire
  • FW: Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy
  • FW: Camilo Sanvezzo, Vancouver Whitecaps

Joe Prince-Wright’s MLS Best XI (4-2-3-1):source:

  • GK: Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls
  • RB: DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle Sounders
  • CB: Jose Goncalves, New England Revolution
  • CB: Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City
  • LB: Chris Klute, Colorado Rapids
  • DMF: Will Johnson, Portland Timbers
  • DMF: Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders
  • MF: Mike Magee, Chicago Fire
  • MF: Marco Di Vaio, Montreal Impact
  • MF: Camilo Sanvezzo; Vancouver Whitecaps
  • FW: Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy

Wednesday: Defender of the Year
Thursday: Goalkeeper of the Year
Friday: Rookie of the Year
Monday: Coach of the Y
Tuesday: MLS Most Valuable Player
Wednesday: MLS Best XI

New England’s Jose Goncalves named MLS Defender of Year

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There are good players in MLS, and then there are transformative figures in MLS – the kind of talent that hits the perfect note at a club, moving the entire operation forward in a meaningful way.

That’s Jose Goncalves, who was today named MLS Defender of the Year.

It’s no surprise that he scored this award (especially not if you look at our own staff choices for Defender of the Year.)

Kansas City’s Matt Besler finished second and LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez finished third … but they were both well behind. Goncalves dominated the weighted voting, earning 37 percent of the club vote, 47 percent of the media vote and 19 percent of the players’ vote.

New England tied for third-fewest goals allowed in MLS this year (38), which was evidence enough of the Portuguese veteran’s influence. But the bigger, more telling and certainly far more important numbers were these.

In 2012, Jay Heaps’ rebuilding team finished ninth in the East with just 35 points. With many of the same players, but one huge addition in Goncalves, this year’s version finished third in the East with 51 points. Thanks to that 16-point improvement (second best improvement this year in MLS after Portland)

And, of course, there was playoff soccer around Gillette Stadium. For the first time since 2009, in fact. In the Revs’ post-season bid, Heaps’ team stretched Sporting Kansas City almost as far as possible, eventually falling in a 30-minute extra time at Sporting Park as the teams finished their Eastern Conference semifinal series.