Designated players Robbie Keane and Tim Cahill lead the charge on the Goal USA MLS Best XI after enjoying outstanding 2013 seasons.When looking back on the 2013 season, we will remember it as the year some of the league’s best players made moves to unfamiliar surroundings and flourished with new teams. It was also a good year for some of the league’s most high-profile players.
The Goal USA MLS Best XI for 2013 features designated players such as Tim Cahill and Robbie Keane, as well as new faces in the league like Diego Valeri and Jose Goncalves.
Cahill followed up a forgettable first season with the New York Red Bulls by putting together a year that pushed him into the MVP conversation. Robbie Keane played his way to the front of that MVP line with his dream regular season with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
In terms of faces in new places, Will Johnson and Jamison Olave led the exodus from Real Salt Lake as the team made wholesale changes to its roster. All Johnson and Olave did was help lead their respective teams to regular season conference titles and, in Olave’s case, a Supporters' Shield.
Some of the league’s new talent made the biggest splashes, with Goncalves playing well enough in the heart of New England’s defense to earn Goal USA’s MLS Defender of the Year honors, while Valeri spearheaded Portland’s attack on his way to Goal USA Newcomer of the Year.
Here is a closer look at the Goal USA MLS Best XI, as selected via voting by the Goal USA staff:
NICK RIMANDO, Real Salt Lake
The Real Salt Lake goalkeeper is one of the most accomplished goalkeepers in league history and 2013 could go down as the best year of that career. Along with his winning turn in goal for the U.S. national team during the Gold Cup, Rimando recorded nine shutouts and made a plethora of highlight-reel saves throughout the year to keep RSL in the race for the Supporters' Shield till the end of the season.
JOSE GONCALVES, New England Revolution
The imposing Portuguese defender helped transform the New England defense from one of the worst in the league to one of the best. The 6-foot-2 center back quickly adapted to MLS and was arguably the best defender in MLS, starting all 34 matches for the Revs to help lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
JAMISON OLAVE, New York Red Bulls
The hulking Colombian center back made the move from Real Salt Lake and turned in one of his best seasons in MLS. The former MLS Defender of the Year scored a career-high four goals and dominated opposing forwards with his combination of strength and speed to help the Red Bulls win the Supporters' Shield.
MATT BESLER, Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City boasted the best defense in the league in 2013 and it was at its best when Besler was in the lineup. Sporting KC allowed just 22 goals in the 23 games he started, and Besler’s poise, sharp passing, dangerous throw-ins and steady defense made him as complete a center back as there was in MLS.
CHRIS KLUTE, Colorado Rapids
An unknown when the season began, all the former Atlanta Silverback did was rise from obscurity to establish himself as one of the best fullbacks in the league. Klute locked down the starting left back slot for Colorado and proceeded to deliver an impressive seven assists, second most in the league for a defender.
WILL JOHNSON, Portland Timbers
One of the keys to the Timbers' incredible turnaround was the leadership, tenacity, skill and box-to-box dominance of Johnson. The Portland captain recorded nine goals and five assists serving as the key link between the defense and the Timbers' attack. The former RSL standout had the best year of his career.
DIEGO VALERI, Portland Timbers
The consensus pick for MLS Newcomer of the year, Valeri stepped right into his first season with the Timbers and became the league’s most dangerous playmaker. He scored 10 goals to go with a league-leading 13 assists and his strong second-half push helped Portland secure first place in the Western Conference.
TIM CAHILL, New York Red Bulls
The tough and versatile Australian star had a rough first season in MLS in 2012, but he was everything the Red Bulls could have hoped for this season. He gave the team leadership, a box-to-box midfield presence and vital goals (11 total) to help the Red Bulls win the Supporters' Shield. He played through injuries and added five assists to his double-digit goal tally.
ROBBIE KEANE, Los Angeles Galaxy
With David Beckham retired and Mike Magee traded away early in the year, the LA Galaxy needed someone to pick up the slack in the attack and Keane did just that. He was one of only two players in MLS to record double digits in goals (16) and assists (11), racking up those impressive totals in just 23 matches. He did that while also putting in international duty with the Irish national team.
MIKE MAGEE, Chicago Fire
Dealt from the LA Galaxy to Chicago just six games into the season, Magee helped transform the Fire from struggling afterthought to legitimate playoff contender. Magee scored a career-high 21 goals, one short of the league lead, and gave the Fire the attacking threat it so desperately needed.
MARCO DI VAIO, Montreal Impact
To put Di Vaio’s impressive season into perspective, consider this: His 20 goals on the season were as many as the Impact’s next seven leading scorers combined. The Italian striker’s ability to time his runs perfectly and finish at an astounding rate helped the Impact reach the playoffs for the first time.
GOAL USA MLS BEST XI- Second Team
Donovan Ricketts; Sheanon Williams, Aurelien Collin, Omar Gonzalez, Seth Sinovic; Javier Morales, Graham Zusi, Osvaldo Alonso; Camilo Sanvezzo, Diego Fagundez, Landon Donovan
GOAL USA MLS BEST XI- Third Team
Clint Irwin; Kofi Sarkodie, Amobi Okugo, Drew Moor, Tony Beltran; Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Darlington Nagbe; Alvaro Saborio, Thierry Henry, Federico Higuain