Who Are the All-Time MLS Best XI?

Juan Carlos Salas@juancsalasContributor IIIFebruary 23, 2012

Who Are the All-Time MLS Best XI?

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    The talent that has come and gone through Major League Soccer could probably fill two All-Time MLS Best XI teams.

    However, narrowing down the league's best talent of all time to just 11 guys is definitely part of the fun in compiling a list like this one.

    In my opinion, players that deserve a nod in this All-Time Best XI are those that have dedicated their life and career to MLS. You will not see players on this list that have used the league as a stepping stone to better things.

    So if you're hoping to see players like Clint Dempsey, David Beckham or Tim Howard, look elsewhere.

    Enjoy the list, and let the comments fly...

Goalkeeper: Kevin Hartman

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    Kevin Hartman—nicknamed "El Gato" for his cat-like reflexes between the pipes—is arguably the best goalkeeper to play in MLS.

    His career started in 1997 and includes two MLS Cups, two Supporters' Shields, two U.S. Open Cups, a CONCACAF Champions' Cup and a nod as the 1999 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

    The former LA Galaxy keeper got his chance during his sophomore season after veteran Jorge Campos was shipped to the Chicago Fire. From there, Hartman seized the opportunity and established himself as LA's starting keeper for 10 years.

    Hartman was then shipped to Kansas City for the 2007 season; he appeared in 90 matches for the Wizards (not Sporting KC) before moving to FC Dallas in 2010.

    El Gato leads many goalkeeper MLS statistics—most games played (386), most minutes played (34,560), most victories by any goalkeeper (138) and most career clean sheets (100). 

Defender: Jimmy Conrad

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    Don't let Jimmy Conrad's sense of humor distract you from the fact that he was once one of the best defenders in the league.

    After four seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes, which included the 2001 MLS Cup, Conrad was traded to the Kansas City Wizards. In Kansas City, Conrad became the heart of the defense and soul of the team, notching 204 regular season appearances and 17 regular season goals. 

    The four-time MLS Best XI was also named the 2005 MLS Defender of the Year and helped lead the Wizards to the 2004 U.S. Open Cup.

    In 2010, Conrad returned to his native Southern California playing for Chivas USA, but in 2011, he made his decision to retire after not being able to overcome symptoms from multiple concussions. 

Defender: Jeff Agoos

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    Jeff Agoos anchored what many argue is one of the best squads in MLS history—the 1996-1998 D.C. United.

    The intimidating and hard-nosed outside fullback made his mark in the league with his leadership and defensive prowess. He won plenty of hardware captaining the Red and Black—both domestically and internationally.

    He played five seasons with D.C. United, later played four seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes and finalized his career back on the East Coast with the NY/NJ Metrostars (now know as the New York Red Bulls).

    He is a five-time MLS Cup champion (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003), a three-time MLS All-Star and was named 2001 MLS Defender of the Year. In 2009, he was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. 

Defender: Pablo Mastroeni

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    On paper, Pablo Mastroeni probably doesn't belong on this All-Time Best XI list. But if you followed his career since his early days on the now-defunct Miami Fusion and now with the Colorado Rapids, you'd understand his inclusion.

    Mastroeni has always been the unsung hero, the man that does the dirty work without requiring the attention.

    To say Mastroeni was ferocious would be an understatement. The vivacity that the central midfielder displayed helped Miami to a 2001 Supporters' Shield and Colorado to the 2010 MLS Cup.

    Every team needs a player that doesn't mind operating in the shadows and would risk limb and bone to make the play. Mastroeni has demonstrated such characteristics his entire career.   

Defender: Eddie Pope

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    The first goal of MLS goes to Eric Wynalda, but Eddie Pope brought home the first championship to D.C. United with his sudden death overtime goal against the LA Galaxy in the 1996 MLS Cup.

    Pope went on to have a very fruitful MLS career, being named the 1997 MLS Defender of the Year. He also garnered four MLS All-Star Best XI nods in 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2004.

    He played seven seasons with D.C. United before moving on to the NY/NJ Metrostars in 2003. Pope retired in 2007 after playing three seasons with Real Salt Lake and was just inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011. 

Midfielder: Mauricio Cienfuegos

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    As one of the few players who played his entire career with one team, Mauricio Cienfiegos was the man in the midfield for the LA Galaxy way before the arrival of Landon Donovan.

    He was among the crop of Latin American and European talent that was brought over to the U.S. in the early days of the league to bring some spice to the game and fans to the stands. 

    The diminutive midfielder won the hearts of the LA faithful with his commanding presence in the midfield, his quick feet and pinpoint passes.

    Cienfuegos played over 200 matches—with 78 assists and 36 goals—for Los Angeles in his eight-year career. He led the Galaxy to the 1998 and 2002 Supporters' Shield, the 2001 U.S. Open Cup, the 2002 MLS Cup and the 2000 CONCACAF Champions' Cup.

    He retired in 2003 from the Galaxy but came back in 2011 as the technical coach for the LA Galaxy Academy. 

Midfielder: Dwayne De Rosario

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    One of the most dangerous midfielders in league history, Canada's own Dwayne De Rosario, has been the only player named to six MLS Best XI.

    Starting his MLS career with the San Jose Earthquakes, De Rosario played in the Bay Area for five season before the franchise moved to Houston. He played with the Dynamo up to the 2008 season where he was then traded to Toronto FC, allowing him to play in his country and in front of his fans.

    After losing some of his form in 2011, he was shipped to the New York Red Bulls and shortly after to D.C. United—where he as able to score 18 goals in just 13 appearances. 

    De Rosario has won many team and individuals accolades including the MLS Cup with San Jose in 2001 and 2003 and again with Houston in 2006 and 2007.

    He's the current 2011 league MVP and Golden Boot winner. He's won Goal of the Year in 2004 and 2005 and was named MLS Cup MVP in 2001 and 2007. 

    He currently ranks seventh in the All-Time Regular Season Goal Scorers list with 93. 

Midfielder: Landon Donovan

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    The current field general for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Landon Donovan has become the face of both MLS and U.S. Soccer.

    However, before he was welcomed into the hearts of Angelenos, he was considered the archenemy. He started his MLS career with the Galaxy-rival San Jose Earthquakes off a loan from Bayer Leverkusen in 2001. 

    In 2005, Los Angeles purchased Donovan, and he was able to replicate the same success he had with San Jose.

    He is a four-time MLS Cup winner (2001, 2003, 2005, 2011), a five-time MLS Best XI All-Star (2003, 2008-2011) and a two-time MLS Cup MVP (2003, 2001).

    Donovan has also been named the 2009 MLS MVP, the 2001 MLS All-Star MVP, 2008 Golden Boot winner, 2010 MLS Silver Boot winner and 2009 MLS Goal of the Year winner.

    He's listed third in career regular season goals, sixth in career regular season assists, seventh in career playoff assists and first in career playoff goals.

Midfielder: Marco Etcheverry

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    The most respected player in the league to ever don the No. 10 shirt, Marco Antonio "El Diablo" Etcheverry was known for his trickery in D.C. United's midfield.

    During his eight seasons with United, Etcheverry racked up 191 league appearances, 101 assists and 34 goals. 

    He was the mastermind behind the most dangerous trio in American soccer history—dubbed the "magic triangle"—that featured Raul Diaz-Arce and Jaime Moreno.

    The Bolivian midfielder helped D.C. win a lot of championships including the 1997 and 1999 double (winning both the MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield) and the inaugural 1996 MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup and the 1998 CONCACAF Champions' Cup and the Copa Interamericana!

    Etcheverry was named MLS Best XI in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999. He was named league MVP in 1998 and won MLS Goal of the Year in 1997 and 1999. 

Forward: Brian McBride

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    Even though Brian McBride played many years in England, he is deserving of a spot in the All-Time Best XI due to his work before and after his European career.

    Coming back to the U.S. to play in the inaugural MLS season with the Columbus Crew, McBride tallied 75 goals in 180 matches and helped Columbus capture the 2002 U.S. Open Cup.

    He eventually made the move to Europe in 2004, but by 2008 he moved back to the U.S. to play with his hometown team, the Chicago Fire. During his three seasons with the Fire, McBride amassed 66 appearances and 19 goals.

    McBride retired from soccer in 2010. 

Forward: Jaime Moreno

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    You cannot think of Major League Soccer without thinking of Jaime Moreno. The Bolivian forward has played the majority of his career with D.C. United and is probably the best player to ever play in the league.

    He was signed by D.C. and brought in midway through the 1996 season but didn't shine brightly until 1997—where he earned his first MLS Best XI and only MLS Cup MVP.

    Moreno has helped D.C. United win every major hardware in its history: four MLS Cups, four Supporters' Shield, two U.S. Open Cups, the 1998 CONCACAF Champions' Cup and Copa Interamericana.

    He's accumulated 340 match appearances, over 25,000 minutes, 133 goals, 102 assists and suffered 703 fouls.

    He retied from D.C. in 2010 and was hired as the Youth Academy Technical Training Coach by the team in 2011. 

The Bench...

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    Like I mentioned earlier, there is been too much talent to be able to narrow down the MLS to just eleven players. I figured I'd fill a bench with the players that were also deserving of the All-Time best XI slot but didn't quite make the cut.

    Tony Meola (GK)

    Carlos Llamosa (Defender)

    Marcelo Balboa (Defender)

    Carlos Valderrama (Midfielder)

    Preki (Midfielder)

    Jeff Cunningham (Forward)