Best XI: The top American players in MLS
As we celebrate Independence Day this 4th of July, the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff took a look around the league at the best American talent MLS currently has to offer. Call it the MLS All-American Best XI if you like; we call it a really good dream team.
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
With more than 10 years of MLS experience under his belt –not to mention a pair of MLS Cups--, the 32 year-old Real Salt Lake ‘keeper is at the height of his powers. Standing at only 5-foot-10 he may not be the biggest American keeper currently in MLS, but his intelligence, quick-reactions and leadership make him the best.
Heath Pearce, Chivas USA
Since joining MLS in 2009 after four years plying his trade in Europe, Pearce has become the premier left back in the league. Possessing the ability to both lock down an attacker and whip pinpoint crosses from the wing, he’s been capped by the USMNT 32 times.
Tim Ream, New York Red Bulls
Billed by some as the USMNT centerback of the future, Ream came into MLS in 2010 as an unheralded 2nd round pick in the SuperDraft. His composure on the ball earned him a starting role in all 30 league matches that year and six caps with the US team since November.
Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy
At 6-foot-5, the LA Galaxy centerback has size for days and isn’t afraid to use it. He intimidates opponents on the ground and owns them in the air. The latter has been crucial on set pieces and has seen him score four goals in the offensive half of the field. Gonzalez was the 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year.
Sean Franklin, LA Galaxy
Selected 4th in the 2008 SuperDraft by the LA Galaxy, Franklin adapted quickly to MLS, providing LA with a combination of toughness and technique at right back. After being awarded the 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year Award, he missed most of 2009 due to injury. He regained his form in 2010, however, and earned his first US cap in 2011.
Brek Shea, FC Dallas
With a knack for both flashy play and hair, the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft recalls a young Clint Mathis at times. A versatile speedster and deft passer of the ball, Shea has seen some time as both a defender and a striker, but it’s on the wing where he excels. He’s adept at striking the ball, notching eight goals so far this season.
Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake
The dread-locked defensive midfielder and team captain is as hard-nosed as they come, providing a shield for the vaunted Real Salt Lake defense. His ability to get into the attack by distributing balls from deep positions helped to make him an MLS All-Star in 2009 and 2010, and to help earn RSL an MLS Cup in 2009.
Benny Feilhaber, New England Revolution
A recent arrival to the league, Feilhaber’s abilities as a playmaker have had an immediate impact on the Revolution attack. A stylish orchestrator, Feilhaber is the owner of 38 caps with the USMNT.
Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy
Where to begin with the greatest American player ever produced? How about a list of accolades: 7-time Honda Player of the Year, 4-time MLS Best XI, 4-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year, 3-time MLS Cup winner, 3-time CONCACAF Best XI, 2009 MLS MVP, 2008 MLS Golden Boot winner and 2003 MLS Cup MVP. And there’s likely more to come.
Juan Agudelo, New York Red Bulls
America’s next great hope at striker seemingly has it all: speed, skill, size and confidence. A product of the Red Bull academy, Agudelo joined the first team in 2010 and saw his first action last October. He earned his first cap with the US team little more than a month later, scoring his first international goal and becoming the youngest goalscorer in USMNT history at the age of 17.
Charlie Davies, D.C. United
The feelgood soccer-story of spring 2011. The one-time USMNT striker is full of skill and guile but is still working his way back to his peak condition. But even with his once-blinding speed reduced to simply scorching, he’s still a handful for defenders. Although aided by a few PKs, his current position in a tie for first in the 2011 Golden Boot Race is a testament to his talent.