Oct 31, 2012

My Best XI + 3 for 2012

On the heels of my Best XI Under 24, here is my Best XI + 3 for 2012.  Why the +3?  Well, a coach gets substitutes, doesn't he?  So here we go.

Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City) in what has to be a consensus goalkeeper of the year winner, Nielsen was a rock in the goal for the Eastern Conference winners.  While his habit of licking his lips is nerve wracking, the fact that he has an anemic 0.79 Goals Against Average and a league leading 15 shutouts, if the big Dane doesn't win Goalkeeper of the Year then the fix is in.

Honorable Mentions:  Michael Gspurning (Seattle Sounders FC), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)

Defenders (3):
Todd Dunivant (LA Galaxy) despite a brief spell on the bench due to injury, I believe that Dunivant is the best left back in the league.  Consistently one of the best defenders in the league, he also contributes heavily in the attack.

Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City):  The non-mercurial half of the leagues' best centerback pairing, Besler goes about his job with a quiet competence that belies his impact.  Not only is he strong in the air and strong in the tackle, he can pick up the ball and transition into the attack very well.  That is necessary in Peter Vermes' dynamic 4-3-3.

Young-Pyo Lee (Vancouver Whitecaps):  Admit it, you thought he wouldn't adapt to the MLS' phsyicality very well.  It's okay, I didn't think so either and I bet that Martin Rennie is glad that he did adapt well.  I think it unlikely that Vancover makes the playoffs without the Korean workhorse on the flanks.  With one goal and four assists on the year, with 33 starts, the veteran international certainly made a mark in the league.

Honorable Mentions:  Brandon McDonald (DC United), Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes), Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Arne Freidrich (Chicago Fire); Heath Pearce (New York Red Bull)

Midfielders (4):
Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)  The assist leader for the league in 2012, the set piece master had a break out year, yielding national team call ups (and caps) and generally serving as a leader on the pitch.

Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo):  Why Davis is not getting national team call-ups remains a mystery.  Another set piece maestro, Davis also marauds along the left flank, whipping in cross after cross.  When Davis is playing well, Houston is playing well--you do the math.

Chris Pontius (DC United): What a wonderful thing it is to be healthy for an entire season.  Leading the Black and Red with 12 goals this year, Pontius stepped up in the absence of Dwayne DeRosario by donning the captain's arm band and leading the team down the stretch.

Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders FC):  a holding midfielder's holding midfielder, Alonso has defined the role in MLS with steady, consistent play that sometimes goes unheralded.  A precision passer and tenacious tackler, Alonso helped Seattle concede the second fewest goals of any team this year (just less than a goal a game average).

Honorable Mentions:  Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders FC); David Ferreira (FC Dallas), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy); Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake); Marvin Chavez (San Jose Earthquakes), Mike Magee (Los Angeles Galaxy);

Forwards (3)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)  Let's see, 27 goals and 7 assists.  That is all.

Kenny Cooper (New York Red Bulls)--maybe Cooper has found a place with 18 goals this season, the big man is contributing like never before.  Maybe it is because every is keying on Thierry Henry or something else, Cooper has found a stride.  Can he keep doing it next year is of course, always the mystery, but this year, he earned him a spot.

Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake):  Yeah, yeah, I know--might as well pick the top three goals scorers and call it a day.  But the job of a striker is to score goals and with 17, Saborio would have been in the hunt for the Golden Boot with Cooper had it not been for Wondo's wonder season.

Honorable Mentions:  Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders FC), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC), Kei Kamara (Sporting Kansas City), Robbie Keane (Los Angeles Galaxy); Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)

Super Subs (3):
Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes):  Seriously everyone, if you need a goal in the clutch is there anywhere else to turn this season the this journeyman?  He is so good he did it for the United States Men's National Team when everyone was was like, "Klinsmann is out of his mind!"  13 goals and 7 assists in 23 appearances, mostly off the bench.  Yeah--that qualifies as a super sub.

Chris Birchall (Columbus Crew):  He may not be the greatest player ever, he may not be the classiest player ever, but if you need to kill off a game and need to supplement your back line or add a second holding midfileder, I don't think there are many better at that limited role than Birchall.

Steven Lenhart (San Jose Earthquakes):  Yes, he is the player that everyone loves to hate unless he is on your team.  He has no particularly great skills, unless you count annoying the crap out of opponents and fans, but here is what he brings:  tenacity, work ethic and yes, goals--10 of them to be exact.  His goal scoring total, mostly as a substitute, is better than the top scorer on 11 teams in the league.





Not a perfect formation, but lots of heft.

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