As our procession of year-end lists parades by, the time has come to have a gander at the float carrying the top 10 American performers in MLS for the 2016 season.
The first five choices on this particular list were glaring no-brainers, but truth be told, the bottom five were also fairly easy. Before I roll out my picks, let's spread around some honorable mentions.
Close, but not quite:David Bingham, Clint Dempsey, Sebastian Lletget, Tommy McNamara, Drew Moor, Lee Nguyen, Keegan Rosenberry
10. Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union)
The Union attacker rebounded from a few particularly tough seasons to score a dozen times and add six assists as the club made its return to the postseason after being left out for five years. As a result, Pontius netted three Team of the Week nods and a well-deserved Comeback Player of the Year prize.
9. Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls)
While he was probably a shade off of his Best XI form from 2015, McCarty again acted as the straw that stirs the Red Bulls' drink. The steady skipper cleaned up scores of midfield messes before sending his team's potent attack running in the right direction, while pitching in with three goals and five helpers in 27 games.
8. Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Though "the bald eagle" may have had some struggles while away on US duty, he felt no such strain in while with his club, steering Toronto FC to the MLS Cup final and their fifth Canadian Championship. Bradley's fiery leadership and exceptional play at the defensive midfield spot led the Reds to the best campaign in club history.
7. Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City)
The Sporting KC playmaker may have started a bit slow, but he came on furiously as the season progressed to finish with seven goals and 13 assists. Feilhaber notched nine of those set-ups in the final 11 matches as the playmaker ensured another playoff appearance for Sporting.
6. Sam Cronin (Colorado Rapids)
The midfielder played a big part for a Colorado team that posted the regular season's stingiest defensive record. He protected the backline and then directed traffic away from their goal as the Rapids narrowly missed out on both the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup.
5. Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
After coming up empty in his first-five MLS appearances, Morris went into Rookie of the Year mode by scoring in four straight games. He stayed influential the rest of the season, eventually picking up the award after striking 12 times in 32 starts. Half of his goals were game-winners, placing him second in the league.
4. Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Had the Toronto FC striker produced at the start of the season like he did toward the end, he'd be at the top of this list. Altidore scored 10 times and set up three other strikes in the last 14 games of the regular season, and then added five goals and four assists in six Audi MLS Cup Playoff games. On top of all that, his hold-up play, ability to earn dangerous free kicks and passing game helped the Reds offense ring up 58 goals in the 29 games he played (including the playoffs).
3. Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)
The only defender in the league to finish top five in both clearances and interceptions, Zimmerman fulfilled his promise in a big way this season. The 23-year-old finally stayed fit and his emergence at the back helped FC Dallas finish second in the Western Conference with 12 clean sheets. The 6-foot-3 defender also broke out as a major set piece threat, scoring four goals, including a big game-winner against the LA Galaxy on Oct. 1 that pushed Dallas toward the Supporters Shield.
2. Matt Hedges (FC Dallas)
One of just two Americans to make the Best XI this year, Hedges also garnered the Defender of the Year prize. The center back helped FC Dallas claim the Supporters' Shield and the Open Cup title, scoring the go-ahead goal in that tourney's final match. Need proof of his value? Dallas conceded just a goal per game when he played this season; in the eight matches he missed due to injury, they leaked over two on average.
1. Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls)
The MVP finalist was easily the most consistent American on the attacking side of the ball this season; he earned six Team of the Week mentions, more than any other midfielder. Kljestan notched six goals and 20 assists in league play, becoming the first MLS player to reach the latter mark since Carlos Valderrama did it 16 years ago. Seven of those helpers set up game-winning strikes, making the Red Bulls string-puller an easy Best XI choice.