Déjà vu! Today is the same as yesterday, which is the same as the day before.
Déjà vu! It’s another All-Time MLS Best XI. I’m milking this format for all it’s worth, partly because I’m desperate for #content ideas and partly as an excuse to spend hours on YouTube watching old MLS clips.
I gave you my All-Loathed XI last week, which was entertaining to come up with and more fun to debate. This week, it’s the MLS All-American XI. No, not the All-US men’s national team XI. No, not the All-Best American Players to Ever Play in MLS XI. These are the Americans who best mixed individual plaudits, collective success, overall ability and longevity during the league’s first 24 years.
Your thoughts, as always, go in the comment section or in my mentions on Twitter (@andrew_wiebe).
GK: Nick Rimando
Finally, Rimando makes an MLS Best XI. This one comes after playing 20 years, 514 games and more than 46,000 minutes in the league. He holds a raft of individual records, goalkeeping and overall. He won major trophies with three different teams (Miami Fusion, D.C. United and Real Salt Lake) and picked up an MLS Cup MVP trophy, too. Speaking of, there’s never been a better penalty-kick stopper in MLS history.
LB: Jeff Agoos
Nobody not named Landon Donovan has won more MLS Cups (five). Goose was a foundational member of D.C. United’s early MLS dynasty, picking up three rings, then captained the San Jose Earthquakes as that club turned their fortunes around to the tune of two more championships. He’s here for his competitive edge. He’s here because he was a nine-time All-Star, three-time Best XI selection and the 2001 MLS Defender of the Year. He’s here because his partnership with Eddie Pope needs zero reps.
CB: Eddie Pope
Is Pope the best American central defender of all-time? Quite possibly. Can any American central defender match his MLS résumé? Only one can come close, and he’s up next. MLS Cups, Pope’s got three. MLS Best XIs, he’s got four. Defender of the Year, he’s got one of those, too, plus a pair of Supporters’ Shields and the Champions Cup and Copa Interamericana, too. Pope made the hard things look easy, and game-winning goals in big games look downright routine.
CB: Chad Marshall
RWB: Cobi Jones
I’m fudging this one a bit. Jones has to be in the team. So does Steve Ralston. So while it may look like Jones is playing right back, that’d be a positional misnomer. Jones is free to go wherever he’d like along that right flank. He’ll bomb forward, with the legs and lungs to recover when necessary. He’ll overlap, play off Ralston and get to the endline. He’ll push high and get in behind for his own looks. He’ll score goals, create goals and win, just like he did in MLS.
D-MID: Chris Armas
He’s a lock for this team. Five-time Best XI with the Fire, including four consecutive years, a streak only disrupted by an ACL injury that also kept him out of the 2002 World Cup. He was back in 2003 as the anchor on a Supporters’ Shield squad. Those Chicago teams were damn near a dynasty, and Armas was the man no opposing attacker wanted any part of. Kyle Beckerman is unlucky here, but the choice is clear and obvious. I need Armas to patrol all the gaps this attack is going to leave.
RM: Steve Ralston
Until Landon Donovan came along, no player had as many MLS assists. Ralston, like Pope, let his play do the talking. I have a feeling the ball is going to find Donovan, Chris Wondolowski and Mark Chung in the box an awful lot. He was a Best XI player in Tampa Bay and New England.
Preki was the MVP in 2003, for a record second time, at age 40. Just let that sink in. The Wizards and Fusion No. 10’s inclusion here was as inevitable as his vintage chop. He was damn near unstoppable individually, and he won everything there is to win in MLS. This team is Preki’s to marionette.
A-MID: Landon Donovan
MLS’s Most Valuable Player trophy is named after him. I don’t feel the need to explain this one.
LM: Mark Chung
Apologies to Brad Davis. This should probably be his spot, but I went with my gut.
Chung’s been overlooked an awful lot, including by the USMNT. I started following the league in 2006, a year after the three-time Best XI attacker retired, and I knew almost nothing about his career until a few years ago. You can barely find any video of his exploits. And yet he was one of the league’s best players during its first decade of existence: a four-time All-Star, three-time Best XI and finalist for the 2002 MLS MVP award.
The Wizards, MetroStars, Rapids and Quakes midfielder scored 61 goals and added 76 assists in nearly 300 MLS games and probably would have won a couple MLS Cups in Houston had he decided to make the move with the Quakes. Instead, Chung retired to focus on his family following a six-goal, seven-assist season for the Shield winners. I’m giving him his due, plus he’s a perfect fit on the left.
CF: Chris Wondolowski
Wondo is not the “best” American forward in MLS history. He’s not the “most accomplished” from a team perspective, either. He doesn’t need to be. Nobody’s ever scored goals the way he has in this league, American or not. Look at the team around him and tell me Wondolowski’s not good for at least a goal every game just hanging out at the back post. Easy money.
Bench: Kevin Hartman; DaMarcus Beasley, Omar Gonzalez; Pablo Mastroeni, Brad Davis; Jeff Cunningham, Brian McBride