UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. - The RadioShack Best XI team for the 2004 Major League Soccer season was announced tonight during the Gala Awards Party at the Universal Studios Globe Theatre, on the eve of MLS Cup 2004, to be played on Sunday, November 14 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. (3:30 p.m. ET live on ABC Sports) between D.C. United and Kansas City Wizards.
Seven players earn their first honors on the MLS Best XI, including MetroStars midfielder Eddie Gaven - who at 18 years old becomes the youngest player to be named to the team. Gaven's teammate Amado Guevara, the 2004 Honda Most Valuable Player and co-Budweiser Scoring Champion, added more hardware with his first inclusion to the MLS team of the year.
MLS Cup 2004 finalists Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United each have two players on the team. Wizards teammates, midfielder Kerry Zavagnin and defender Jimmy Conrad, earn their first Best XI selections. United defender Ryan Nelsen returns to the team for the second consecutive year, while forward Jaime Moreno earns his third selection and first since 1999.
Veteran Columbus Crew defender Robin Fraser, the 2004 Defender of the Year, captures his record-tying fifth time selection, having previously won on four occasions while with the Los Angeles Galaxy ('96, '98, '99, '00). MetroStars defender Eddie Pope, the 2004 Kraft Fair Play award winner, was selected to his four Best XI ('97, '99, '03, '04).
2004 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids), forward Brian Ching (San Jose Earthquakes), Ronnie O'Brien (Dallas Burn) round out the team as first time selections.
2004 RadioShack Best XI:
GOALKEEPER - JOE CANNON, Colorado Rapids
Nominee for the MLS Honda MVP and winner of the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors, Cannon took over the starting role for a Rapids side after returning to MLS from France and led the League in saves and tied for the lead in shutouts, backstopping one of the stoutest defenses in MLS this season. The 2002 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, it's the first Best XI honor for the 29-year-old.
DEFENDER - EDDIE POPE, MetroStars
The smooth cultured center back won Best XI honors for the fourth time in his career, in his second season with the MetroStars after moving from D.C. United. A regular for club and country, U.S. national team commitments took him away from the MetroStars on a number of occasions, but his presence alongside rookie Jeff Parke was still vital to the club's defensive stability over the course of the season.
DEFENDER - JIMMY CONRAD, Kansas City Wizards
A first-time Best XI honoree, Conrad was nearly ever-present at the heart of the League's best defense, missing just one match (due to an ankle injury) - the one game he missed a Wizards loss when they allowed three goals. The Wizards allowed just 30 goals on the season and recorded a league-best 12 shutouts - even after regular starter Tony Meola missed the final third of the season through injury.
DEFENDER - RYAN NELSEN, D.C. United
The New Zealand international was a vital piece of United's return to glory as he earned a second selection to the MLS Best XI. Despite playing just 17 matches due to extensive national team duty and a sports hernia injury, Nelsen's return to the center of Peter Nowak's back three solidified the United defense and anchored an impressive stretch drive that saw the club reach the Eastern Conference Final for the first time in five years.
DEFENDER - ROBIN FRASER, Columbus Crew
A key to the Crew's Supporters' Shield-winning season was first the acquisition of the 1999 Defender of the Year from the Colorado Rapids, then his installation at the center of a reconfigured back three. The winner of Defender of the Year for a second time and Best XI honors for a fifth, Fraser helped backstop a Crew defense that posted 10 shutouts as the club ended the regular season with an MLS-record 18-game unbeaten streak.
MIDFIELDER - RONNIE O'BRIEN, Dallas Burn
The Irish Republic winger was an effervescent force on the right side for the Burn. He was credited with 10 assists on the season, the club leader and tied for second in the League with five other players. After missing nearly all of the 2003 season after suffering a broken leg in a horrific tackle, he returned to play all but one game for the Burn this season, earning a nomination as MLS Comeback Player of the Year.
MIDFIELDER - KERRY ZAVAGNIN, Kansas City Wizards
The linchpin to the Wizards midfield, Zavagnin saw running mates Preki and Igor Simutenkov go down to long-term injury in preseason - and responded with a metronome-like consistency in the center of the park. His form was not overlooked by U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena, who brought Zavagnin into his team for World Cup qualifiers in the fall where the first-time Best XI nominee also performed admirably.
MIDFIELDER - AMADO GUEVARA, MetroStars
The winner of the Honda MLS Most Valuable Player award, Guevara tied for the Budweiser Scoring Championship, the only player to hit for double figures in both goals and assists while also missing six matches through national team duty. The Honduras international was the center of the MetroStars attack throughout the season, which scored 47 goals on the season to lead the League. In his second season in MLS, it's Guevara's first Best XI award.
MIDFIELDER - EDDIE GAVEN, MetroStars
A versatile attacking talent who oozes class despite having just turned 18 during the MLS Cup Playoffs, this is his first time on the MLS Best XI. Gaven scored seven goals and added seven assists in his second professional season, playing either as an attacking midfielder or as a true forward. A U.S. international at all youth levels, his performance was rewarded with his first senior cap in July when he was called in for the USA's friendly against Poland.
FORWARD - BRIAN CHING, San Jose Earthquakes
The MLS Comeback Player of the Year, Ching ended the season as one of two winners of the MLS Golden Boot with 12 goals, after seeing his 2003 campaign end prematurely with a ruptured Achilles tendon that even delayed his return at the start of this season. The 26-year-old, named to the Best XI for the first time, also burst onto the scene at international level, scoring two goals in his first two World Cup qualifying appearances for the USA.
FORWARD - JAIME MORENO, D.C. United
A nominee for both Honda MLS MVP and Comeback Player of the Year honors, Moreno returned to the form that saw him win Best XI honors in 1998 and '99 as he led D.C. United to their second and third MLS Cup titles. The former Bolivian international led the league in assists with 14 after returning to D.C. after one season with the MetroStars; his 28 points on the season were tied for third on the Budweiser Scoring Leaders.