Countdown to First Kick: 11 The Next Best XI

Countdown to First Kick: 11 Fredy Montero

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As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, MLSsoccer.com is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign. 

11 –  Predicting 2012's Best XI

This offseason's pretty much unprecedented influx of talent has made predicting a Best XI a somewhat agonizing task. Nobody's a shoo-in, nobody's a lock. Slip up just a little bit, and there are a half-dozen guys — young, old and in their prime — ready to pass you in the hearts and minds of coaches, GMs and fans alike.

But hey, we're always up for a little controversy here at MLSsoccer.com. And if you disagree with my list, just remember to direct all your hate mail to Andrew Wiebe. He loves it.

2011 MLS Best XI
G - Kasey Keller (SEA)
D - Jamison Olave (RSL)
D - Omar Gonzalez (LA)
D - Todd Dunivant (LA)
M - Landon Donovan (LA)
M - David Beckham (LA)
M - Brek Shea (DAL)
M - Brad Davis (HOU)
M - Dwayne De Rosario (DC)
F - Chris Wondolowski (SJ)
F - Thierry Henry (NY)

READ: Beckham, Henry head 2011 Best XI

GK: Nick Rimando (RSL) - Rimando had a claim on the spot last year, and over the past five years has probably been the best 'keeper in the league. His reflexes and comfort with the ball at his feet are unparalleled, and his distribution remains top notch. Rimando has a slightly revamped defense in front of him this season, but the veteran knows how to organize any back line. (2nd: Tally Hall)

LB: Gonzalo Segares (CHI) - Pável Pardo and Sebastián Grazzini deservedly got most of the love for the Fire's second-half turnaround, but the sight of Segares marauding up and down the left flank had to bring a smile to the faces of Chicago fans. He was a constant threat, putting in quality service on nearly every foray, and rarely left space behind himself for counters. (2nd: Todd Dunivant)

CD: Geoff Cameron (HOU) - Cameron has the tools and talent to make a run not only at MLS Defender of the Year, but at league MVP. He's that good and that inluential in his — finally — permanent spot in the middle of the Dynamo defense. He has the added bonus of returning to a group that's remained remarkably intact after last year's MLS Cup final run, and has worked himself into the US national team picture as well. (2nd: Jámison Olave)

CD: Matt Besler (SKC) - Besler's flown a bit under the radar, rarely being mentioned in the same breath as guys like Cameron, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez and George John in the "new" crop of US defenders. But based upon last year's performance, he deserves the same consideration. He also has the league's deadliest long throw, essentially giving SKC a set piece any time they're within 40 yards of goal. (2nd: Jeff Parke)

RB: Steven Beitashour (SJ) - I warn you: This is not a reach. Beitashour was simply that good from June onwards. The third-year man tallied seven assists in part-time work at right back, logging just less than 1,700 minutes. That was good enough to lead the Quakes last year. This year he'll have more targets and a better defense around him, meaning he can be more aggressive when he pushes forward. (2nd: Chance Myers)

DM: Kyle Beckerman (RSL) - Everyone conveniently forgets that Beckerman had dragged RSL back into the Supporters' Shield race and himself into the MVP discussion before his petulent head-butt of Daniel Paladini derailed the Claret-and-Cobalt down the stretch. He's back this year, is nearing 100 percent health, and has some unfinished work to take care of. (2nd: Torsten Frings)

LM: Benny Feilhaber (NE) - The Revs were incredibly watchable down the stretch last year, combining passes about as well as any team in the league. They just couldn't finish any of them. This preseason they've picked up where they left off, and Feilhaber — who prefers to be central, but is better cutting in from the left — is at the heart of it all. (2nd: Mauro Rosales)

CM: Luiz Camargo (HOU) - Camargo's midseason acquisition was what allowed Dom Kinnear to move Cameron back to the center of defense, and aside from a bit of a no-show against the Galaxy in the MLS Cup final, the little Brazilian was incredibly influential on both sides of the ball. He's got work rate, touch, tenacity and vision — a lovely combo for the middle of the park. (2nd: Grazzini)

RM: Landon Donovan (LA) - One of the big questions heading into this season — for me, anyway — is "Can Landon Donovan become just the second player in MLS history to top 20 assists in a season?" With the league taking most FIFA dates off, with no midsummer tournament to take him away for weeks at a time, and with Edson Buddle and Robbie Keane up front... I'm not betting against it. (2nd: Jaime Castrillón)

F: Fredy Montero (SEA) - This is the year. There's no cast to affect his balance, there's no new system to upset his rhythm, and there's no goalkeeper who'll be safe. Montero weathered last year's early-season slump like a true pro, and the word out of CenturyLink is that the Colombian has entered 2012 as the team leader on and off the pitch. This is the Montero we've all been waiting for. (2nd: Thierry Henry)

F: Chris Wondolowski (SJ) - Wondo's gonna feel like a kid in a candy store this year. He has two of the best servers of the ball in the league marauding down the right side in Beitashour and Marvin Chavez. He has Tressor Moreno pulling the strings in central midfield. He has Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon to do the donkey work up front. All he has to do is score goals. Challenge accepted. (2nd: Kris Boyd)

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WATCH: A look back at the 2011 MLS Best XI