MLS Team of the Decade: Donovan & Vela in but Ibrahimovic misses out

  • Nick Rimando Real Salt Lake 080616.jpgRuss Isabella

    GK: Nick Rimando

    There may have been more talented goalkeepers to grace MLS over the past 10 years, but there have been none as consistent as Nick Rimando.

    On the heels of an MVP campaign, the Real Salt Lake legend kickstarted the decade with a historic 2010 season that saw him set the record for fewest goals conceded in a single campaign.

    Rimando made six All-Star teams this decade while saving a league-record 22 penalty kicks throughout his career, proving a consistently dominant keeper in a league where the position always seems to be in flux.

    As he steps away from the game, Rimando's stats speak volumes, leaving him with a legacy that sees him exit as unquestionably the most accomplished goalkeeper to ever play in the league.

  • Matt Besler Sporting Kansas City MLS 2018Winslow Townson

    CB: Matt Besler

    For virtually the entire decade, Sporting Kansas City counted themselves among the league's top teams, contending year after year atop the standings.

    Matt Besler was a focal point for the entirety of that run, as he came to represent a team and a system that somehow achieved the same results despite the shifts around them.

    Originally drafted in 2009, Besler immediately became a fixture in the Sporting KC backline, and nothing has changed in the decade since. He has shattered several club records during that time, as he leads all players in games played, games started and minutes played both in MLS and in all competitions.

    The Sporting KC captain drew overseas interest after featuring at the 2014 World Cup, but he and teammate Graham Zusi committed their future to the team, where they have remained mainstays ever since.

    With an MLS Cup and three U.S. Open Cups to his name, Besler's team success rivals any in MLS, and his 2012 Defender of the Year and four All-Star appearances illustrate his success at an individual level as well.

  • Chad Marshall MLS Seattle Sounders 10312016Jennifer Buchanan

    CB: Chad Marshall

    If one were to make a team for the previous decade, Chad Marshall's name might just end up on the list, and the fact that his name is among the headliners on this one as well should tell you all you need to know about the defender's career.

    After becoming a fixture for the Columbus Crew in 2004 and captaining the side through the early half of the decade, Marshall became an integral part of the Sounders' surge to the postseason year after year once he was traded to Seattle.

    A three-time Defender of the Year, Marshall helped the Sounders claim a Supporters' Shield, a U.S. Open Cup and, ultimately, a highly-coveted MLS Cup in 2016 while forming the backbone for a team that was a contender from day one. He was often overshadowed as he never broke through on the international stage, but there are few defenders in MLS history as reliable as Marshall.

    Clint Dempsey and Ozzie Alonso's departures felt like a changing of the guard for the Sounders, but Marshall's retirement this past summer was truly the end of an era.

  • Omar Gonzalez MLS LA Galaxy 12072014Kyle Terada

    CB: Omar Gonzalez

    It's easy to forget just how good Omar Gonzalez was during his time with the LA Galaxy.

    The defender spent several years out of the American soccer spotlight after moving to Liga MX in 2016, and his resurfacing during the ill-fated 2018 World Cup qualifying disaster left many with a bad taste. Still, make no mistake, Gonzalez is one of the best defenders MLS has ever seen.

    The former Galaxy star won MLS Defender of the Year in 2011 and finished top three in the voting in 2013 and 2014. He helped anchor the Galaxy defense en route to MLS Cups in 2011, 2012 and 2014, proving a mainstay in one of the most dominant periods the league has ever seen. Gonzalez was ultimately the first defender to earn a Designated Player deal, and he was worth every penny.

    He was often overlooked and overshadowed by his illustrious big-name teammates, but Gonzalez was as vital to the Galaxy's early-decade dynasty as any of them. 

  • Carlos Vela Los Angeles FC 030920219

    RM: Carlos Vela

    How do you crack a list of the decade's best despite playing in MLS for less than two full seasons? Well, you just do what Carlos Vela has done since joining the league: dominate.

    The Mexican star recently wrapped up what is the most prolific regular season in MLS history, smashing the records for most goals in a season and most goal contributions in one campaign. He fired 33 goals while adding 15 assists in his second season with Los Angeles FC, helping complete what was the best regular-season campaign in MLS history for both a player and a club. 

    Vela does not have the longevity of many the others on this list, but MLS has never seen a player as influential as the LAFC star, who has already solidified his place among the best to ever play in the league. 

  • Diego Valeri MLS Portland Timbers 08062017

    CM: Diego Valeri

    Throughout its short history, MLS has seen plenty of Argentinian maestros, but none compare to Diego Valeri.

    Perhaps the best pure playmaker the league has ever seen, Valeri proved the perfect player at the perfect time for the Portland Timbers, and vice-versa. He originally joined the Timbers in 2013 as he helped guide the club to the top of the Western Conference, and he has not looked back since, winning the 2017 MVP award while scoring 21 goals, including strikes in nine straight matches.

    While 2017 was his best year as an individual, Valeri's MLS legacy was truly defined two years prior as he helped guide the Timbers to the club's first MLS Cup. As it begins to look more and more likely that he could leave the club this summer, it is fair to say that Valeri has earned his place in MLS lore while helping usher in a new generation of South American stars.

  • Osvaldo Alonso Seattle Sounders MLS Cup 121016Mark J. Rebilas

    CM: Ozzie Alonso

    From the moment he joined MLS in 2009, Ozzie Alonso set a tone. He was a no-nonsense midfielder right from the start, dominating the center of the field with hard tackles and fearless defending. He was a player that seemed everywhere at once and, unlike many No.6s around the world, it was not hard to notice his influence.

    The Cuban-born midfielder was absolutely vital to the Sounders' success throughout his time in the Emerald City, winning four U.S. Open Cups, a Supporters' Shield and an MLS Cup final.

    His performances in the run-up to the latter finale were legendary, as Alonso made it through that cold 2016 night in Toronto on pain injections, overcoming injury to play 120 minutes as the Sounders won their first MLS Cup.

    In 2017, he became the 10th player in league history to play 20,000 minutes for one team. As if his Sounders dominance was not enough, Alonso helped guide Minnesota United to the playoffs this season, his first with a Loons team that has been among the league's worst in their two MLS campaigns.

    Alonso is no doubt a Seattle legend, and he has more than earned his place as an MLS legend as well.

  • Landon Donovan LA Galaxy MLS 09112016Gary A. Vasquez

    LM: Landon Donovan

    When the league's Most Valuable Player award is named after you, you have to have done something right.

    Landon Donovan is certainly the league's most iconic player, having been one of American soccer's first mainstream stars. In addition to his memorable moments with the U.S. national team, he was a pretty damn good player in MLS, as the aforementioned MVP honor should atest to.

    Donovan claimed three MLS Cups as part of the LA Galaxy's dynasty to start the decade, making the MLS Best XI in all but one season from 2009-14. He remains the league's all-time assists leader with 136 and retired as the league's all-time leading scorer.

    All told, Donovan is the definition of an MLS legend.

  • Sebastian Giovinco Toronto FC

    FW: Sebastian Giovinco

    Plenty of big-name stars have opted to finish their careers in MLS, but Sebastian Giovinco was truly the first player to leave a world-class club in his prime to join the league. And he did not just join; he thrived.

    Giovinco instantaneously became one of the most dynamic players in MLS, scoring and creating goals in equal measure for a Toronto FC team that went down as one of the best in MLS history. He broke the record for goals and assists in a season in his first campaign in the league, and he did not slow down from there.

    A three-time All-Star and MLS MVP,  Giovinco accomplished it all during his time in the league.

    Perhaps most importantly, Giovinco helped lead Toronto FC to the 2017 MLS Cup title, having just missed out the year before. He left this past offseason as a club legend and a player that helped play a big role in redefining the perception of MLS.

  • Robbie Keane MLS LA Galaxy 08232015Jayne Kamin-Oncea

    FW: Robbie Keane

    For a four-year stretch during the height of the Galaxy's powers, Robbie Keane was virtually unstoppable.

    The Ireland striker came to MLS with an abbreviated start in 2011, but he really took off the next season with a 16-goal campaign. Over the next three seasons, he scored 16, 19 and 20 goals, winning MLS MVP honors in 2014. Alongside several other members of this list, Keane claimed three MLS Cups during his time in LA as he scored 104 goals across six seasons.

    In addition to his regular-season success, Keane scored nine goals and provided six assists across 18 playoff appearances, including the match winner in the 111th minute of the 2014 MLS Cup final.

    Big goals, big moments. That was Robbie Keane.

  • Josef Martinez Atlanta United MLS August 6 2018

    FW: Josef Martinez

    There has been perhaps no better goalscorer in MLS history than Josef Martinez, and he has the stats, big moments and trophy haul to prove it.

    Through 83 career games, Martinez has scored a staggering 77 goals, an unprecedented tally in a league that has featured some of the best strikers in the sport's history.

    He has collected an MLS MVP, an MLS Cup MVP and an MLS All-Star Game MVP while breaking the MLS single-season record for goals in a season and career hat-tricks. His partnership with Miguel Almiron was legendary, and it brought Atlanta United an MLS Cup just two seasons into the club's existence.

    The Venezuelan proved the perfect signing for Atlanta, and, if he chooses to stay in MLS for the long haul, there will not be many goalscoring records left to break by the time he departs.

  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic LA Galaxy MLS 03312019Katharine Lotze

    Honorable Mentions

    MLS has grown leaps and bounds over the last decade, and there have been plenty of quality players to call the league home during that period of change.

    Unsurprisingly, a bulk of the league's top talent his been up front, with forwards long being the money-makers in MLS. Stars like David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have arrived from Europe and dominated, while Bradley Wright-Phillips rebuilt his career with the New York Red Bulls en route to a spot among the league's all-time greats. And how could you exclude Chris Wondolowski, the league's all-time leading scorer that continues to find ways to find the back of the net all these years later?

    There have been talented playmakers as well, like Ignacio Piatti, who has long been overshadowed because of where he plays and his team's lack of success. The same cannot be said about Miguel Almiron and his meteoric rise, as the Paraguayan made a massive impact on Atlanta and MLS in general during his two-year stay.

    Diego Chara, meanwhile, may just be the most underrated player of the bunch, having dominated for years as part of the Timbers midfield. 

  • MLS Team of the DecadeGoal

    How they line up

    So, there you have it, our MLS Team of the Decade!

    But what do you make of our selections? Are there any glaring omissions, in your opinion?

    Post your thoughts – and your own line-ups – in the comments...