SBI MLS Awards

The 2013 SBI MLS Most Improved Best XI

Mike Magee Chicago Fire (Chicago FIre)

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

Every year, MLS teams are lauded for the international signings and draft picks that pan out and make their acquisitions look good, but one thing that often goes overlooked is how important it is for successful teams to have players enjoy breakout seasons.

The list of players who took their game to a new level is an impressive one, and the selections for the SBI MLS Most Improved Best XI show just what such breakout years can do for teams. Consider that of the 11 players selected to our Most Improved Best XI, nine were part of playoff teams, representing seven of the 10 teams to reach the MLS playoffs in 2013.

While the main focus of the team is to identify players who have made the jump from reserve and fringe player to regular starter and standout, this year we had to include MLS MVP Mike Magee for having a dream year where everything came together for him. Even though Magee had won multiple MLS Cups in the past, and shown himself to be one of the best big-game players in MLS, 2013 remains an epic accomplishment that earns him a well-deserved place on this team.

The selections for the SBI Most Improved Best XI were based on overall improvements made by the player, both relating to performance and significance of role on their team. The team was limited to players who had played in MLS prior to 2013.

Who else made the 2013 SBI MLS Most Improved Best XI? Here are our selections:

2013 SBI MLS Most Improved Best XI

Rodney Wallace————Mike Magee————Lamar Neagle

——————-Kelyn Rowe———Diego Fagundez————-

——————————Uri Rosell——————————–

Chris Klute———————————————Kofi Sarkodie

——————-Shane O’Neill———Chris Schuler————-

———————————Zac MacMath————————-


Joe Bendik; Jeb Brovsky, Ike Opara, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Leo Gonzalez, Raymon Gaddis; Russell Teibert, Dilly Duka, Nathan Sturgis, Jeremy Hall; Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad.


What do you think of our MLS Most Improved Best XI selections? Who failed to make the cut that you feel should have been included? Who are you happy to see mentioned? What player’s improvement impressed you the most?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Clyde Frog

    Leo Gonzales comes to mind. Went from a part time starter to a guy the Sounders really depended on.


    • Big Red

      Pretty sure he’s always been the starter in Seattle. The difference was that he was lock down this year. Voted defensive MVP by his teammates. He was quite possibly the best fullback in the league this year. Sounders went on a big late season slide when he got hurt and that was not a coincidence. Forget what everyone said about Dempsey and the National Team call ups. They didn’t win a game down the stretch once Gonzalez was hurt.


  • dreadpirate82

    For someone who was already as good as Mike Magee to (deservedly) make this list shows how ridiculously good he was in 2013. Dude is a baller.


  • SD

    Pretty impressive group. How many get invited to January camp? Btw, when is that list coming out?


  • timothy

    I actually thought Shane O’Neil looked pretty good last year. Biggest difference between last year and this year was that he got opportunities. Nate Sturgis was my biggest improvement story this year for the rapids


  • timmytwoshoezzz

    Most Improved Best XI? Come on, its just the MLS Most Improved XI. The use of “best” is superfluous. I thought command of the English language was important for modern journalism?


  • Eric

    Amazed that Clint Irwin did not make this team. Started the season as the Rapids’ third-string goalie (remember that Ceus was at one point selected ahead of him, if you can believe it) and became easily an above-average #1 in MLS.

    (I may also be biased because he is one of the best footballers to follow on Twitter. But I digress.)


    • Nettie

      Since Bendik was the backup last year to Donovan Ricketts, he didn’t get the playing time to really demonstrate his ability before this year so it’s hard to say that he’s greatly improved. I know he had demonstrated enough talent at Portland that as a Timbers fan I was sorry to see him go, but I’m very happy that he’s getting the opportunity to show what he can do at Toronto.


  • TomG

    Not sure if it really fits the spirit of the award, but technically speaking, Cahill had a much better year this season than his first.


    • slowleftarm

      I think that’s exactly the kind of player who should be considered. Good call, he went from being labeled a bust by some early in the season to MVP candidate.


  • Brett Bates

    Klute, Magee, and Rosell were the 3 most impressive improved players in my opinion. All three will be AllStars for years to come and should be playing for their National team (aside from Rosell, Spain is a way above his talent level)


    • Nic D "The TX 2 Stepper"

      To be fair, Uri (the former La Masia product) was called up to the Catalonian Selection. That is NO small honor. He will only be in camp with Xavi and Iniesta and Fabregas.


  • Bob Fitz

    Another honorable mention is Michael Harrington who went from the bench at KC to logging the most minutes played for the Timbers as their left back. Not the flashiest of fullbacks, but good, steady play all season long.


    • Tony in Quakeland

      Meh. To me he was their weak point. He was always active, but never had anything to show for it.


  • chodilicus

    Will Johnson absolutely has to be on this list. I am an RSL fan and he was always good while in Claret and Cobalt. However, his passing and finishing was always subpar. Then this year he was the leader of the team with the most points in the west in the regular season and scored spectacular goals. I believe in this single season he scored more goals than the rest of his MLS career. He must be first team, not even honorable mention!


  • Shyam

    Not sure if this counts because his previous struggles were due to injury, but Conor Casey had a great year this u ear after contributing nothing in 2012.

    Michael Harrington from the Timbers also deserves a shout as an honorable mention, IMO.


      • Shyam

        McInerney’s production wasn’t that much of an uptick from the previous season. He got more recognition for his quality but his breakout happened in 2012 when Nowak was sackecld. He deserves credit for a good year, but not for most improved.


    • BrianK

      Come on? Are you really that down on this trade? Think of all the great PC PR the Galaxy got!


  • Paige B

    Zac MacMath, He played hard throughout the year. And don’t forget his age, so there’s always more room for improvement!


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