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My MLS best XI of the decade | Bobby Warshaw

Every player wants to pursue excellence. The ultimate goal is to achieve excellence that lasts, that leaves a legacy. It's not just a singular act or year, but a mark that leaves an impression that gets remembered.

That's what we're looking at today. The MLS Team of the Decade. The players who set the highest standards for their respective positions.

This is far from a science. For me there are two main factors that go into consideration: Longevity and Peak. The maximum height of ability, significance and contribution achieved matters; and the full body of work over the 10 years matters. The final score is not a direct sum of the two, nor is there a precise weight for either category. It's a subjective measurement of the players' contributions as a player.

Miguel Almiron, for example, might have been the most effective player the league has ever seen — high Peak. He only played in MLS for two years, though, so he has a low Longevity score. Put together, he doesn't quite make the list.

Stefan Frei - Goalkeeper
2 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters' Shield, 1 USOC, 3 Canadian Championships
It would be nice to ease into a column like this, but we start with one of the toughest decisions in the team. Nick Rimando has the most games played and the most wins; he's been consistently excellent for 10 years (though hasn't won a trophy this decade). Luis Robles won three Shields and a Goalkeeper of the Year award (and the Best XI nomination that comes with it). Both would be worthy picks. It's tough to skip over a guy with seven trophies (!) in 10 years, though. Stefan Frei won a trophy in six different years this decade. His 2016 MLS Cup performance included one of the most iconic saves in league history. He's been good for the 10 years, and great in the biggest moments.
Runners-up: Nick Rimando, Luis Robles
Justin Morrow - Left Back
1 MLS Cup, 2 Supporters' Shields, 3 Canadian Championships, 1 Best XI, 16th in Games Won
It's been easy to overlook how good Justin Morrow has been throughout his career. He entered MLS in 2010 as a second-round draft pick and took two years to become a starter. Since then, he has been one of the left backs almost every season. To put his 2017 Best XI selection into context: Only three outside backs have made the Best XI this decade (Todd Dunivant and Kemar Lawrence are the others). Morrow has been equally adept at both sides of the ball. He can lock down opposing wingers and then use his speed to fly into the attack. He's also been able to adapt between styles and formations, from the bruising "Goonies" of the San Jose Earthquakes to the cerebral treble-winning Toronto FC sides.
Runner-up: Todd Dunivant
Steven Beitashour - Right Back
1 MLS Cup, 3 Supporters' Shields, 3 Canadian Championships
It's not a coincidence that two of the best teams of the decade — the 2012 Quakes and 2017 TFC — had Steven Beitashour and Morrow controlling the flanks (and we could add 2019 LAFC to Beitashour's list). Beitashour was drafted two spots (No. 30 overall) after Morrow in the 2010 draft. Like Morrow, it's been easy to miss Beitashour's excellence. (Such is life as an outside back, I suppose.) It's interesting to describe Beitashour as a player. He doesn't have an A+ trait; he doesn't stand out of the page in any way; he hasn't had any specifically spectacular individual seasons. Rather, he's simply an excellent soccer player who always plays to a certain level. He's diligent defensively, solid on the ball and smart going forward. Beitashour might have been the best value-for-championship-potential player in MLS over the last decade.
Runner-up: Graham Zusi
Chad Marshall - Center Back
Omar Gonzalez - Center Back
Marshall: 1.5 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters' Shield, 1 USOC, 1 Defender of the Year, 2x Best XI
Gonzalez: 3 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters' Shields, 1 Defender of the Year, 4x Best XI
It's often difficult to get excited about defenders. They stop the excitement rather than create it. Chad Marshall and Omar Gonzalez, though, were as fun to watch as any attacker in the league. They went about the position with equal measures of grace and dominance. They could hang with the most talented attackers, and you'd struggle to find a moment when they looked frazzled. They were each dominant in the air – count them in the top tier with Ike Opara, Kei Kamara and Alan Gordon – and deceivingly quick on the ground. While neither received enough credit for their passing, they both played in two of the best passing teams of the last 10 years. Most importantly, they were both winners. Eight of the 10 MLS Cups in the 2010s have featured either Marshall or Gonzalez.
Runner-up: Matt Besler
Diego Chara - Midfielder
Ozzie Alonso - Midfielder
Diego Valeri - Midfielder
Chara: 1 MLS Cup
Alonso: 1 MLS Cup, 1 Supporters' Shield, 3 USOC, 1 Best XI, most games won
Valeri: 82 goals, 62 assists in 229 games, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP
Ozzie Alonso and Diego Valeri are locks. They both embody the combination of Peak + Longevity. You could build a base for Nico Lodeiro, who has had the single largest footprint on his team of the options here, or Kyle Beckerman or Dax McCarty, who have been steady forces in the engine room for almost every possible game, to take Diego Chara's spot. It's always been easy to overlook the Colombian. If we look at the full body of work over the 10 years, though, I feel safe giving Chara the spot. He's been one of the best players on the field in just about every one of the 278 games he's played this decade.
Runners-up: Nico Lodeiro, Kyle Beckerman, Dax McCarty, Federico Higuain, Brad Davis
Robbie Keane - Forward
92 goals, 51 assists in 146 games, 3 MLS Cups, 1 Supporters' Shield, 4x Best XI, 1 MVP
Robbie Keane only played five full seasons in MLS, but he had one of the highest Peaks possible. He made the Best XI four (!) straight years and won three MLS Cups. He was virtually un-defendable from 2012 to 2015. He made the list over David Villa and Thierry Henry, who lived in similar "what's a defender supposed to do?" territory. Ultimately, their MLS tenures are apples to oranges; Keane landed into a dynasty while Villa started a club from scratch and Henry's New York Red Bulls had just missed the playoffs when he arrived. It's unfair to keep Villa or Henry off the list just because they didn't win trophies that nobody expected them to win, but we need a differentiator, and the game is about championships in the end.
Sebastian Giovinco - Forward
73 goals and 57 assists in 125 games, 1 MLS Cup, 1 Supporters' Shield, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP
Sebastian Giovinco gets the last spot because he was the most spectacular individual of the decade. Villa, Keane, Josef Martinez et al could put together unreal performances; Giovinco's were better. Nothing in the past 10 years compared to some of the individual performances that Giovinco provided. He had the highest Peak score of anyone in the league. He set a new bar for how an individual player could impact a game.
Chris Wondolowski - Forward
153 goals, 35 assists, in 312 games, 1 Supporters' Shield, 3x Best XI, 1 MVP
Chris Wondolowski's in. You can't dispute that. He receives a max Longevity score — in the last 10 years, he went from Development Player to Designated Player and scored 152 of his record 159 goals. He also hit a high peak, with an MLS MVP award in 2012.
Runners-up: Kei Kamara, David Villa, Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Landon Donovan, Josef Martinez
It hurts to leave Kamara and BWP off the list. They both pounded home goals for almost the entire 10 years — BWP finished with 117, Kamara 115 — and I would understand if someone would pick their steady Longevity over Giovinco's ridiculous peak.
Bruce Arena - Manager
3 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters' Shields
Bruce Arena won more trophies than anyone else during the decade. He also put together the last unquestioned dynasty, and perhaps the best team in league history. Peter Vermes turned Sporting Kansas City into one of the model clubs, winning four trophies along the way. He established the first "pressing" team in league history, only to pivot halfway through the decade and continue winning. The last spot goes to the Sigi Schmid/Brian Schmetzer combination. Sigi guided the Sounders through the first half of the decade, quickly pushing an expansion team into the top echelon of the league. Schmetzer took the club the last mile, winning two MLS Cups in four years. It's hard to decouple their work and what they've each meant to the Club of the Decade.
Runners-up: Peter Vermes, Sigi Schmid/Brian Schmetzer
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