With its peculiar and sometimes obstruct schedule, MLS now finds itself two-thirds through its season while the English Premier League and many of the world’s other top tiers are just blowing the dust off of their respective leagues and get things underway.
There have been many dramatic storylines so far in the MLS this year, from the league’s proverbial golden boy in Landon Donovan who seemingly flirting with retirement before re-finding his love for the game to “Dempsey Watch” and the ensuing mania in Seattle. All that excitement has led to the upstart MLS getting more attention and, in Dempsey’s case, more quality than ever before (excluding a certain David Beckham).
That quality was put to the test in this year’s All Star game when the MLS All Stars took on AS Roma at RFK Stadium on July 31st. The result of that game was a bummer 3-1 loss for the All-Stars, but wait, was that the best MLS had to offer?
Here is a First Team XI for MLS based on the statistics and impact of the league’s players two-thirds through the season.
GK: Nick Rimando- Real Salt Lake:
– Has there been any better keeper over the last few seasons in MLS? Real Salt Lake’s longest tenured player has proven once again this season that his presence in goal is one that any team in the league would be lucky to have.
His stats are once again in the upper level of the league this year as his save percentage of 70 percent stands alone as the very best of keepers who have played in at least 10 games.
Rimando also has the highest win percentage at 58 percent; a percentage that sees his team sitting square on top of the standings in MLS. Winning the Gold Cup this year for the United States certainly does not hurt his standing as the MLS’s very best.
RB: Tony Beltran- Real Salt Lake:
– It’s only natural that the top defender on the league’s best team finds himself in the best XI. The 25-year-old outside back has seen his stock rise greatly over the past few seasons, culminating in two caps for the United States national team and an appearance in this year’s Gold Cup.
He has been a steadying presence on the backline for the scintillating RSL and has quietly become one of their most valuable players. Not bad for a player who only started playing major minutes for the first time last season.
CB: Omar Gonzalez- Los Angeles Galaxy
The big center-back has seemingly become a poster boy for the MLS after being the first American defender to sign a Designated Player contract. His strength and athleticism has seen him develop into an absolute force in Major League Soccer, an imposing defender who is a nightmare to deal with.
Perhaps the top defender in the league, the 24-year-old US international is one of the first names in the XI and has performed superbly this season in 18 appearances.
CB: Aurelien Collin- Sporting Kansas City
– The 27-year-old Frenchman is the rock of Sporting’s defense and is a two time All Star. He has quickly become one of the league’s best defenders and most valuable imports. The bald head of Collin’s has become a sight for opposing teams to fear on both sides of the ball this season.
In 21 games, Collin has already tied his scoring record of last season with three goals, all three coming from corners. His value to the franchise in Kansas City is at an all time high.
LB: Corey Ashe- Houston Dynamo
– The development of Ashe is a big reason Houston still has a fighting chance this season as they sit at fifth place in the East. The 27-year-old has become one of MLS’s top attacking defenders over the past few years and has the speed to stick with anyone on defense.
The diminutive 5’5 wingback has become extremely effective galloping up and down the left side of the field. The excellent athletic skill set of Ashe ultimately saw him earn a spot on this year’s All Star Team and has now seen him earn a spot in this season’s Inscriber XI.
LM: Landon Donovan- Los Angeles Galaxy
When Michael Jordan came back into the NBA after a short hiatus playing baseball, Air Jordan’s performances on the court really made people realize what they were missing. Donovan’s emphatic return to the MLS has done the same to the soccer world.
LD’s six goals and six assists in 14 games have forced his inclusion into the league XI for yet another season. The Galaxy’s all-time scorer is the hero of Major League Soccer and will play a huge role this season as Los Angles contend for another title once again.
CM: Javier Morales- Real Salt Lake
– There is no one who has raised his game more this season than the midfield maestro of Real Salt Lake. The experienced 33-year-old Argentinean has peaked at the right time and is the central figure behind MLS’s best team. His five goals and seven assists have been crucial to the Claret-and-Cobalt this season but it is his aura on the ball that see’s him included in the best XI.
His superb play has seen his name thrown around in the MVP conversation.
CM: Federico Higuain- Columbus Crew
– Despite the Crew lingering near the foot of the Eastern Conference standings, Higuain’s seven goals and six assists have been hard to ignore. The 28-year-old brother of newly signed Napoli superstar, Gonzalo Higuain, is a player in his prime and has been a real diamond for MLS since being signed here in 2012.
He is magnificent when deployed behind the strikers and has proven to be an experienced talisman for the Columbus Crew. If only they had the roster to capitalize on having one of the best players in MLS.
LM: Graham Zusi- Sporting Kansas City
The 26-year-old US international’s season might have been recently interrupted due to injury but his impact has still been solid for Kansas City this season. His four goals and six assists is a bit down from the five and fifteen from last year but there is still no doubting that Zusi belongs in the league’s best eleven.
He is a master of set pieces and is a threat from anywhere on the field. Locking the Maryland product down to a long-term contract was perhaps one of the best moves MLS has ever made.
ST: Camilo Sanvezzo: Vancouver Whitecaps
– With all eyes set on the exciting Jamaican Darren Mattocks, Camilo has come and stole the show in Vancouver, leading the club to sit happily at second place in the Western Conference. The young Brazilian star has been on fire this season, tied on top of the scoring charts with 14 goals and has four assists to his name.
This season has been a huge step up in production from the five goals he had last year and the change almost certainly has something to do with a better supportive cast.
Playing alongside Mattocks, Scottish international Kenny Miller, and former EPL star Nigel Reo-Coker never hurts.
ST: Mike Magee- Chicago Fire
– Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Obafemi Martins: all strikers you would expect to see in an MLS XI. However, the last player to be named into this XI has always been one who has been tragically underrated his entire career. The trade of Magee from Los Angeles to Chicago has finally proven the star power that the 28-year-old has always possessed.
While the Galaxy have now struggled without Magee, Chicago has been reborn. Tied with Camilo for first place in goals with 14 (8 during his time in the Windy City), Magee has transformed the Fire into a playoff contender. The team has slowly risen into sixth place in the East and has now started to figure things out with Magee in the side.
Los Angeles’s loss has been Chicago’s gain.
Special Mentions/ Second Team XI: Gk: Michael Gspurning- Seattle Def: Matteo Ferrarri- Montreal, Jordan Harvey- Vancouver, Victor Bernardez- San Jose, Jamison Olave- New York Mid: Diego Valeri- Portland, Brad Davis- Houston, Tim Cahill- New York, Filipe Martins- Montreal For: Robbie Keane- Los Angeles, Di Vaio- Montreal