Best of 2016 - Top 10 Moments - Nicolas Lodeiro - phone celebration
Courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC

Best of MLS 2016: Top 10 moments

We count down the Top 10 moments of the 2016 MLS season. In the event that your favorite moment didn't make this list, feel free to add it in the comments section below.

10. MLS celebrates its 20th anniversary

Ok, this one is a tiny stretch for being considered a "moment," since all of 2016 technically marked the 20th anniversary of the first MLS season. But it was nonetheless fun to go down memory lane and re-live that stream of the first-ever MLS game 20 years to the day:

9. Charlie Davies beats cancer

Most MLS fans are fully familiar with Charlie Davies' life story: promising US national team striker, a survivor of a deadly car accident, and then a long road to reclaiming professional success. 2016 brought a whole new dimension to his story. After his twins were born three months premature in March, Davies was diagnosed with liposarcoma in April, and secretly battled the disease until revealing his story in July, announcing he was in remission and ready to return to the field.

Davies made his triumphant return July 31 for the New England Revolution, and while he was traded a week later to the Philadelphia Union, the moment was one fans won't soon forget.

8. Lodeiro "phones" home

Nicolas Lodeiro took MLS by storm after joining the Seattle Sounders in the summer, arguably one of the biggest reasons the Cascadia team went from the doldrums to MLS Cup. The Uruguayan was a study of quiet concentration most of the time, but there was a touching moment after he scored his first MLS goal on August 14. Lodeiro pulled off his boot and mimicked a phone call in celebration, saying after the game he was thinking of his father, whom he called when far from home.

 

7. Kljestan reaches milestone

Compiling 20 assists in a single season has been a quixotic quest in MLS over recent years. After Carlos Valderrama notched 26 in 1996 (an era when most every secondary assist was awarded) no player had broken the threshold until this year, when New York Red Bulls playmaker Sacha Kljestan notched his 20th helper of the season in the regular-season finale against Philadelphia.

The next individual statistical frontier in MLS? Seeing a player surpass the 27-goal single season record, now shared by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

6. Donovan returns, scores

Landon Donovan retired in 2014 on top of his game, winning MLS Cup and breaking the MLS all-time goal-scoring mark that year, at the relative young age of 32. But the itch came back in 2016, and with the LA Galaxy beset by injuries late in the season, Donovan came out of retirement, and his return stretch was probably highlighted by his goal in a road draw against Sporting Kansas City in September. Sporting fans taunted Donovan with "AARP!" chants just before Donovan stuck it to them with his first goal since returning to action.

5. Amarikwa's unbelievable strike

Listen, Shkelzen Gashi might have won the AT&T Goal of the Year, and it was a good goal, no question. But San Jose Earthquakes forward Quincy Amarikwa had the most audacious, gravity-defying strike of the MLS season.

4. Jordan Morris signs with Sounders

This year proved a winning one all around for one of the league's most promising rookies -- and not just because he capped it off with an MLS Cup. The Seattle Sounders' signing of Jordan Morris proved a watershed moment, marking both the most lucrative Homegrown contract in league history, and a turning point. Stanford star Morris drew serious interest abroad, including a trial period with the Bundesliga's Werder Bremen just weeks after winning an NCAA title.

But Morris, a native of Mercer Island, Washington, instead decided to sign with his hometown team -- to the Sounders' benefit, proving a standout and notching 14 goals in both the regular season and playoffs. His mettle even proved enough to continue to draw caps with the USMNT, something likely to continue after lifting that Cup. (But will he still live at home, as he said he would?)

3. Toronto-Montreal series for the ages

Another instance in which we stretch the definition of "moment" a bit, but it's for a good reason. Was the Toronto FC-Montreal Impact Eastern Conference Championship Leg 2 match a perfect game? No. You can pick apart the lax defending here and there. But when a game ends 5-2, features numerous moments (mostly goals) to keep you on the edge of your seat, leaves viewers wanting to see extra time, and then follows through on the promise of a thrilling extra period? Pure gold.

The game was so good that it set TV ratings records and it may be worth your time to go back and watch the whole thing again.

2. The Save

If you're a Toronto FC fan, Stefan Frei's late save on Jozy Altidore's header in MLS Cup, which kept the game scoreless, will sting forever. If you're a Sounders fan, you've probably already gotten a tattoo to commemorate the moment.

No matter if you're a partisan, Frei's save was an iconic moment of the 2016 season and in the history of MLS Cup, a moment when a shot that seemed destined to break the deadlock was parried aside, when time seemed to slow down for a few brief seconds as Frei stretched to keep the ball out of the net.

1. Orlando players & supporters lift city after shooting

The Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando in June, which claimed the lives of 49 persons, was a tragedy that shook the community to its core. Orlando City helped lead the local charge to commemorate the victims and offer a measure of healing for the city, beginning with their first game following the tragedy.

From the pregame ceremonies to the moment of silence in the 49th minute to remember the victims, the team played its part to help in the healing process.

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