The decade from 2000 to 2009 was a landmark period for Major League Soccer, both in terms of growth and improved quality of play, so it's only right to take a look back at the decade some are calling the Aughties.
The fine folks at Soccer America gave us their MLS Team of the Decade, and it was tough to argue with any of their selections:
GOALKEEPER- Pat Onstad; DEFENDERS- Jimmy Conrad, Carlos Bocanegra, Chad Marshall, Wade Barrett; MIDFIELDERS- Shalrie Joseph, Dwayne DeRosario, Steve Ralston, Landon Donovan; FORWARDS- Taylor Twellman, Jaime Moreno.
If there was a selection I didn't completely agree with it was Wade Barrett. He has had a solid career in Houston, but Robin Fraser and Michael Parkhurst were both more dominant than Barrett during their strongest stretches of the decade. My All-Decade team would probably have featured Fraser rather than Barrett, though Barrett is still a good pick.
Now, onto some individual all-Decade awards, starting with MLS Player of the Decade, which is without question Landon Donovan.
Good arguments can be made for both Dwayne DeRosario and Shalrie Joseph when discussing the player of the last decade in MLS, but neither can match Donovan's accomplishments.
DeRosario has the best case to challenge Donovan, but he falls short. DeRosario does boast one more championship (four) than Donovan (three), but DeRosario also benefited from playing with the San Jose/Houston dynasty for most of that decade while Donovan had to suffer through the LA Galaxy's era of misery, but not before helping guide a mediocre 2005 Galaxy team to a title.
Having fewer titles than DeRosario shouldn't really be used against Donovan considering he was San Jose's key figure for both of DeRosario's first two championships. Yes, DeRosario scored the game-winning goal in the 2001 MLS Cup Final for the Earthquakes, but it shouldn't be forgotten that DeRosario was essentially a super sub on both San Jose teams (he came on in the 86th minute of the 2001 final and in the 60th minute of the 2003 final with the score already 3-1 San Jose). His combined playoff stats during those two San Jose title runs? Try 152 minutes played, two goals, one assist. Landon Donovan's stats during those Earthquakes title runs? 928 minutes played, nine goals and four assists.
What should be noted about DeRosario is that he's a special player with a knack for making memorable plays. He has scored some of the most beautiful goals in MLS history, and you certainly can't ignore the fact that he has scored the game-winning goal in two MLS Cup finals, but it should also be noted that his career playoff totals of five goals and five assists aren't that much more than what Donovan posted in the 2001 playoffs alone (five goals, two assists).
In fact, Donovan's playoff totals alone secure his status as the league's best last decade. A league-record 17 playoff goals along with eight assists. When you include his regular-season numbers, 96 goals and 75 assists compared to DeRosario's 62 goals and 48 assists, you realize the race isn't really that close.
You can point to Donovan's penalty miss in the 2009 MLS Cup Final as some sort of strike against him, but Donovan had already done more than enough throughout the decade to walk way with Player of the Decade honors.
Here is your chance to vote. Who do you think was the MLS Player of the Decade?
Now, as for some other All-Decade MLS awards:
Coach of the Decade– Sigi Schmid. Two MLS Cup titles with two different teams AND led a third to the playoffs in an expansion season? That's enough to give him the edge over Steve Nicol and Dom Kinnear in a very close race.
Defender of the Decade– Jimmy Conrad. There were other defenders who were better, but none played as well over as long a period of time as Conrad (and that's not even including the comedy value he provided).
Goalkeeper of the Decade– Pat Onstad. Again, there were goalkeepers who were more dominant, but Onstad has provided a steady and strong presence in the back for San Jose and Houston for most of the decade.
What did you think of the MLS All-Decade team? Which player wasn't mentioned that you thought should have been? Who got your Player of the Decade vote?
Share your thoughts below.