The 2013 Major League Soccer season was one of the most exciting in league history with dozens of players having standout years.
Narrowing down those outstanding performances to a list of just 25 players can be a harrowing process. But, after an exhaustive examination of each player, considering their individual performance over the course of the season, as well as their team's success, here are the "25 Best MLS Players of 2013."
Darlington Nagbe had a career season in 2013, finishing with 10 goals and four assists. Nagbe's evolution in 2013 can be largely attributed to Caleb Porter, who took over the Portland Timbers in the off-season and had successfully coached Nagbe to an NCAA Championship in 2010 with the Akron Zips.
Midfielders like Dax McCarty, who sit in front of their center backs for most of the game and fill holes in the back line when their defense gets pulled apart, are almost never properly appreciated.
McCarty is one of the league's best in that role and, in 2013, helped lead the New York Red Bulls to their first-ever Supporters' Shield.
Not only is Aurelien Collin one of Major League Soccer's best defenders, but when the game is on the line, he can also be one of the league's most lethal goalscorers.
Three times in five playoff games in the 2013 MLS Playoffs, Collin scored at key times, helping lead his team to the MLS Cup and winning for himself MLS Cup MVP honors.
Diego Valeri started the 2013 MLS season with one of the best goals in league history and continued his outstanding performances throughout the year, finishing with 10 goals and 13 assists.
His outstanding play in the Portland Timbers' midfield is one of the reasons for the team's major turnaround in 2013.
Omar Gonzalez came off an outstanding 2012 to put in another great season in 2013. He led the L.A. Galaxy to a third-place finish in the ultra-competitive Western Conference and landed himself a spot on MLS' Best XI team.
The Seattle Sounders' 2013 season was a turbulent one, with locker-room issues, hot and cold streaks and a disappointing playoff run.
Through it all, Osvaldo Alonso remained one of the team's most consistent performers and, over other heralded performances by teammates DeAndre Yedlin, Mauro Rosales, Lamar Neagle and Eddie Johnson, it was Alonso who was named the team's MVP—an award he won for the fourth consecutive season.
At the ripe old age of 36, MLS veteran Donovan Ricketts had a career season in 2013, leading the Portland Timbers to the Western Conference Championship.
For his efforts in 2013, he earned himself MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors.
After two consecutive MLS Cup appearances, the 2013 Houston Dynamo season did not go according to plan, but Tally Hall was one of their most consistent performers.
He started every league game for the team, finished tied for fifth in the league in goals against average (among those with at least 25 league starts) and won the Dynamo's MVP award this year over fellow stars Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis and Will Bruin.
Matt Besler is not flashy, nor controversial, nor does he make headlines. But, he is easily one of the most solid and most consistent defenders in the league.
In a year in which he missed a fair number of games due to repeated international duty, Besler helped lead Sporting KC to the MLS Cup and earned himself a spot on MLS' Best XI team.
Even though it was his first season in MLS, Jose Gonclaves made quite the impact.
He played every minute for the New England Revolution this season, was named the Revolution's Defender of the Year, their supporters' group Man of the Year and, finally, MLS Defender of the Year.
Robbie Keane had another outstanding year in 2013, scoring 16 goals and finishing with 11 assists. The Irish international made MLS' Best XI and finished second in league MVP voting.
While only a rookie, Dillon Powers settled in quite nicely in the Colorado Rapids' midfield in 2013. Despite many outstanding performers on the Rapids this year, including Clint Irwin, Deshorn Brown, Chris Klute and Shane O'Neil, it was Powers who took home team MVP honors.
Federico Higuain is the only player from a losing team to make the list, but his 11 goals and nine assists were too impressive to keep him off the list.
He also won the Columbus Crew's MVP award over fellow standout and 13-goal scorer Dominic Oduro.
The Vancouver Whitecaps did not have an outstanding 2013, but one bright spot was the goal-scoring prowess on Camilo Sanvezzo.
He finished atop the league with a remarkable 22 goals.
In his first full MLS season, Tim Cahill scored 11 goals, added five assists, helped lead the New York Red Bulls to the Supporters' Shield and got himself named to the MLS Best XI.
It was not a bad year.
Alvaro Saborio only started 15 games for Western Conference playoff champion Real Salt Lake, but he finished as the team's leading goalscorer with 12 tallies.
He also scored the team's opening goal in the MLS Cup against Sporting Kansas City.
Thierry Henry's 2013 wasn't mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination, but his 10 goals and nine assists still put him among the league's best. He was also a key part of the New York Red Bulls winning the 2013 Supporters' Shield.
Diego Fagundez is only 18 years old, but he lit Major League Soccer on fire in 2013. Fagundez finished with 13 goals (tied for fifth-best in the league), seven assists and helped lead the New England Revolution to the playoffs and a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Compared to some of his other MLS seasons, 2013 was not a stellar year for Landon Donovan. However, compared to the rest of the league, it was still among the best.
Donovan finished with 10 goals and nine assists, accounting for 36 percent of the L.A. Galaxy's offensive production.
Marco Di Vaio and the Montreal Impact crash-landed the final weeks of their 2013 MLS season, but overall, it was still an outstanding year for the Italian striker. He finished with 20 goals, good enough for third-best in the league.
Graham Zusi's offensive production was a bit off in 2013, as he finished with a comparatively meager six goals and eight assists. However, those statistics came in the midst of many missed games due to international duty and winning the MLS Cup.
Zusi's forward partners also continually changed in 2013 as Claudio Bieler, C.J. Sapong, Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad and Kei Kamara were all rotated through, but Zusi remained a consistent performer for the team throughout.
Love him, or hate him, there is no doubt Kyle Beckerman is one of the best players in Major League Soccer. He is one of the top two or three defensive midfielders in MLS and has consistently helped RSL to top league finishes year after year.
One of the more divisive figures in the game for his confrontational nature on the pitch, Will Johnson had an outstanding 2013 and was a key part of the turnaround this year in Portland.
He made MLS' Best XI and helped lead the Timbers to the 2013 Western Conference regular-season championship.
Mike Magee had a career season in 2013, scoring a remarkable 21 goals.
He started the year with the Los Angeles Galaxy before being traded to the Chicago Fire for Robbie Rogers—a deal that certainly favored the Fire.
Magee finished the year as MLS' Most Valuable Player.
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