Bill Hamid - D.C. United - organizing defense
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The local legend Best XI: Players you can't imagine in another jersey

In each generation of every league in all sports, there's always a select group of players who have become such a part of their cities they practically seem woven into the fabric of the jersey they've worn for years. Tom Brady, until recently, was that guy for the New England Patriots.

Some are stars, and some are quietly vital cogs. None are mere sportsmen, but also cultural, emotional and/or spiritual touchstones in their respective organizations. They create civic memories and then celebrate them with the locals. They are the stuff of regional tales to be handed down. 

There was just one rule in putting together a functionable lineup to honor these communal heroes: they can't have played for another team. As much as one can swear they couldn't imagine Kyle Beckerman wearing another club's shirt, we have actual photographic evidence that he has available at our fingertips. You get the idea.

Without any further ceremony, let's see who takes the field in our local legend XI.

Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid

Though he worked a few games for FC Midtjylland in Denmark, Hamid's only MLS badge belongs to the Black-and-Red. The shot-stopper is a few solid months of action away from reaching third on D.C. United's all-time appearance list. He was also Man of the Match the last time a trophy came home to the capital, when D.C. edged Real Salt Lake in a tight U.S. Open Cup final in 2013. 

Right back: Graham Zusi

The Sporting KC veteran has enjoyed a healthy diet of wall painting since being taken in the second round of the 2009 SuperDraft. Zusi, who earned a pair of Best XI nods as a winger, now operates as steady right back. His flank skills have been a party to an MLS Cup triumph and three U.S. Open Cup successes.

Center back: Matt Hedges

Matt Hedges has been a staple of the FC Dallas defense | USA Today Sports Images

A steady rock in the heart of the FC Dallas defense since arriving in 2012, Hedges is the clubs all-time leader in games by a mile. He's only 29, stands 73 appearances beyond anyone else in club history, and the nearest active player (Michael Barrios) is 90 back. He was also key to the 2016 Supporters Shield/Open Cup double that snapped a two-decade trophy drought.

Center back: Matt Besler

The center back stands at the top of the Sporting KC appearance chart, just 10 games ahead of Zusi. Like his backline mate, Besler is also a two-time Best XI honoree, and raised all the same trophies. The reliably solid defender once had a chance to entertain a European adventure, but opted to remain in his hometown for a club icon career.

Left back: Ryan Hollingshead

The FC Dallas utility player is one of those rare players who continues to improve measurably through his late 20's. And, erm... after suffering broken neck vertebrae when hit by a car. Yeah, Hollingshead was just being a kind Dallas neighbor, assisting a motorist when he was struck during the icy winter of 2017. Amazingly, he was back on the field in May and scrapping for a starting role by mid-summer. 

Defensive midfield: Diego Chara

Diego Chara has been one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS since he arrived in Portland | USA Today Sports Images

The Timbers and their supporters definitely never want to see Chara turn up at Providence Park in another shirt, if only to avoid the nightmare of having him as an opponent. Of course, the hard-charging midfielder also holds Portland's appearance record by a large margin, and we all know how things rarely go their way when he misses a game. 

Right midfield: Scott Caldwell

This squad is littered with guys fortunate enough to be playing in their hometown with a shot at one-club man status. Caldwell also fits that bill. He grew up in Braintree, a half-hour drive from Gillette Stadium, and now he's close to becoming the eighth player in Revs history to reach 225 competitive matches. The midfielder is also reliable and on a reasonable wage, so there's no apparent reason he can't retire with New England.

Left midfield: Jonathan Osorio

Jonathan Osorio is as local as a local legend gets | USA Today Sports Images

The local boy has made plenty of good for Toronto FC since springing up through the academy in 2013. A BMO regular from the get-go, Osorio is the Reds' all-time appearance leader and author of some memorable franchise moments. His gritty heroics have helped secure such prizes as five trophies, three MLS Cup appearances in four years' time and a Concacaf Champions League Golden Boot. He could, if not should, be the first Toronto one-club man in any major sport since 1981.   

Attacking midfield: Diego Valeri

And now, we've reached the case of Diego el segundo, the flashier of the two iconic Portland play drivers. Valeri is the club's offensive talisman, with a locker full of individual awards and a famous love affair with his adopted hometown. Thankfully, he re-upped with the Timbers after a few minor contract squabbles during the offseason. For a short time, folks out there were speculating about whether he could defect to another MLS team. That was weird, Portland, don't do that again. Thanks.

Forward: Jordan Morris

The Seattle kid, whose dad is the Sounders chief medical director, is writing one hell of a local legend. Morris has already packed so many dramatic turns into his Emerald City story, it can be easy to forget he's only 25. The attacker has constantly repaid hometown support through transfer sagas, major health setbacks and other struggles en route to a pair of MLS Cup triumphs. The US international may head off on a European adventure one day, but he should only have one MLS shirt to his name.

Forward: Josef Martinez

Yeah, he's only been in Atlanta for a tad over three seasons. So what? In this town, Martinez is the marquee stripe the other four form around. He runs hot atop the formation, never relents and then, as if to display multitudes, celebrates another nifty goal as calmly as you'd like. He's fiery, brash, friendly and cheeky, all at once. Not to overstate anything, but... the guy practically is Atlanta United. It will be rough enough for the team and fans to cope with him out injured. The concept of being forced to watch him score goals in another jersey must be unthinkable in the 470. 

Series: 

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