Major League Soccer isn’t even 20 years old yet, but it’s easy to forget some of the all-time MLS greats with the surge of talent that has taken hold of the MLS over the past five years. In honor of the upcoming MLS All-Star game in Portland, OR, where the best in the MLS will be taking on Bundesliga Champions, Bayern Munich, I decided to make up a list of my all-time starting XI MLS All-Stars. I’ve tried to mix in some older players from my childhood with current players, please feel free to share your team as well!
Goalkeeper: Kasey Keller, Seattle Sounders FC
This is obviously one of the tougher positions to pick based on the fact that the USA has always produced phenomenal goalkeeping and many of them have played in the MLS at some point. Tony Meola was obviously a close second and current stars like Nick Rimando, Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson all rank up there near the top as well. However, when it all comes down to it, Kasey Keller dominated throughout his whole career including his final stint in the MLS back in his home state of Washington with the Seattle Sounders. He’s the kind of keeper that gives his team a win when they should have lost 5-0. There are many keepers that are deserving, but in the end, I am putting Keller between the pipes.
Defense: Eddie Pope (DC United, MetroStars, Real Salt Lake) , Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Carlos Bocanegra (Chicago Fire, Chivas USA) and Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders FC)
Eddie Pope’s MLS accolades are incredible. That said, it was a much different league when he was at his prime, but still when you look at what Pope did for the MLS it is hard to argue that he might be the best defensive player that the league has seen.
Matt Besler on the other hand has proven himself in the much improved MLS, landing him a solid spot on the USMNT’s World Cup squad this year, as well as interest from European clubs. Just as he has in the past though, Besler continues to stay loyal to his home in Kansas City where he and Sporting KC are reigning MLS Champions.
Carlos Bocanegra is one of only two MLS defenders to win back to back “Defender of the Year” awards, a feat he accomplished in the 2002 and 2003 seasons with the Chicago Fire. After spending a few years squad hopping in Europe, Bocanegra returned to the MLS this year to help revive Chivas USA.
Along with Bocanegra, Chad Marshall is the only other MLS defender to have won back to back “Defender of the Year” honors, both of which he won with the Columbus Crew in 2008 and 2009. This year he fell into the hands of Sigi Schmid and the Seattle Sounders and he has once again proven to be one of the most solid defenders in the league. He isn’t particularly flashy, but flashy isn’t always a must for a defender, especially when you make it look as easy as Chad Marshall does.
Midfield: Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy), Carlos Valderrama (Tampa Bay Mutiny, Miami Fusion, Colorado Rapids), Kyle Beckerman (Miami Fusion, Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake)
For all that he’s done for USA Soccer, as well as the MLS, there still has always been a love/hate relationship with fans and Landon Donovan. He’s not the most personable guy in the world, but what he’s accomplished on the pitch both domestically and abroad is phenomenal and he continues to pour it on to this day. I have been fortunate enough to see “LD” play multiple times in person and he never disappoints.
Carlos Valderrama was one of the first international players to really make waves in the MLS. Part of that was thanks to his bright blonde afro, but an even larger portion had to do with the Columbian’s playmaking skills. I mean the guy was chosen by Pele as one of FIFA’s top 100 greatest living footballers….how can I argue with Pele?
I have always enjoyed watching Kyle Beckerman play, as his skills as a shutdown midfielder are terribly underrated in my opinion. He’s been a large part of Real Salt Lake’s success season after season and is one of the first players I would call upon if I were setting up my own fantasy team.
Forwards: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), and Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
I realize these three are all current players and I feel like I should be burned at the stake for not including Brian McBride, but since this is my team, I am just going with my gut and this is who I would choose. I remember watching Thierry Henry play for Arsenal, Barcelona and the French National Team when I was a kid and always being in awe of what he could do with the ball. Henry in his prime rivaled Ronaldinho as being one of the most entertaining players in the world to watch and even now as his career nears its end, he is still worth the price of admission.
Robbie Keane has it all, he can setup a play, he can finish one off, he’s hard to knock off the ball and he can rile up the opposition as well. If Keane is playing against your team, you’d be lying if you said you don’t shutter every time you hear his name called. Since playing in the MLS, Robbie Keane has established himself as one of the top strikers in the league and he’s one of my personal favorites.
It may seem like people like me are still a little hung up on Chris Wondolowski’s incredible 27 goal season back in 2012 where he tied Roy Lassiter for the most goals scored in a season. Although his 11 goals last season seems miniscule compared to 2012 and his five so far this year doesn’t make a lot of heads turn, you have to remember that injuries and National Team duty have played a huge part in those smaller numbers. Wondolowski’s poaching abilities are some of the best and that’s why I would add him to my All-Star team, Past and Present