MLS All-Time Best XI team unveiled
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber announced the RadioShack MLS All-Time Best XI, as selected by fans, general managers and media on MLSnet.com, on Friday at the MLS Cup 2005 Media Luncheon, held at Pizza Hut Park's Verizon Wireless Club. The All-Time Best XI was named in celebration of the league's 10th season and just two days before its 10th championship game, as the New England Revolution will meet the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday at Pizza Hut Park (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) to crown a new champion.
There were few surprises in the final list, with all those selected having reached great heights in their MLS careers. Five members of the Best XI are still active players in the league, while another is now serving as a head coach (Peter Nowak, D.C. United), one only recently played his last professional game (Preki, Kansas City Wizards) and one will be on display in Sunday's encounter (Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy).
The MLS All-Time Best XI by position:
Tony Meola: Current MetroStars goalkeeper Tony Meola ran away from the competition to win recognition on this list fairly easily. A fixture on the U.S. soccer scene for more than a decade, Meola has posted great numbers in MLS and with the U.S. national team throughout his impressive career. He won an MLS Cup in 2000 as a member of the Kansas City Wizards, also earning Honda Most Valuable Player and Pepsi Best XI honors after an amazing campaign. Meola was selected as an MLS All-Star on five occasions (1996-98, 2000, 2002) and is the all-time league leader in saves (1,045) and shutouts (57). The Kearny, N.J., native was also a member of three World Cup teams and he earned 99 caps for the USA.
Eddie Pope: Pope has achieved just about everything imaginable for a defender in the United States. He has won three MLS Cups, been named the league's top defender (1997), scored what many believe to be the biggest goal in MLS history and represented his country on the world's biggest stage. A North Carolina product, Pope is now with his third MLS team in his 10th season, leading the Real Salt Lake defense. He won three championship rings in his earliest years, winning MLS Cups as a member of D.C. United in 1996, 1997 and 1999. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime for the Black-and-Red in the league's first championship game to kick off D.C. United's early dynasty. Pope is still earning caps for Bruce Arena's U.S. men's national team, with 73 to his name to date. Pope also was named to the Best XI in four seasons.
Jeff Agoos: A teammate of Pope's at D.C. United under Arena, Agoos has also been around the block in MLS. Currently a member of the MetroStars, Agoos has won more MLS Cups than any other player in league history. He played a pivotal role in earning five championship rings in 10 seasons, the first three as a member of D.C. United and the other two with the San Jose Earthquakes (2001, 2003). A multi-year Best XI pick and All-Star, Agoos, who hailed originally from Dallas, was also a member of two U.S. World Cup teams, seeing action in the 2002 competition as the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinal round.
Marcelo Balboa: One of the most recognizable defenders in MLS history, Marcelo Balboa has been around U.S. soccer since before the time when the league even existed. He flew onto the radar with a superb performance for the U.S. national team at the 1994 World Cup and then went on to star for the Colorado Rapids in the league's first six seasons. After a brief stint with the MetroStars in 2002, Balboa decided to retire. He is still heavily involved in the league though, holding a front office position at the Rapids and working in television as a color analyst. Balboa earned 128 caps as a member of the U.S. national team.
Marco Etcheverry: Often regarded as the best player ever to play in MLS, Etcheverry was a midfield wizard, leading D.C. United to numerous championships during his eight seasons in Washington. The Bolivian helped D.C. win three MLS Cups, a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and an InterAmerican Cup. In nearly 200 games for the Black-and-Red, Etcheverry proved himself to be incredibly skillful, frightfully competitive and usually successful. He earned Honda MLS MVP honors in 1998, received MLS Goal of the Year honors in 1999 for a 50-yard strike and he was named to the Radio Shack MLS Best XI four times (1996-1999).
Landon Donovan: Still only 23, Donovan will wrap up his fifth MLS season Sunday when he shoots for his third MLS Cup championship. After starting his professional career in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, Donovan returned to his home state in 2001 to join the San Jose Earthquakes, promptly helping take the team from worst to first as they won their first Alan I. Rothenberg trophy. The Quakes would repeat the feat in 2003, thanks in no small part to Donovan's heroics. Donovan has scored 44 career goals in 109 regular season games, but he seems to take his play to another level in the postseason. He is MLS's all-time leading goal scorer in the MLS Cup Playoffs, finding the back of the net 14 times. One of the greatest talents ever to come from the United States, Donovan has already racked up 73 caps and 25 goals under Bruce Arena.
Carlos Valderrama: Colombia's greatest-ever soccer asset, Carlos Valderrama was also one of Major League Soccer's best acquisitions. Known worldwide both for his immaculate skill and blond mane, Valderrama was a magician with the ball and probably the greatest passer ever to take the field in MLS. Valderrama holds the all-time record for career assists with 114 in 174 matches. His seven-season MLS career was split between the Tampa Bay Mutiny, the Miami Fusion and the Colorado Rapids. Valderrama was named the Honda MLS MVP in the league's inaugural season, was a three-time RadioShack MLS Best XI selection and an All-Star on six occasions. He was named the All-Star Game MVP in both 1996 and 1997.
Preki: A similar player to Valderrama, Preki also had the vision, creativity skill to rake in assists, particularly with his gifted left foot. A native of Yugoslavia, Preki had been a star in the U.S. indoor soccer scene before the first MLS season in 1996. He immediately and effortlessly made the transition to the outdoor game, where he would go on to assist on 112 goals during his 10 seasons. Earlier this season, Preki announced that the 2005 campaign would be his last, and he celebrated by scoring a 90th-minute goal against FC Dallas in his last game. Preki was an MLS All-Star on eight occasions, a member of the Best XI four times (1996, 1997, 2001, 2003), the Honda MVP and Budweiser Scoring Champion twice (1997, 2003).
Peter Nowak: A former international for Poland, Nowak played in MLS for five seasons as a member of the Chicago Fire (1998-2002). Following the end of his playing career, Nowak found a new role in the league, spending one season in the Fire front office before signing on as D.C. United's head coach prior to the 2004 season. It was under his leadership that the storied club returned to its early heights, as he led D.C. to an MLS Cup title in his first season at the reins. Nowak was no stranger to championships, though, having captained the Chicago Fire to their only crown in their first season in 1998.
Jaime Moreno: The other half of D.C. United's long-time Bolivian duo, Moreno is still going strong after 10 seasons in the league. He spent all but one year in MLS playing for D.C., with a short stop at the MetroStars in 2003. But after enduring injuries that slowed him down, Moreno returned with a vengeance in 2004, playing an MVP-caliber season to lead United to a fourth championship. His strong play continued in 2005, as he was a runner-up for the Budweiser Golden Boot with 16 goals and the Honda MVP. Moreno has notched 94 goals and 73 assists 217 games. Only Jason Kreis of Real Salt Lake has found the net more (100). Moreno was a Best XI selection in 1997, 1999 and 2004.
Brian McBride: U.S. international Brian McBride was the second forward chosen as an all-time Best XI member. An eight-year veteran of the Columbus Crew, McBride lit up the scoreboard consistently after being the first player selected in the inaugural college draft. He would total 62 goals and 45 assists between 1996 and 2003, before leaving to join Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League, where he has continued to exhibit his goal scoring prowess. An All-Star on five occasions (1996-1999, 2002), McBride used his tall frame and great jumping ability to become among the most dangerous aerial threats in the U.S. game. He has appeared in 90 games for the U.S. national team and was expected to lineup for the Red, White and Blue against Scotland on Saturday in Glasgow, but tightness in his groin has ruled him out of the friendly contest.
Similar to the other 2005 individual awards, the All-Time Best XI was selected using a weighted, three-pronged voting system. Fans (33.33 percent), MLS general managers (33.33 percent) and media (33.33 percent) each provided one third of the total votes. The formula used for determining the award winners involved assigning 33.33 total points to each category for a possible total of 99.99 points. Therefore if a player received 50 percent of the votes in any of the three voting categories, he would earn 16.67 points (half of 33.33) for that category.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.