How far can I take this All-MLS XI concept, or the lazy man’s column, as I like to call it? As far as you’ll let me take it, dear reader. Quarantine #content plays by different rules. You’ll just have to trust that I won’t jump the shark and do something completely ridiculous like the All-Hair Band XI.
(You can put Alexi Lalas, Juan Toja, Marcelo Balboa and Carlos Valderrama in pen, if I was going to do something silly and pointless like that.)
No, today we’re keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground, and we’re keeping it in the region with an All-Concacaf MLS XI, Canadians included. If you haven’t already, go check out (read: disagree with) my All-Loathed XI and All-American XI. The rules here are the same as before. We’re talking about a player’s overall career in MLS, not peak ability alone.
I value pivotal roles on trophy-winning teams, individual plaudits, longevity and cultural relevance. When in doubt, I went with my gut. Instead of a bench, I opted for an All-Concacaf Second XI, which you can find at the bottom of the page. Remember, it’s my Best XI, but it doesn’t have to be yours. Find me on Twitter. I’m happy to file your complaints in my mentions.
Pat Onstad (Canada)
No Concacaf goalkeeper has played more games in MLS (244 appearances, including playoffs). No starting goalkeeper in the history of the league has won more MLS Cups than Onstad: 2003 in San Jose, 2006 and 2007 with the Dynamo. He’s got a pair of Best XIs and Goalkeeper of the Year awards to his name, too. At his peak, he changed games and won Cups. I wonder what might have been had he arrived in MLS a few years sooner.
Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica)
MLS Best XI left back. That’s a phrase not uttered often, if ever, in MLS history. Lawrence’s five seasons and 132 games with the Red Bulls combine both peak ability (best at his position in the league) as well as collective impact (two Supporters’ Shields). Taxi is going to cause all sorts of problems overlapping Mauricio Cienfuegos on that left wing.
Tyrone Marshall (Jamaica)
Here’s where you may start arguing with my weighting system. Kendall Waston and Victor Bernardez, my 2nd-team pairing, have three MLS Best XIs between them. Shouldn’t they get at least one of the places in central defense? Not on this team, though both are ballers. If we were actually playing a game with this made-up team, it might be a different story.
Marshall is one of those players who can fall under the radar if you only started following MLS this decade. The Jamaican retired in 2012 after playing in the league for 15 seasons and is currently 22nd all-time in regular-season games played by field players (337). Marshall didn’t just play — more than 20 appearances in 12 of 15 campaigns — he helped his teams win. First, a Shield with the Fusion in 2001, then the double with the Galaxy to capture the club’s first MLS Cup in 2002. Three years later, another double with LA: MLS Cup and Open Cup. Sigi Schmid brought him to Seattle, too, for the Sounders’ first two years in MLS, complete with playoff berths and two more Open Cups.
Ezra Hendrickson (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Again, particularly at center back, I valued longevity, winning and overall impact over “best player.” Hendrickson has played 100-plus more games than Waston and Bernardez. And, while he was predominantly a right-back, we're getting a little creative here in order to squeeze in both Hendrickson and Andy Najar. Hendrickson's won three more MLS Cups (3) than that pair, too (0). Toss in three Shields, an Open Cup and some final runners-up for good measure. Was he always a locked-in starter for those teams? Often, but not always. Still, even when he wasn’t, Hendrickson wielded influence. Imagine what he passed on to Chad Marshall in Columbus, for instance.
Andy Najar (Honduras)
Three wonderful years are all Najar needs to get into this team. The moment you saw the teenage right back play, you knew he had something special. At the end of that 2010 season, he became the first Homegrown player to win Rookie of the Year. Anderlecht pounced two years later, netting D.C. United a multi-million dollar fee that’s also an important part of the Honduran international’s MLS legacy.
Ozzie Alonso (Cuba)
It’s hard to stay in the league for a decade, let alone have a legitimate claim to be the league’s best player at your position for that entire period. At this point, the Honey Badger’s legacy is two-fold. First and foremost, Alonso’s take-no-prisoners approach off the ball and technical ability on it helped make the Sounders one of this league’s biggest clubs. Second and still ongoing, the Cuban is part of the core dragging Minnesota to not just respectability, but perhaps even some trophies of their own.
Shalrie Joseph (Grenada)
Peak ability and collective excellence, Joseph’s got both in spades. His talent was clear from the moment he entered the league, but that half-decade run from 2005 to 2009 truly is the stuff of legends. Good luck if you were playing against him. The rub, as it is with all Revs from that era, is he didn’t win an MLS Cup championship despite three trips to the final. Whatever. You can’t put this team together and not have Shalrie in the middle of things.
Mauricio Cienfuegos (El Salvador)
Don’t worry, the Galaxy’s talismanic No. 10 isn’t going to be sitting out on the wing. I want him drifting centrally to combine with Ruiz, De Rosario and Vela while giving Lawrence room to provide width and Joseph or Alonso to support. Three Best XIs, one U.S. Open Cup, two Shields and the 2002 MLS Cup. Cienfuegos helped lay the foundation for what LA has become.
Dwayne De Rosario (Canada)
Six Best XIs in seven years. That’s nuts. MLS MVP and Golden Boot in 2011. De Rosario is one of the best players in the history of this league. Period.
Off the bench or in the starting lineup, he was an absolute livewire for both MLS Cup-winning Quakes teams (2001, 2003). With the Dynamo, DeRo was the unquestioned star on a back-to-back MLS Cup-winning team (2006, 2007). He scored iconic goals, he had an iconic celebration and he’s a legend in San Jose, Houston and Toronto. He’s earned the right to roam in this team, as an attacking midfielder or withdrawn forward in front of Cienfuegos and Vela.
Carlos Vela (Mexico)
Nobody’s done what Vela did in 2019. Ever. Not even close. Put him in the team, let him do his thing. No need to overthink 50 goals and 28 assists in 61 games. Longevity isn’t everything.
Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala)
It was tough to stiff Raul Diaz Arce here. Really tough. I just think Ruiz’s individual impact — that 2002 season is one of the greatest in MLS history — barely gives him the edge. In case you’ve forgotten: 24 goals (Golden Boot), MVP, Supporters’ Shield, eight goals in the playoffs, MLS Cup (the Galaxy’s first) via a Ruiz Golden Goal. Only Landon Donovan (25) scored more postseason goals than Pescadito (16). Plus, it’s impossible to forget him, flops and all.
All-Concacaf 2nd XI
GK: Donovan Ricketts (Jamiaca)
LB: Gonzalo Segares (Costa Rica)
CB: Kendall Waston (Costa Rica)
CB: Victor Bernardez (Honduras)
RB: Jason Hernandez (Puerto Rico)
RM: Amado Guevara (Honduras)
CM: Roger Espinoza (Honduras)
CM: Jonathan Osorio (Canada)
LM: Alphonso Davies (Canada)
FWD: Raul Diaz Arce (El Salvador)
FWD: Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica)