We have officially hit the point in the season when every team has played half its games. (Thank you to Portland and NYCFC for getting over the line.) It’s a good excuse to make up awards. Andrew Wiebe has already offered his list of hardware winners. I’ve got the Halfway Best XI.
As such, I presented to you the Best XI from the 1st half of the 2019 season:
- GK: Tyler Miller, LAFC
- LB: Jordan Harvey, LAFC
- CB: Walker Zimmerman, LAFC
- CB: Eddie Segura, LAFC
- RB: Steven Beitashour, LAFC
- CM: Eduard Atuesta, LAFC
- CM: Mark-Anthony Kaye, LAFC
- CM: Latif Blessing, LAFC
- LW: Diego Rossi, LAFC
- CF: Ilsinho, Philadelphia
- RW: Carlos Vela, LAFC
Just kidding. Kinda.
Would anyone be really that mad if they just let LAFC play Atletico Madrid in the All-Star Game? They’ve been amazing. By my count, 10 of LAFC’s 11 starters are top five in their respective categories.
Buuuttt….there’s only room for a top one in each spot. Here’s that list, the Best XI of the first semester…
GK: Stefan Frei, Seattle
I couldn’t decipher a clear-cut top goalkeeper from the first half of the year, so I left it to Ben Baer: “Frei has dealt with constant fluctuation in his backline, especially after the retirement of longtime stalwart Chad Marshall. Despite this, Seattle is among the top defenses in the league and Frei is one of the top GKs in the league when looking at expected goal figures.”
LB: Kai Wagner, Philadelphia
Wagner has one of the toughest jobs in soccer – outside back in a 4-4-2 diamond system. The midfield doesn’t provide much width, offensively or defensively, so the entire length of the field is left to the outside backs. Wagner has locked down the left side for the best team in the East.
Close… Jordan Harvey, Ali Adnan, Ryan Hollingshead
CB: Walker Zimmerman, LAFC
Zimmerman has been nearly flawless in back for the best defense in the league. He’s mentally active, athletic, communicative and excellent in the air. He’s also become a reliable source of line-breaking passes.
CB: Reto Ziegler, FC Dallas
Close… Eddie Segura, Larrys Mabiala
RB: Romain Metanire, Minnesota United
The Madagascar fullback doesn’t have a weakness in his game. He can pass as well as he can cross as well as he can defend 1v1 as well as he can win duels on the back post.
CM: Eduard Atuesta, LAFC
It’s a razor’s edge call between Atuesta and Kaye. Kaye has been phenomenal, but Atuesta has been slightly better. Atuesta’s found the rare blend of “tough guy” and “soft feet.” He provides the muscle for LAFC, while also contributing a potential pass of the week every game.
CM: Maxi Moralez, NYCFC
Moralez has a chance to become the third player in league history to notch 20-plus assists in a season. He’s been asked to play a variety of positions, from left wing to attacking mid to box-to-box, and excelled at all of them.
CM: Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas
Am I a little high on Pomykal because his potential gives me belief in the US men’s national team again? Perhaps. But he’s also been amazing this year. He’s been the best player – a dominant, do-everything force in the middle – on one of the most fun teams to watch.
RW: Carlos Vela, LAFC (19G, 12A)
The most impressive single-season performance I’ve ever seen in MLS, with all due respect to Josef Martinez, came from Sebastian Giovinco in 2015. Giovinco contributed a combined 38 goals-plus-assists. Vela already has 31 with 15 games to go.
LW: Diego Rossi, LAFC (10G, 5A)
He’s fourth in MLS in goals scored, and he’s probably the best 21-and-under attacker in the league, but both have been overshadowed by LAFC’s collective dominance. Rossi’s movement and direct off-the-ball runs toward goal provide the perfect Robin to Vela’s Batman.
CF: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, LA Galaxy (13G, 3A)
The Lion is averaging more than a goal or assist per game played. He’s pretty much carried (for better or for worse) the Galaxy into their second-place position. He promised greatness this year, and he’s been delivering.
Close… Josef Martinez