With the MLS suspension of play continuing until at least May 10, we at MLSsoccer.com thought it was a good time to ask our experts, analysts and pundits who their favorite MLS players of all-time were. You can find the answers below.
Ben Baer: Bill Hamid
I started to become an obsessive fan of MLS back in 2011, when I began working for Opta as an analyst. I was assigned to watch and analyze every D.C. United match. While I was training for the job, D.C. and the New York Red Bulls made a historic trade — swapping Dwayne De Rosario for Dax McCarty. De Ro would go on to be the league MVP that year and Dax was the centerpiece of a Red Bulls team that was one of the best for years, and he still is going strong in 2020. Those two players are probably in my top five all-time, but No. 1 goes to the 'keeper who has been in the net for just about the entire time I've been an MLS fan.
Hamid is a world-class athlete who has made many saves that had me screaming over the years. He has the passion for the sport and his team a fan does, based on his years of watching games at RFK Stadium and the fact he was one of the league's first Homegrown Players. His work in the community is extensive. You simply can't hold him back.
Charles Boehm: Ilsinho
I've gone around and around and around about this — considered Jason Kreis (OG goal king and great role model on the Dallas Burn teams I watched in my youth), Diego Chara or maybe Ozzie Alonso (rock-solid, cold-blooded midfield engines at the heart of consistently good teams who found their American dream in Cascadia), or Thierry Henry (global superstar who came to MLS, took it seriously and put in the same grind as he always had, and humiliated defenses from coast to coast).
But I'm going in a different direction: Ilsinho.
The guy is just different. Traveled the world while climbing the ladder to the sport's highest levels, then somehow wound up finding his personal Indian summer in Southeast Pennsylvania as a game-changing, mix-taping supersub who plays like it's his job to embarrass defenders 1v1 (or occasionally 1v2 or 1v3) and maybe take his family to Costco afterwards. Soccer can be a dead-serious affair, but at it's core it's supposed to be fun, and I can think of few players in modern MLS who've brought more joy to the table than Ilsinho.
Calen Carr: Dwayne De Rosario
I remember being in the Bay Area when De Ro burst onto the scene with clutch goals for the Earthquakes (even while stuck behind Chingy and Landon), capped off by coming off the bench for the golden-goal winner of the 2001 MLS Cup. I got to chat with him in scrimmages after we’d play while I was at Berkeley and he always gave me words of the encouragement and tips to add to my game. None of them really proved much help.
De Ro’s game was impossible to imitate: The way he shifted through traffic, slalomed defenders and burst the net made for some of the most “holy smokes” — as Max Bretos put it so well — goals in MLS history that make him one of the most unpredictable and dynamic players in MLS history. The fact he was able to entertain as he did (best MLS signature celebration to boot) while being first and foremost a winner (4 MLS Cups, 2011 MVP, 2000 Gold Cup champion with Canada), make De Ro an unparalleled combination of style and substance.
Susannah Collins: Ignacio Piatti
I’m still mourning this guy’s MLS departure because man, I loved to watch him play. Every time the ball was at his feet you knew something special was about to happen. His creativity, his touch, his execution was stunning to watch. And he made it all look effortless. Easily one of the most underappreciated talents this league has ever seen.
Charlie Davies: Marco Etcheverry
I was mesmerized at how gracefully he would dribble around three defenders and smash a rocket top corner. At 10 years old, I'd be in my backyard trying to replicate his step-overs, curling shots and chips. He was all left foot, but could beat you both ways, easily. He made defenders shake in their boots, and I lived for it. All while rocking a mullet!
Matt Doyle: Clint Mathis
I wanted to try to say someone other than Clint Mathis but c'mon, look at this!
Then he did the same thing a couple years later for Hannover in the Bundesliga. He also hit what remains, in my opinion, the best pass in USMNT history from the original Dos-a-Cero.
And then you just know he went home after each of those and crushed a bag of Doritos and a sixer at the POGO Lounge. That dude lived.
David Gass: Shalrie Joseph
I always root for native New Yorkers and Joseph had locked down a spot in the New England Revolution midfield right as I really dove into MLS as a kid. I saw him live on the road in the playoffs at Giants Stadium dominate the game covering every inch of grass while looking like he wasn't trying. He played center back, center mid and center forward in an MLS game and was arguably the best player on the field at all of them in his prime. I know the Revs never won an MLS Cup, but as a fan of teams that never win, I don't care. He was the engine of a team that went to four MLS Cups and that is more than enough for me.
Greg Lalas: Steve Ralston
The original iron man, Ralston was once the league’s career leader in assists, appearances and minutes played. “El Stevie,” as Carlos Valderrama nicknamed him, could play on either flank, up top, or in the middle of the midfield. Hell, he even played a mean 'keeper (in training). He created chances for others, finished when presented with the opportunity, and on select occasions — especially for the powerhouse Revolution sides of the mid-00s — would take it upon himself to win a game on his own. How he was left off the 2006 US World Cup team is a head-scratcher for the ages.
Jillian Sakovits: David Villa
This felt like a mother picking a favorite child. I've accosted nearly them all postgame, traveled with some to their hometowns on assignment, how can I pick a favorite?! There is one in particular who popped up at all the right times, but was one of the few I never interviewed.
In 2009, I was living in Valencia, Spain. So was David Villa. The city loved him, through this I got my first taste of fútbol fever. He scored more goals than any soccer player on the planet (43 in 54 games for club & country) that year. I saw some of those strikes at Estadio de Mestalla and thought "wow, this is soccer". In spring 2010, I left Valencia & Villa headed for Barca. Flash forward to 2015, I got my first assignment for MLS. I didn't know much about the league, but did know Villa was the first DP for this new club up the road, NYCFC. This small little parallel made it all feel right, and let's admit, he was a heck of a lot of fun to watch.
*Disclaimer: I couldn't pick an ATL player, that would be too hard. As they are all my favorites :)
Andrew Wiebe: Roger Espinoza
I was a student journalist covering the then Kansas City Wizards when Espinoza was drafted. He could run for days. He was fearless in the tackle, for better or worse. His left foot was hugely underrated. He was a leader, a guy you just wanted to be around. All that remains true. From World Cups to FA Cups and U.S. Open Cups, I’m all about Rog.