SBI Mid-Season MLS Best XI

WondolowskiPOM (Getty)

As we hit the mid-way point of the MLS season, it is time to look at the players who have enjoyed the best seasons in the league.

There are plenty of worthy candidates for the Mid-Season MLS Best XI, including some no-brainer selections like Chris Wondolowski and Dwayne DeRosario. Some positions are very tough to choose from, like defensive midfield, where Kyle Beckerman and Osvaldo Alonso are both worthy selections.

The SBI Mid-Season MLS Best XI was voted on by SBI's editorial staff and comprises of our picks for players at all 11 positions in a 4-4-2 formation. So no, our midfield doesn't have two playmakers and zero defensive midfielders like the fan-voted MLS All-Star First XI.

Eight teams are represented in the Mid-Season Best XI, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that San Jose, D.C. United and Real Salt Lake are the only squads with multiple selections in the first team.

Here are SBI's selections for the Mid-Season MLS Best XI: 



———-Chris Wondolowski——Thierry Henry————-

———————–Dwayne DeRosario———————–

Chris Pontius———————————-Landon Donovan

————————Kyle Beckerman————————-

Gonzalo Segares—————————–Steven Beitashour

—————Aurelien Collin—Jamison Olave—————-

—————————Dan Kennedy————————– 


——————Will Bruin——–Kenny Cooper————–

————————–Graham Zusi————————–

Brad Davis—————————————Marvin Chavez

————————-Osvaldo Alonso————————-

Daniel Woolard———————————-Lee Young-Pyo

——————Carlos Valdes—-Jay DeMerit—————–

————————Andy Gruenebaum———————–


What did you think of our selections? Who is missing that you think should have made the team? What player are you happy to see honored?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in SBI MLS Awards, SBI MLS Best XI. Bookmark the permalink.

83 Responses to SBI Mid-Season MLS Best XI

  1. The Dude says:

    About right. I wish the ASG would play two different XIs, one in the first half and one in the second, so as to avoid mass substitutions.

  2. maxq says:

    It’s interesting how much love Collin gets from the national media. I think most SKC fans would say Besler is the better overall CB. Collin is good, but takes too many risks that don’t pay off.

    (SBI-I would argue that some KC fans still hold Collin’s many mistakes from 2011 against him. If we’re talking strictly the first 17 games of the 2012 season, Collin has been better than Besler. Besler you can say is steadier, but Collin has improved on the mistakes and makes more big-time plays than Besler. Both are very good, but for first half of 2012, Collin is the pick.)

  3. Brad S says:

    I’m a SKC fan, but I am thrilled that you recognized the work that Dan Kennedy and Andy Gruenebaum have done this year.

    I would not trade Jimmy Nielsen for either of them, BUT I can recognize when quality is being displayed and I think Kennedy is the #1 most underrated player in the entire league.

  4. Matt says:

    It’s really hard to argue any of the selections for the first team. I approve.

  5. elgringorico says:

    Way to go Ives! Pit this team against Chelsea and we MAY have a match on our hands.

  6. Michael F. says:

    Where’s Adu? You can’t tell me he’s not having a good year. Oh no you can’t!

  7. Steve Burns says:

    No room for Patrice Bernier at MF, even on 2nd team? How does Will Bruin rank over a guy like Koevermans on TOR?

    (SBI-Bernier is having a great season for Montreal, but isn’t beating out Beckerman or Alonso. As for Bruin over Koevermans, one of those players has been scoring goals all season, the other just started a month ago.)

  8. Steve Burns says:

    also, from VAN, what about Joe Cannon… not better than Gruenenbaum? (you may have a bit of an anti-Canada bias?)

    (SBI- Cannon is having a very good season, but Cannon is playing behind a much better defense than Gruenebaum or Kennedy. Both of those keepers have had to play behind weaker defenses than Vancouver, as evidenced by the fact the Whitecaps had two defenders make second team Best XI and neither Chivas USA or Columbus garnered any selections at all. When you consider that, AND the fact Gruenebaum and Kennedy have better goals-against averages AND saves per game averages than Cannon, you might see our line of reasoning.

    And an anti-Canada bias? That’s pretty hilarious.)

  9. elgringorico says:

    Some of this has to be tied to the success of the teams… MON and TOR are NOT having good seasons, so it’s hard to argue the value of any of their players (even though obviously Bernier and Koevermans are strong candidates).

  10. elgringorico says:

    Vancouver has 2 defenders on the 2nd team…you might have a little pro-Canada bias?

  11. Werner says:

    No Marco pappa???

  12. MIchael Vann says:

    I know the Rapids haven’t been great this season as they are in the midst of a big transition going from a kick-n-run to possession style but right at the hub of that transition has been Jamie Castrillon. He’s been absolutely brilliant. He’s been one of the best two-midfielders in MLS. Castrillon could have easily been in these mid-season Best XI’s but maybe it’s best he’s not. I get the feel he likes flying under the radar and enjoys that unsung hero role. Nonethless, he’s been a great acquisition not only to the Rapids but MLS.

  13. fischy says:

    What’s interesting is that you guys had Gruenebaum as the best goalie in the first half, but he’s 2nd team here.

    Hard to disagree with your selections, except that Paul Gardner won’t be happy to see only one alleged Hispanic in your first XI — apparently, he doesn’t think De Rosario counts. Also, he won’t be happy to see Henry in the first XI, even though his MLS strike rate is the best in the league’s history. He’s also not a big fan of Zusi….

    Me — personally, despite his goal total, I don’t see Cooper in the mix here. He’s just not that good. He’s benefited from talent around him. Few of his goals were impressive in any way — not his finishing, not his positioning, etc.

  14. Ryan says:

    No Patrick Nyarko either. Probably one of the most underappreciated players in MLS.

  15. MIchael Vann says:

    **two-way midfielders**** I was missing “way” in my original post.

  16. Mouf says:

    Most fans would tell you Espinoza is our best midfielder too. Fantasy/goals/assists dictate a lot of this

  17. Charles says:

    Olonso > Beckerman

  18. b says:

    Or maybe you have a pro-Canada bias based on your two comments (although I agree w you on Koevermans over Bruin)… Gruenenbaum and Kennedy are the top two keepers in trhe league, almost everyone agrees on that. Cannon is good but there are five others at the same level as him.

  19. b says:

    +1 on Cooper

  20. Obviously biased towards them by Lee Nguyen has looked dangerous against almost every team he’s played against. Probably not first team material but definitely honorable mention material. Hard to pump guys like Pontius and Davis.

  21. b says:

    Agreed, Alonso should be first team and Beckerman second team.

  22. Erm. Bump, that is?

  23. Jeff says:

    First team would kick second team’s butt. Chavez is nothing without the San Jose system and Wondo.

  24. Camjam says:

    as Ives said, that is clearly: A)debatable and B)a toss up.

    Both are very good. Ozzie covers more ground, Beckerman dictates pace/passes better

  25. b says:

    So you’re saying Besler is overrated because of fantasy stats? How many people do you think actually follow that?

  26. Mouf says:

    No, Just mean a guy like Collin will get more pub than say Besler because he scores goals. Not the goals aren’t important etc.

    Zusi has a ton of assists from FKs, I don’t think he is a “top” attacking mid

    All these players mentioned are solid players, and I know from my inexperience with other teams, guys jump out more that show up more in the box score, absent of context etc

  27. Chris F says:

    How is Bernardez not on Either team?? He’s the best Centerback in the League right now

    (SBI-Missing a big chunk of the first half cost him. Before the injury he was definitely on pace to be a first or second team pick.)

  28. n8ngrimm says:

    Your first team has a combined guaranteed salary of $10,343,790.53 and your second team’s salary is $2,136,491.67.

    IF you applied the DP rule, your first team would fit nicely under the MLS salary cap at $2,730,600.

    None of your second team make more than $350,000 so that team wouldn’t benefit from any DPs.

  29. jayfiveme says:

    That’s just not true. Cooper has had some very impressive finishes starting with his first goal with, a very delicate chip. Only true gimmies were the pk’s. He certainly has benefited from talent around him but its the same talent Agudelo had at the beginning of the year and he couldnt get off the bench.

  30. elgringorico says:

    Nice. Crazy that Landy and Henry compose more than 75% of the first team’s salaries. The remaining players (particularly DeRo) are incredible bargains.

  31. elgringorico says:

    Also, in revisiting San Jose’s 2012 salaries: Wondo is the highest paid player at $300k. Pretty awesome.

  32. vik says:

    I think him missing a bunch of games from his injury affects his chance of making teams like this. Hopefully by the end of the season he’ll have shown he belongs.

  33. vik says:

    very cool

  34. seth says:

    dax mccarty

  35. Lost in Space says:

    The only Criticism/Question I have regarding SBI’s pick is Donovan. While I’ve not seen many Galaxy games this year….the ones I have seen were not impressive showings for Donovan. Expecially in the beginning of the year. While I can’t identify an alternate to Donovan off the top of my head…I’ve got to believe that there is someone out there who’s played better/more consistent.

    (SBI- Donovan did have some bad and/or mediocre games early in the year, but he did turn it on later and was key to the team’s turnaround. That, and the fact right midfield isn’t exactly a loaded position in MLS are how he still makes it.)

  36. beto says:

    Castrillon has been a golden pickup for the ‘pids but id say its a stretch to put him in the Second Best XI, maybe in place of Zuzi?..

  37. beto says:

    interesting.. at least the money is being spent well

  38. beto says:

    certainly not his best year ever but him an Henry are the only ones in top 10 in goals and assists. also 4/6 goals are on the road, all of which were pretty important.

  39. Andrew says:

    Nick Rimando

  40. Jason says:

    Matt Pickens

    (SBI-He’s having a great year, no question, but can’t get the nod over the above two. He’d be third in my book based on the first half of the season.)

  41. Zac says:

    I absolutely disagree.

  42. JRP says:

    Half of these dudes aren’t on the all star team because we have to make room for underwear models who are “building the league” one tighty whitey at at time.

  43. JRP says:

    Good luck making that argument in the real world. Olave was injured for four games. He still made the list because he is the best.

  44. JRP says:

    Be careful using logic on these posts to point out how messed up the salary cap is coupled with the DP exemption. People here love their overpaid players and don’t want to see the league grow with more players EARNING $300,000 salaries. More Beckermans, fewer Beckhams.

  45. Dulliwhig says:

    Mr. Farfan,

    Don’t be coy – you have had a much better season that Fredddy. Sure he has shown flashes, but has lacked consistency. You have 4 assists while Adu only has one – and he has been taking the bulk of corners as well!

  46. Chris F says:

    @ Vik, I understand that but to have Valdes over Bernardez is Laughable

  47. Sean says:

    Pretty accurate Best XI I must say. Marco Pappa maybe deserves a spot?

    (SBI-Not over Pontius. Over Davis you can probably argue, but Pappa didn’t start off the season too strongly and that may have cost him in the voting.)

  48. JRP says:

    He is only good enough for the national team as the no 3 keeper. But that does not make you good enough for the MLS top two. These things are rubbish. He is always underrated.

    (SBI-You don’t grasp the difference between a Best XI and a Best Player depth chart. Just because someone is highly rated as a national team player doesn’t mean they’re having a great club season. As for Rimando “always” being overrated, he was SBI’s Goalkeeper of the Year in 2010. Nobody’s saying Rimando isn’t quality, but for the first half of THIS season, he hasn’t been one of the best in the league.)

  49. JoeW says:

    I think that Cooper and Woolyard are both rated a bit high and I’d want to find space for Marco Pappa. Otherwise, I’m surprisingly in agreement with every other selection.

  50. kar says:

    Have to agree — Nyarko makes everyone else sooo much better with his creativity going forward and work rate on defense.

  51. Lio says:

    I think you have that backwards. Chavez dictates the play of the quakes and strives due to his pace and ability to take on defenders whereas wondo relies on the service of those around him, mainly Chavez and Beitashour. As far as him needing the SJ system, first of all he has 0 goals and 7 assists with one second assist so its not as if he is being served goals on a platter to succeed… Instead he does that for wondo. San Jose went from the second worst team in the west last season to the team currently in first in the league, and their biggest acquisition was Marvin Chavez…

  52. Advocate says:

    All analysis and salary considerations aside, does anyone think that their favorite MLS team would not take Donovan in an even trade for anyone — ANYONE — on its current roster if it had a chance to do so?

  53. Michael Stypulkoski says:

    Saying that Cooper’s positioning hasn’t been good is odd. How else has he ended up with all of those goals? You don’t score eleven goals in eighteen games by accident. You either score them by skill (which you seem to think is not the case here), or you poach them by being the right place at the right time. If you’re arguing that Cooper lacks the skill to create so many goals, that must mean his positioning has been exemplary.

  54. Jim says:

    Woolard 2nd team? Wouldn’t be in my top 7 left backs

    (SBI-Say what you want but this year Woolard has been vital for DC, whether playing at CB or LB. Talk about six more talented left backs if you want, but there haven’t been six left backs who have had better first halves of 2012. Some are comparable, like Justin Morrow and Alain Rochat, but not clearly better the first half of this season.)

  55. fischy says:

    You’re right. I used the wrong word. I meant movement, not positioning.

  56. joemybro says:

    How many DCU Games have you watched this year? Woolard has been the most consistent thing about the DCU back line this season. He doesn’t bring much offense, so I get him not being 1st team, but he’s been a stud for them all year on D. His play allows whoever is playing in front of him to attack at will.

  57. PD says:

    I say 2nd team wins in a scenario where LD and Henry phone it in…

  58. Dennis says:

    I am not a Cooper fan, but he has done what forwards are supposed to do, score goals. For that, he belongs i this mix.

  59. JRP says:

    Yes. RSL. San Jose. Both teams don’t want his attitude. How many times has he cried about one of his teammates being the reason the team isn’t doing well. San Jose and RSL don’t want the prima donna.

  60. Metro says:

    Meara, McCarty and Barklage should all be on the second team or honorable mention.

    (SBI-Someone should probably watch more teams play. Kidding aside, Meara isn’t close to being Best XI. Great rookie story, has had some outstanding games, but Best XI? Nope. McCarty has had an outstanding season, a very underrated player, but he’s not beating out Beckerman or Alonso. And Barklage? A great Most Improved Player candidate, but he hasn’t been better than Beitashour or Y P Lee.)

  61. Juan says:

    What, no Golden balls? how can it be? Didnt you see that 30 yard kick he made to hit the official with the ball? Surely he deserves at least a second team spot?

    I dont agree with many here but too much work to argue. I would like to point out that Cooper was totally invisible in the Revs game on Sunday and an All Star shouldn’t have been nullified that easily.

    Also would take Benny over either Beckerman or Zusi but Benny doesnt have the stats to make an argument.

    Oh well, opinions varry

    (SBI-The Best XI picks were based on the season UP to the week before last, so Cooper being frozen out by the Revs doesn’t really matter. As for Feilhaber over Beckerman or Zusi, not sure anybody outside of New England or Feilhaber’s family could honestly say Feilhaber has had a better season than either of those two players. That’s pretty absurd, but we all know how fandom can be blinding sometimes.)

  62. WileyJ says:


  63. J-Ro says:

    Alonso is highly overrated. Beckerman, well deserved.

  64. Lil' Zeke says:

    Why, what’s your count? I have it somewhere between zero and one.

    And by the way, he doesn’t “cry” — he blubbers like a hysterical child… a timid, trembling little fetus. I don’t know that I would call that an attitude exactly though.

    What are you talking about?

  65. JMR says:

    Donovan is not in the top ten goal scorers at this time.

    (SBI-He is the top goal-scoring right midfielder though.)

  66. divers suck says:

    You’re laughable J-Ro. I’d even say the 2nd team would beat the 1st team in a match. Henry and Donovan have both missed a slew of games. The other positions are pretty much a wash, including Beckerman and Alonso. Personally I’d give it to Alonso but will regress on that.

  67. Brian says:

    Interesting to see Gruenebaum on your 2nd team when he was SBI’s pick for the best Goalie in the first half of the season.

    (SBI-Different voting for both things. It isn’t unheard of. It actually happened in MLS one year, with Joe Cannon being goalkeeper of the year and Tim Howard being named to Best XI.)

  68. Northzax says:

    DeRo is of East Indian descent, no? Not Hispanic? There isn’t much of a Hispanic population in Guyana. Heck, they don’t even speak Spanish much.

    Cooper belongs here because he’s a striker who’s scored 11 goals in half a season. Strikers have the cleanest statistical job description in soccer: score. Would you rather have a striker who makes all the right runs, or one that scores goals? 2007 Luciano Emilio or 2012 Juan Agudelo?

  69. The Imperative Voice says:

    Let’s just say that the fact he could even be considered for an all-league team makes Vancouver’s “soccer reasons” chuckle-inducing.

  70. Eric says:

    True, Zusi isn’t a prototypical #10 strings-puller or anything, but he also doesn’t need to be. The wingers in SKC’s system–Kei Kamara and Bobby Convey/Jacob Peterson are fully capable of creating chances on their own. This frees Zusi to roam much more, and he covers more ground than probably any other SKC player except Espinoza. In effect, SKC plays two box-to-box midfielders side-by-side.

    Maybe that means that Zusi is out of place here, in a 4-4-2 that SBI is using for their best XI teams, but that doesn’t mean he’s unworthy of a spot. He fulfills his role extremely well and has emerged as one of the top dead-ball specialists in the league. That’s worthy of a second team placing.

  71. Eric says:

    Yeah, there are four keepers in MLS who are having outstanding seasons so far (the three you mentioned plus I would add Ryan Meara). Any of those four would merit inclusion on these teams.

  72. Kris says:

    How can you rank Koevermans over Bruin? They’re pretty even if you ask me. Bruin is actually more consistent over the season in scoring. Koeverman’s is the one heating up and Bruin is scoring less after the Dynamo switched to the
    4-3-3. (Check the stats)

  73. Chodilicus says:

    Ives, How close was Saborio to consideration for the second team? I know that you probably did not take into account his recent hat trick. However, even before that he has been playing really well. He has had at least 5 goals called back this year on terrible officiating calls, mostly missed off-sides. I know that all strikes have a little bad luck but he has had an incredible amount.

    I would argue that Saborio has had a much better first half of the season than Bruin and for a better team. So just curious how close he got to making the cut.

  74. soccerhorn says:

    Hey Metro-I think you forgot Balouchi and Lindpere. Hell, why don’t we just make the entire Red Bulls the Bext XI? I’m guessing you agree.

  75. TomG says:

    He’s not having a good year. Huh, I guess I can.

  76. Genius says:

    Koev should be there over Bruin, typical Ives anti-Canadian bias. Nothing hilarious about it Ives, sorry your boy Mo had to go but it was the right move, about time you get over it.

  77. BHall says:

    Kind of like Olave and Borchers. When Olave first arrived Borchers was the the better of the two, very dependable. It wasnt until Olave stopped giving penalty kicks and getting red carded for stupid takles every other game that he became the better of the two.

  78. beachbum says:

    Chavez absolutely dominated the right side of the field vs. the Galaxy recently. Saw that game live and he was very impressive

    I know he’s done more, but seeing him in person convinced me

  79. beachbum says:

    I love them both smarty pants. Does not have to be mutually exclusive. That Beckerman can make that salary in MLS is aided by all the $$$ and recognition overpaid Beckham drives to the league


  80. beachbum says:

    and both RSL and SJ are driven by their anti-Donovan/Beckham attitudes. It’s helped them, they should be grateful that Donovan/Beckham’s presence has helped them find higher levels to their games

  81. beachbum says:

    agree. that’s what forwards are supposed to do

  82. beachbum says:

    agree. that’s what forwards are supposed to do

  83. beachbum says:

    great that there is so much debate! lots of good players in MLS, more and more all the time, and many good players not making the list. DeRo, LeToux, Montero, Rosales, Morales, Espindola, Saborio, Ferreira, on and on. Not saying those folks earned it this time and some are just back from injury, etc., just saying that the league’s talent pool continues to grow

    good for us