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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. Ives, if you put Cooper over Ching and Wynne over Heyduk, does that mean that you would put Cooper and Wynne over starters Ching and Heyduk for the USMNT?

  2. I find it extremely difficult to put Marvell Wynne over Frankie Hejduk as right back. Wynne may be faster on the ball and in recovery, but Hejduk is better than him at all other facets of the game.

  3. I like Rolfe, but don’t see how being pursued by Celtic a reason for downgrading an MLS player? He’s not sold yet. Others like Donovan could move this summer. Maybe if it was called “prediction at post-season Best XI”. I’m not even that sure Rolfe is a winger.

    Keller last played when? He’s still good but there’s a decent chance his reactions are slowing. I’m ok with Cannon over Busch but most probably disagree. Franklin is promising but I don’t think he’s top 3 just yet. For now I’d put Carroll over Beckerman.

    Robinson is decent but overrated by many. No higher than 5th at DM at best.

  4. Not buying your explanation for Carl Robinson’s ommission. Nevermind leaving him off the third, he’s second team.

    Cronin may get minutes, but it won’t come at Robinson’s expense. Cronin may play the holding role when Robinson is with Wales, but otherwise it’ll come at right back when Wynne is away, or in midfield at the expense of Ricketts.

  5. Sacha vs. Rolfe:

    2008 stats:
    Sacha 5 goals, 7 assists (26 games);
    Rolfe 9 goals, 7 assists (22 games).

    Now, who said that Sacha is just plain better? His defense is flimsier than Rolfe and he scores fewer goals. What’s the argument about? Rolfe hasn’t performed for the MNT with the same flair as Sacha did against Sweden, but then Sacha didn’t measure up against Mexico either.
    I agree with Ives that Rolfe’s going to have a breakout year. I think he’s accustomed to the midfield now, has a solid backline behind him with a better wingman at his back (not Leadfoot Prideaux), a target forward who will draw lots of defensive attention in McBride and the Nyarko to run like hell and pull people out of position. Add Rolfe’s crafty ball work and long-distance bomb (which he’s developed over the past two season – he didn’t used to be deadly from range but it shows his quality that he’s become a threat outside the 18) and I think some people are going to be eating their words in October.

  6. Man only one kenny cooper comment. Things have really changed. Not sure Angel will have a better season with out DVB on the team but Kenny may leave mid way through the season and that could be just as good a reason for the second team rating. Great job with the list. I love the discussion.

  7. Javier Morales on the third team???? Man it was an injustice he was overlooked for MVP considertions last year and again because he plays in small market USA he is already being overlooked. Look for Morales to be top choice for MVP this year.

  8. Yeah….I’m a Chicago guy but I’d rate Morales about equal with Blanco….he’s definitely more mobile although Blanco is still the most skilled player in MLS with the ball. I wish he would have moved to Spain in his prime actually, I think he would have been a legend at some midtable squad.

  9. Kljestan needs to be in the first XI no question about it, Morales I think now is better than Blanco, Rogers is better than De Rosario now, and how is Mastro not in any team??

  10. Ives,

    You seem pretty adamant that Ching is the US’s first-choice striker, yet he’s on the 3rd team and Cooper’s on the 2nd. Is this because you think Cooper makes a better MLS player and Ching is a better international? Or do you think this is the year that Cooper will surpass Ching in the US pecking order? Do you think Ching will be third choice (behind Altidore, too) going into 2010?

    I guess the same goes for Wynne and Hejduk.

    Speaking of Hejduk…

    I have to put up a defense about our last Hejduk exchange when I accused you of (at least at one time) being a part of the “Hejduk is awful” crowd that you called out during the US-MEX commentary. You wrote off your quotation as an even-handed analysis of a poor game for Hejduk. That’s completely fair. But the part of the quotation I was most interested in was when you said something very close to: “this performance makes you start to pray for Wynne to get more minutes.” Like I said before, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, nor am I trying to twist them. But I think that it was fair for me to infer that Hejduk had dropped to third choice in your eyes (and I feel I’m putting that the nicest way I possibly could).

    Sincerely, your all-time fave,

    Mike Caramba

    PS Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

    PPS Pitt’s gonna win it all

    PPPS Portland State to the Sweet 16!

  11. The best defense in the league for the last two seasons and only Rico Clark and Bobby Boswell get selected (and neither on the first team?)

    Ives is mental.

  12. @ MKV:
    “Any Crew fans that can point to an aspect of Wingerts game that is superior to Harringtons cuz I can really come up with one (other than Harringtons snubs at a cap with the NATs, Wingert only has one at our worst posistion so Im not sure that is even holds merit).”

    Not likely, since Wingert plays for RSL and hasn’t played for Columbus is over 2 years.

  13. I have to admit, I have never understood why some in the business think so highly of Ricardo Clark. (Ives 2nd Best XI)

    OK, he’s got some pace, a little skill, and every once a while pull something spectacular, but I’ve never (from my view) seen him do what he does well consistently. Sometimes he rubs off on me as borderline erratic and reckless or worse yet careless on many occasions. Are these viewpoints my own miss perception? Have I not watched enough Dynamo matches? A kind explanation would be helpful. Thanks.

  14. i like many of the picks you made here. but i think you may have overlooked chad barret. I think he is prime for a big year in toronto

  15. I would select Sacha over Rolfe.

    I thought Emilio or Conor Casey up top and Christian Gomez and/or Claudio Lopez in the midfield might break into the 3rd team.

  16. Trent,

    A. Moreno showed that he was better than McGod?

    When did this happen? When Moreno was playing for the Crew while McGod was becoming a legend for a Premier League squad?

    You my friend are letting your emotions get in the way of rational thinking.

  17. you guys in Seattle are a hoot

    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.

    Posted by: Indie FC | March 17, 2009 at 10:27 AM

    All reports eh? The only thing that’s history is the money you wasted signing this guy.

    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.

    Posted by: Cam | March 17, 2009 at 10:30 AM

    I’d agree but we’re not picking ball boys

  18. I’m not going to comment on the non-TFC players because I haven’t paid as much attention to them as necessary in pre-season to form judgments.

    But so far, Wynne has looked truly terrible in pre-season. Continually caught up field, beaten on the dribble several times. I’m sure he’ll be improved when it starts counting, but given the rest of Toronto’s performances (particularly the bad ones, on d) he doesn’t merit first team inclusion.

    Those hating on DeRo for two slower years in Houston need to remove their heads from their posteriors and actually watch him play. He had six points in six preseason games and was the best player on the field in every one of them. He definitely deserves first team inclusion.

  19. My Best guess for upcoming season




    —-Shalrie Joseph—-



  20. Pretty good, nice job Ives.

    Wingert over Harrington I do have problems with buy Harrington is very underrated and plays for one of the non-hype clubs so thats not really suprizing I guess. Any Crew fans that can point to an aspect of Wingerts game that is superior to Harringtons cuz I can really come up with one (other than Harringtons snubs at a cap with the NATs, Wingert only has one at our worst posistion so Im not sure that is even holds merit). I’d switch Soumare with Conde as well but you cant go wrong with either. Im not sure Steve Ralston can get back to full form with that leg break and his age. Davey Araund doesnt play a traditional posistion, but he is one of the top 33 players in the league.


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