Sporting Kansas City stole MLS headlines during an electric start to the 2012 season and when they stunningly bowed out of the postseason earlier this month, and they’re once again the talk of the league during awards season.
Sporting landed a league-leading four players on the 2012 Best XI squad announced Monday, including Most Valuable Player nominee and rising US national team star Graham Zusi and Defender of the Year Matt Besler.
Defender Aurélien Collin and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen also made the list for the first time in their MLS careers, punctuating a standout season for both men on SKC’s backline. Collin was one of three finalists for the Defender of the Year award and Nielsen will find out Wednesday if he’s been named the Goalkeeper of the Year.
Sporting Kansas City finished with the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season this year and won the US Open Cup for the second time in franchise history.
MLS players, club leadership, and media members voted one goalkeeper, three defenders, four midfielders and three forwards to the Best XI this year. Eight players were named to the Best XI for the first time in their MLS careers.
The San Jose Earthquakes landed two players on the Best XI after rolling to the Supporters’ Shield and their most impressive season since their 2008 rebrand: MVP candidate and league-leading scorer Chris Wondolowski and Honduran defender Víctor Bernárdez, who finished second in the voting for the Defender of the Year.
Once an unknown substitute languishing on the bench for the Houston Dynamo, Wondolowski has emerged as a regular figure on the league’s All-Pro squad. He’s now been named to the Best XI after each of the past three seasons, while amassing more goals in that span (61) than any other player in the league.
The LA Galaxy – who knocked Wondolowski and the Earthquakes out of the playoffs and will play against the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup on Saturday – landed two players on the list: midfielder Landon Donovan and striker Robbie Keane.
Donovan was named to the team for the fifth consecutive season and sixth time in MLS career, tying D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario for the most selections all-time. Keane makes the list in his first full season in the league after scoring 16 goals and adding nine assists.
Thierry Henry made the Best XI for the second consecutive season after posting MLS career highs this season with 15 goals and 12 assists for the New York Red Bulls. Henry will find out Nov. 29 if he’s beaten Wondolowski and Zusi to earn his first league MVP award.
Seattle Sounders holding midfielder Osvaldo Alonso made the team for the first time in his four-year MLS career. Alonso started 30 games this year for Seattle and becomes just the second Sounders field player to make the Best XI, following Freddie Ljungberg in 2009.
Midfielder Chris Pontius also made the list for the first time in his career after finishing with a career-high 12 goals and helping lead D.C. United to their first postseason berth since 2007.
Six members of the Best XI were named to the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game First XI and eight were named finalists for other 2012 postseason awards.
The LA Galaxy boast more Best XI appearances than any other franchise in MLS (27), followed by D.C. United (24).