By: COLIN REESE
With much of the United States Men’s National Team coming from MLS due to the return of many USMNT regulars to MLS from European soccer and due to the improvement of the league overall, World Soccer Source surveys the American player pool in MLS and selects an All-American Best XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Oddly enough, this Best XI is almost identical to the USMNT Best XI that World Soccer Source would select with the exception of players such as Joe Benny Corona, Juan Agudelo, and Tim Howard.
Below is World Soccer Source’s MLS All-American Best XI:
GOALKEEPER: Clint IRWIN (Colorado Rapids)
Clint Irwin has been earning praise for both his impressive saves and his sound overall goalkeeping. There are other quality American goalkeepers in MLS, but Irwin is as good or better than all of them.
RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN (Seattle Sounders)
Of all of the American right backs, DeAndre Yedlin is the one who displays the most ability to pose a defensive and offensive threat as a right back, and Yedlin’s speed is a huge bonus both for defensive purposes and for taking the game to the opposition. As far as technical ability goes, Yedlin is more technically-skilled than Chris Klute (described below), but Klute is a better marker and tackler.
CENTER BACK: Andrew FARRELL (New England Revolution)
Andrew Farrell was used as a right back in his first season in MLS, but Farrell is a center back whose tackling, marking, and speed make it difficult to break down the center of the defense – Farrell’s technical ability allows for the ball to be worked out of the back with skilled passing and dribbling as opposed to long clearances downfield.
CENTER BACK: Shane O’NEILL (Colorado Rapids)
Shane O’Neill is a very polished young American center back who was converted from the defensive midfielder role. With good skill on the ball, O’Neill also checks all the boxes for speed, quickness, skill in the air, and sufficient height to play in the center of the defense. Even as a young player, O’Neill is essentially better than all other MLS center backs, including the non-American ones. O’Neill is often lumped into the dual-national category, but O’Neill is a product of the United States as he spent basically his entire life in the United States.
LEFT BACK: Chris KLUTE (Colorado Rapids)
Chris Klute is the clear front runner as the best left back in MLS. Klute tackles and defends very well, and Klute is dangerous in the attack where he blazes up the sideline to combine with his teammates or to play crosses across the mouth of the goal. Klute’s speed appears to be unmatched by any American soccer player. Klute is a truly two-footed player, and his technical ability and passing are international-caliber.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY (Toronto FC)
Michael Bradley’s ability to defend, pass, and cover a lot of ground is well-documented as a USA international and as a player who saw heavy playing time for AS Roma, in addition to his club teams in the Eredivisie and the Bundesliga. Bradley is a known commodity, and one of the three best American footballers along with Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Benji JOYA (Chicago Fire)
Benji Joya played on the wing for his first official MLS game with the Chicago Fire, but Joya is also a complete midfielder who is somewhat similar to Stuart Holden in regards to his two-way ability and technical ability. Joya appears to be a more technically-skilled player than Holden though, and Joya has a level of creativity and 1v1 ability that Holden and Bradley for that matter don’t have.
RIGHT WINGER: Landon DONOVAN (LA Galaxy)
Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are considered the two best American soccer players of all time, and the right wing is where Donovan has been able to do the most damage against high-level competition. Playing out wide allows Donovan to use his speed to collect the ball out wide and either cut inside or burst down the sideline. Donovan is a faster player than Dempsey, and Donovan’s game is more based on attacking players at pace than Dempsey’s is.
CENTRAL ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Benny FEILHABER (Sporting KC)
As far as American Number 10s go, Benny Feilhaber is the most-proven of the bunch, and he has a lot of notable performances against really high-quality international competition. Feilhaber is the clear choice as the best American playmaker in MLS.
LEFT WINGER: Clint DEMPSEY (Seattle Sounders)
For this writer, Clint Dempsey is a more-talented and more-proven player than Landon Donovan, and Dempsey has seen the most success when he has been deployed out left with the freedom to go where he wants in the attack. Dempsey’s resume and exploits speak for themselves, and playing him as the left attacking midfielder is the logical place to start him.
STRIKER: Eddie JOHNSON (DC United)
Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo are playing in Europe, so Eddie Johnson is the clear pick for the best American striker playing in MLS. Johnson’s speed, two-footed ability, and skill in the air are well-known, and they have been effective on the international level. Johnson has never really harnessed all of his freakish athleticism and smooth technical ability, but he is nevertheless a quality striker that has a much better combination of skill and athleticism than any other American striker in MLS.
* HONORABLE MENTION:
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER/CENTER BACK: Maurice EDU (Philadelphia Union)
Maurice Edu’s technical ability is much better than he gets credit for, and his physique and athleticism make him a player that has to be taken seriously. When playing well, Edu is a clear international-caliber central midfielder or center back.