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SBI MLS Pre-season Best XI

Guillermo Barros Schelotto 1 ( 

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Who are the best players in Major League Soccer?

That's an interesting question to ponder at the start of every season and with the 2009 MLS season just three days away, it is worth looking at just which players represent the best of the best.

Don't expect too many surprises in the MLS pre-season Best XI. We will offer up our take on the All-Breakout Best XI later this week. This Best XI doesn't just feature the players I think are the best in the league, but also the players poised to have the biggest seasons.

Here is the SBI MLS Pre-Season Best XI (and second and third-best XIs):


———Juan Pablo Angel——Landon Donovan————

—————-Guillermo Barros Schelotto——————-

Dwayne DeRosario——————————–Chris Rolfe

————————-Shalrie Joseph————————-

Gonzalo Segares——————————–Marvell Wynne

————–Chad Marshall——Wilman Conde—————

—————————Kasey Keller—————————


————-Fredy Montero—-Kenny Cooper—————–

———————–Cuauhtemoc Blanco———————-

Darren Huckerby———————————Sacha Kljestan

————————–Ricardo Clark—————————

Chris Wingert———————————–Frankie Hejduk

—————–Jimmy Conrad—Bakary Soumare————–

——————————Joe Cannon————————–


————-Brian Ching———-Brian McBride—————-

————————-Javier Morales————————–

Robbie Rogers————————————Steve Ralston

————————–Kyle Beckerman————————-

Michael Harrington——————————-Sean Franklin

—————–Bobby Boswell—–Jamison Olave—————

——————————Jon Busch—————————-


If there is a bit of a long-shot in the first team it is Chris Rolfe, who I see having a true breakout year for the Fire. Do I think he is one of the 11 best players in MLS? No, but I think he will have the best season of any right winger in MLS. I almost put Kljestan on first team, but I see him leaving at mid-season and I think Chivas USA will struggle some this year. I also considered Ralston, but I just think Rolfe is going to have a 10-12 goal season on a very good Fire team.

Kasey Keller makes the team in his first year in MLS. Yes, he's been out of action for a year, but it's tough to forget his top form for Fulham a year ago. There were plenty of good goalkeeping candidates, such as Cannon, Busch, Reis, Onstad and Hesmer, but I'm going with Keller to have a big year.

There were obviously some tough calls, like Schelotto over Blanco (okay, not that tough, but both are deserving) and Conde over Conrad and Soumare. The top four centerbacks listed here are in their own class and there is a drop off after that group. I probably could have gone with a three-man defense to fit Blanco on the Best XI, but stuck with the four-man defense instead.

What do you think of the teams? Any surprises? Any players you feel should have made a team? What is your Pre-season Best XI?

Share your thoughts and picks below.


  1. Not bad, but a couple strange ones.

    First, regarding the First XI.

    1. Kljestan over Rolfe. Not even close, in my opinion. Move Rolfe down to second XI. Though Kljestan really played in a 4-5-1 the middle.

    2. Huckerby over DeRo, who hasn’t been very good in two years, IMHO. And he’s plays centrally. I wouldn’t even put DeRo in the top 2 (on the left: Rogers). Nor in the middle (Schelotto, Morales, Blanco). Also, Ralston and Kljestan played better in the middle last year than DeRo.

    3. Hejduk over Wynne. This really isn’t close either. Just ask Bob Bradley.

    4. Kasey Keller? Looked washed up the last time I saw him play. Busch should be #1. I’d put Kasey 3rd at best.

    Second XI.

    1. Morales over Blanco. Easy.

    2. Montero hasn’t played one game in MLS, no way should he be on any of these teams at this point. Move McBride or Ching up, and a spot for Buddle, Jaime Moreno, Emilio, or Conor Casey in the third team.

    3. I’m OK with Kljestan and Ralston wide, though Steve may not play there much this year (withdrawn forward).

    Third XI.

    1. Beckerman over Pablo Mastroeni? Nope.

    Other than those minor beefs: DeRo, Rolfe, Keller, Wynne, Blanco, Montero, Beckerman, its pretty solid.

  2. Conde on the first team and Morales on the 3rd? I know you’re a Conde fanboy but you should really reverse that.

  3. Why did you leave off former EPL star Freddy Ljungberg, but include aging keeper Keller?

    Freddy may be the Swedish Schelotto?

  4. I think Javier Morales is grossly underated. He had an amazing number of assists and scored several goals. He was up for MVP for heavens sake. How could he be on the 3rd team? I agree with Wingert on the 2nd team, he played very good last year and looked awesome in the preseason. But I think Morales (and to a lesser part Beckerman) is a big mistake on the third team. I would definetly say 2nd team for both of them.

  5. looks like much of the same, not too many ‘new’ field players expected to make an impact in mls this year. I hope Fredy Montero is the real deal, it would be good to have some new, exciting talent in the league.

  6. Chris Rolfe? The list looks a bit too much based in the past except for that pick. It is a bit of an aging team, actually list 3 is as well. I’m glad you did make 3 efforts though.

    I’m still partial to Matt Reis for goalkeeper though; Joe Cannon???

  7. The big question with some of those players, ie, Kljestan and Wynnne, is if they are even in the league long enough to get awarded.

  8. What’s with the Marvell Wyne love affair? Yes…a very gifted athlete. But that’s about all that separates him from Alexi Lalas in the height of his career. He’s a poor defender and has no skill!

  9. Al, seven of Rolfe’s nine goals came from midfield. They played a 4-5-1 almost the entire season so it would have been tough for Rolfe to bang out that many goals from up top when he was rarely used there.

    Heck, now that I think about it, I saw Rolfe’s hat-trick vs. New York and he was definitely on the wing in that game.

  10. im not a fan of Kljestan on the wing anyhow… he’s more of a CM then anything….

    rolfe plays both side of the ball and STILL manages a solid year of 8-10 goals + a decent amount of assists….

    Kljestan is a better player, which he’s shown on the intl’ level, but Rolfe has just gotten off one of his top seasons last year and i cant recall a single RM who out performed him..

    saying that, Rolfe is no winger either… he needs to be up top with BMB, but from what ive gathered by interviews with players and DH, Nyarko is playing very well up top with BMB, so me thinks he’s staying out wide….

    despite my post, i would gladly take kljestan or rolfe on my team… especially since they play different roles 😀

  11. Doesn’t Pablo have to be on there? I’d even put him on the second team and drop Ricardo Clark on the third. Just becuase you don’t think his team is very good doesn’t mean he isn’t. Was Dan Marino less good because the Dolphins didn’t win anything? What about Ernie Banks? I’m not comparing Pablo to those guys, but if you’re giving individual “awards” to guys, shouldn’t it be focused on the individuals contribution to the team, and not on team success?

  12. Jim Brennan should be on there, quite possibly at #1 LB/DL but definitely not below #2.

    Are you even sure Rolfe is going to play right mid? I’ve not paid much attention to them in preseason but surely he’s seen time up top alongside McBride. He’s definitely better at striker than mid – thus to suggest he’d be a 1st team right mid is a bold statement.

  13. Ching seriously?!?!?!

    I haven’t seem him do anything spectacular since his bicycle kick, which from the looks of the rest of his career was a the first thing he’s done that merits a highlight. I can think of 3 forwards that have a greater presence than him:

    Twellman – injury prone but better in the air, can place the ball when shooting, holds the ball up better, and is actually good at passing

    Galindo – Faster, smarter, plays well as holding and behind the defenders, can always find the back of the net in 1v1 or 1v2 situation

    Emilio – Best poacher in the league, fits DCs style perfectly as they play an uglier Arsenal style of walking the ball in the net, he must look up to Inzaghi, he also moves more than Ching when space needs to be created

  14. What!? I can’t believe you left out Kevin Goldthwaite and Mike Magee from the first team! OK, just kidding…

    Is it me or things are pretty slow before the opening of the regular season? I think there were a total of five posting yesterday between SBI, RBR, NYT Goal, NY Post, and Dave at The Offside… What gives?

    Don’t you guys realize your blogs are like a drug to many of us? You get us hooked and then leave us wanting more…


  15. Ives,

    I think your right about the Rolfe pick. I think if he sticks around he could be the next Taylor T (in the mold of 1/2 step below US Nats but a great MLS player).

  16. Alrigthy – the Crew homer raises his hand here…

    I’d’ve bumped Rico Clark altogether. Moved Beckerman up to 2d team and put Brian Carroll on 3d team. (And nice to see someone else here recognize how good he’s become!)

    I’d also bump Montero to 3d team at best, and maybe off the list. I can’t argue with the top 3 choices (Donovan, Angel, Cooper) but I’d put either Ching or McHead on 2d team ahead of Montero, and I might bump him from 3d for Alejandro Moreno, too.
    If we’re just adding up goals scored, then there are plenty of options ahead of Ching/McBride. But if we’re also talking about target players who do a lot of dirty work winning balls from defenses and setting up teammates, I gotta believe that A. Moreno should be much higher than he is.

    I’m *almost* ready to quibble about Frankie vs Marvell Wynne, who’s best game still seems to be 4 years ago when he shut down Messi at the Kids’ World Cup and hasn’t approached that performance yet.

    Finally, I’m surprised to see Chris Wingert this high up. The guy was a disaster in Columbus. I spent a year (2005) watching defenses treat him like a broken garden gate. He was constantly out of position, chasing the wrong player, and providing other teams highlight-reel material. He was a really nice guy and great to talk to at fan events, but good for 3-4 face-palms each game. I admit I didn’t watch a lot of RSL last year, so maybe he has improved that much. I’m just really surprised by it.

  17. I would also add that Bryan Namoff is the one bright spot in D.C. Untied’s defense, and one of the most underrated players in MLS. He has been a stand out player, and I feel that he should be at least be on Third-Best XI.

  18. I think its a pretty good list, but Rolfe over Kljestan stood out to me as well as the one obvious place I would disagree.

    And, you don’t think a healthy Lundberg rates a place on here?

  19. RSL is underestimated again.

    *Prediction Alert*

    Real Salt Lake is going to shock the MLS with the best record and winning the MLS cup.

  20. A few points:

    Luciano Emilio just didn’t impress me last year. At least not enough to lead me to think he will be one of the top six forwards in MLS this year. I guess I just don’t see D.C. getting it done this year.

    Carl Robinson was actually my third-team pick, but then I waivered a bit and went with Beckerman (I’ll admit part of the reason was because I wanted to get more Western Conference representation on). I also happen to think that Sam Cronin is going to play more than people expected, which could take some shine away from Robinson.

    Fredy Montero is a special young player and I can’t see how he doesn’t net 12-14 goals if he stays healthy.

    As for Keller, I do agree that it’s completely conceivable that he comes out rusty and isn’t the old Keller, but just a year ago the guy was playing at a very high level in the EPL. He might not put up the shutouts playing behind that Seattle defense, but I do think he could very well pull off tons of great saves and have a monster year. That’s the unknown with a player his age coming here for the first time though, and I acknowledge that.

    As for Freddie Ljungberg, if I were actually convinced that he was going to stay healthy this year then I’d have him much higher, but as it stands, I could see him missing a lot of games.

    And I didn’t forget Taylor Twellman, just not sure what his health status is as far as his concussions. If he’s healthy, he’ll certainly find his way to 12 or more goals.

    And lastly, I was expecting some comments about the Rolfe pick but I think people are going a bit overboard. The guy is the only midfielder to crack last year’s Top 10 in goals scored, and I think he’s only going to get better as he learns the right wing position. Throw in the fact that it’s a contract year (I think), and Rolfe is absolutely poised for a big year.

  21. Ives, I know he was injured last year, but don’t forget about Taylor Twellman. Yes, he is not the national team answer, but he is an OUTSTANDING MLS striker.

    Even with all of his injury problems last year, he still managed to score 8 goals in only 12 starts. If he can stay healthy, I expect him to be among the top 4 goal scorers yet again.

  22. Sebastian Le Toux was a very solid player in the USL. It will be interesting to watch and see if he can keep the same level of performance in MLS. Not saying he’ll be a first XI, but maybe a 2nd or 3rd.

  23. Wow, Freddie Ljungberg not even good enough to make third team? Really? I think that’ll be the biggest miss on this list by far. All reports are that his history of injury is just that…. history. With Jacqua, Montero, and Le Toux in front of him, I’ve got a feeling you’ve just missed one of the highest assist guys in MLS.

  24. Barry Jive-
    After watching DeRo in the Carolina Challenge Cup, I think he is going to have a monster season. He seemed revitalized to be playing for Toronto, and was all over the pitch creating chances for himself and others. I’m no Toronto fan, but I was hugely impressed with him.

  25. Sasha doesnt play as a winger. He is an attacking mid. Rolfe is a good winger. He has a great touch, takes people on and beats them but then has a strikers touch. If he was playing in Blanco’s role for us he would getting 10 goals 8 assists a season, at least. Rolfe is one of the best players in this league but our coaching staff is dead set on this 4-5-1 formation. I love Blanco but if we can keep these guys around next season, we will be 100% faster, have a great counter attack and have the most skilled team in the league. We already have the most skilled but now they will be fast and skillful. There is no team in this league that is better than the Fire. We just need a coach that has some idea of what to do. We need to get a coach that has an attacking mindset and lose Hamlett. As long as he is around we will lose games we should win, and draw games at home like always. A 1-1 draw is not good enough for this team.

  26. Glad it is recognized that Keller is still 3rd best American keeper playing anywhere in the world.

    Pablo should be on one of these teams.

  27. 1. Sasha Kljestan over Rolfe. I think Rolfe is great and highly under-rated. But Sasha is just plain better than him. Plus, with Blanco in the middle, Rolfe ends up having to spend more time tracking back and defending in the Chicago scheme of allowing now space in the back. That’s kind of like using Donovan in a primarily defensive role–he can do it but it’s a bit of a waste.

    2. Emilio needs to be somewhere on the top 3 teams. The man has 40 goals in 2 years in all competitions for DC United.

    3. Keller to me is a wildcard. Maybe he’ll stone everyone. Or he may have trouble shaking off the rust (especially with a so-so group of defenders in front of him). I think there’s a 20% chance that Keller doesn’t start more than 1/2 of Seattle’s matches this year.

    4. I’d put Convey somewhere on these 3 teams. In the English game he’s more of an outside mid. But he heart was always as an A-mid and that’s also where Rongen used him at times.

    5. I’d rate Beckerman and Brian Carroll ahead of Ricardo Clark. Don’t get me wrong–RC is faster, more skilled, better touch, more versatile than Brian Carroll. But Columbus fans will tell you that Carroll was a huge difference-maker for that team last year. If he builds on last year, I think he’ll have a much better season than Ricardo Clark.

    6. I’d rate Javier Morales over Blanco. I think Blanco will slump badly again as the season goes on. While RSL is increasingly looking like “maybe” the best team in the West.

    And those points noted, I actually think it’s a pretty strong list Ives–I think my comments are most nit-picking–very small changes to what I’d basically leave unchanged–especially for a preseason list.

  28. I know it was just an unfortunate oversight that Carl Robinson didn’t make any of your three. By the way even I wouldn’t put Marvell on the first team and based on your comment yesterday I half expected to see Toronto’s long awaited CB on the list, nameless of course.

  29. I think both DeRo and Rolfe should be third teamers, with the others moving up a notch. Maybe at the end of the season you’ll end up being right, but right now DeRo and Rolfe don’t rank that high in those positions.

  30. Okay, maybe I didn’t make it clear enough, but the Best XI are the players I think will have the best seasons, not necessarily the players who I think are the best at their positions. There is a difference (though on this Best XI, you can argue for every player on it being the best in the league, except for Rolfe).

    As for the question about Kljestan, I do see him leaving at mid-season, and almost left him off completely because of it. I also think Chivas USA won’t be as good this year so despite his ability, Kljestan could struggle to have the same impact as Rolfe will on a loaded Fire team.

  31. Agree with Q. Emilio has to make the top 3. Also, I get that Convey is in a new position but to say that he isn’t in the top three teams is goofy when I look at who you put in there. Time will tell.

  32. I know that you are not a fan, but no DCU players on any of the teams at all? They do have some class. I’m not saying that they will be good, but there has to be someone that will stand out at the end of the season or they will end up in last place.

  33. Chris Rolfe on the first team? Methinks you are very optimistic. You can split hairs on guys all day long, but he is the one glaring mistake in my opinion. Good player, but not first IX good.


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