SB Nation MLS Best XI: Sporting KC leads way with three selections

Ed Zurga

Sporting KC dominates in terms of numbers, but Chris Wondolowski appeared on more ballots than any other player.

Picking a Best XI is always a bit of a trick. Not only are the voters forced to figure out which players were the best at each position, but they must also find a formation they find suitable. Some voters decided to pick a team that could really play together, while others make no effort to find, say, a suitable left back.

On the tabulating side, we decided to make it as straightforward as possible. Assuming we had at least three defenders, we just went with the top 11 vote-getters. What we ended up with was a 3-4-3 that actually might stand a chance against a real team.

First Team All-SBN (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper

Jimmy Nielson (14): No big surprise here as he was also our Goalkeeper of the Year. The Great Dane posted 15 shutouts, the second most in MLS history, and had a .79 goals against average, the fifth best mark in league history.

Defenders

Matt Besler (21): Our top vote-getting defender was also our Defender of the Year. For many of the same reasons that Nielsen gets plaudits, you can say the same thing about KC's top defender.

Victor Bernardez (18): Perhaps no player was more responsible for his team's dramatic turnaround that the Honduran international. Although the Earthquakes defense was not much better than it was a year ago, his presence gave his teammates the ability to press forward with reckless abandon.

Jay DeMerit (9): Quietly had a very effective season as the Whitecaps rebounded from one of the worst expansion seasons in league history. He appeared in 10 more games than he did a year ago, helping the Whitecaps reduce their goals allowed by 14 in Year 2.

Midfielders

Graham Zusi (25): The creative engine in Sporting KC's midfield led the league with 15 assists. As good as their defense was, it's scary to think how hard to watch their games could have gotten if it wasn't for him.

Osvaldo Alonso (19): No standard stats can properly convey just how important "Honey Badger" is to the Sounders' success. He really seemed to come into his own this year, providing some quality passing to go along with his tenacious defense.

Landon Donovan (17): No all-MLS team can be complete without Donovan, it seems. Despite battling injuries and inviting questions about his desire, he quietly had one of his better seasons with nine goals and 14 assists.

Brad Davis (12): As good as the left-sided specialist was a year ago, he may have been even better this year. His eight goals were a career high and he had only eclipsed 12 assists once before.

Forwards

Chris Wondolowski (32): After having what might just be the greatest season in MLS history, it's hardly any surprise that he was named to all but three ballots. In fact, it's a little hard to imagine how he was left off any. His 27 goals equaled the MLS record and combined with his seven assists no player has ever registered more points.

Thierry Henry (20): In any other season, his 15 goals and 12 assists would be considered a rather spectacular season. It's not clear whether or not the fact that he did it in just 25 appearances is a good or bad thing.

Robbie Keane (10): Coming off a somewhat disappointing debut season, the Irishman broke through in a big way by scoring 16 goals and racking up nine assists. The bulk of that production came after he returned from the European Championships, with 13 goals and seven assists coming from that point forward.

Other notables

Michael Gspurning (5), Andy Gruenebaum (5), Dan Kennedy (3), Aurilien Collin (8), Steven Beitashour (8), Omar Gonzalez (7), Nat Borchers (6), Jeff Parke (5), YP Lee (3), Jamison Olave (3), Chris Pontius (8), Kyle Beckerman (7), Dax McCarty (5), Mauro Rosales (4), Roger Espinoza (3), Dwayne De Rosario (3), Alvaro Saborio (8), Eddie Johnson (6), Kenny Cooper (3), Fredy Montero (3).

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