Eli Lesser @thisweekinmls
The 2019 Major League Soccer season hits its symbolic midway point with this week’s All-Star Game taking place in Orlando on July 31, beginning at 5 pm. The match pits the league’s top players against Atletíco Madrid. With that being said, here is the MLS Best XI heading into the All-Star break:
Strikers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Josef Martinez
With these picks based strictly on the numbers, the clear and obvious choices for the two striker positions are LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez. The duo currently sits at two and three in the Golden Boot race as Martinez has netted 17 goals for the Five Stripes and the Lion has bagged 16 for the G’s. Both players were named to the MLS All-Star Fan XI, as well.
Wingers: Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi
The two best and most consistent wingers so far this season happen to play on the same team. The duo of star Mexican International Carlos Vela and rising Uruguayan Diego Rossi has been lethal for an LAFC team that currently boasts a +36 goal differential. While Vela has unquestionably been the best player in the league this season with 22 goals and 13 assists, Rossi has not been completely outshined by his veteran teammate as he has 12 goals and five assists to his name. Both were selected to the MLS All-Star team.
Midfielders: Alejandro Pozuelo, Eduard Atuesta, and Maxi Moralez
The toughest choices for this MLS Best XI came from the three midfielder spots and, in the end, the numbers dictated the decisions. Toronto FC’s Alejandro Pozuelo has been an excellent replacement for “the Atomic Ant” Sebastian Giovinco. The 27-year-old from Spain edged out Portland’s maestro Diego Valeri for this list as he sports similar numbers but in fewer minutes played. For the holding midfield spots, LAFC’s Eduard Atuesta battled LA Galaxy’s Jonathan Dos Santos, and he joins NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez, who beat out Philadelphia’s Jamiro Monteiro, for this distinction. Fans and coaches overlooked Atuesta who has been a rock for L.A. in the midfield and tallying in two goals and eight assists. This Best XI gives the Colombian the acknowledgement he deserves. Even tough Monteiro should receive a lot of credit for the Philadelphia Union sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings, Moralez has been remarkable for the pigeons this season, leading the league with 13 assists to complement six goals.
Defenders: Ali Adnan, Ike Opara and Miles Robinson
The one Best XI decision not based on numbers comes with the inclusion of Vancouver Whitecaps Left Back Ali Adnan. There needed to be one fullback on this Best XI and Adnan was chosen over guys like Kai Wagner, Roman Metanire, Jorge Moreira and Anton Tinnerholm because the Iraqi International has to be considered the most talented fullback in the league. One of the biggest moves made in the 2018-19 offseason was when Minnesota United spent big money to acquire 2017 Defender of the Year Ike Opara from Sporting Kansas City and so far, it has paid off for the Loons. According to advanced statistics from WhoScored.com, Ike Opara has been the best defender this season. Atlanta United’s Miles Robinson has been criminally underrated this season. Ranked second according to the same statistics from WhoScored.com, Robinson has come into his own this season for the Five Stripes and anchors his team’s backline.
Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid
Bill Hamid has been the best goalkeeper in Major League Soccer this season. Hamid is second in the league in clean sheets with nine and second in the league in saves with 90. Additionally, the DC United Homegrown has an insane save percentage of 76.3%, and Hamid has also not conceded a penalty goal in three chances. It is shocking that the American was not selected to the MLS All-Star team.