As each regular season winds down, Best XI conversations tend to surface. Who stood out above the rest and delivered a year-long level of performance that’s deserving of the accolade? It’s largely a subjective conversation, even if several players are shoe-ins.
To level the debate, Opta has provided a stats-driven Best XI that takes into account advanced data from across the MLS regular season. The team is organized in a 4-2-3-1 formation and features plenty of stars, but also a few names that might surprise you.
Starting at goalkeeper, Opta data says D.C. United Homegrown Player Bill Hamid was the league’s best shotstopper from start to finish. He posted 14 clean sheets, which tied for the league lead, and his 126 saves were third-most in MLS.
The backline is where things start to get interesting, as Toronto FC right back Auro got the nod. The Brazilian didn’t make the 2019 MLS All-Star team, but quietly put together a solid season for the Reds. On the opposite flank, Opta has FC Dallas defender Ryan Hollingshead at left back. The veteran is another one who’s flown under the radar some, but impressed enough to earn a contract extension this past September.
At center back, Opta has Michael Boxall of Minnesota United and Bastian Schweinsteiger of the Chicago Fire. Some pundits are giving the MLS Defender of the Year award to Ike Opara, Boxall’s teammate on the Loons, while Schweinsteiger recently retired after a career that spanned two decades.
Heading into the midfield, US men’s national teamerCristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders) and Atlanta United stalwart Darlington Nagbe each slotted into deep-lying roles. They often do the dirty work and keep possession moving, but also chipped in a combined eight goals and nine assists.
Watch: Carlos Vela's MLS record-breaking 34 goals in 2019 for LAFC
Centrally, MLS Newcomer of the Year candidate Carles Gil (New England Revolution) serves as the creative hub. The Designated Player carries 10 goals and 14 assists into the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Then in the attack, the wide players are both from Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC: Golden Boot winner Carlos Vela and Uruguayan winger Diego Rossi. Vela has 34 goals and 15 assists, while Rossi is on 16 goals and seven assists.
Last but not least, LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic spearheads the attack. He was second in the Golden Boot race with 30 goals and seven assists. Altogether, he contributed to roughly 64 percent of the Galaxy’s goals.
So, what do you think? Does Opta have it right or is more subjectivity needed? The stats say one thing, but the eyes might say another.