2016 Defender of the Year earns second consecutive Best XI nod
FRISCO, Texas (Monday, Dec. 5) – Major League Soccer today revealed the 2016 MLS Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position on the field as determined by media, MLS players and MLS club staff.
From the 2016 Supporters’ Shield Champions, Matt Hedges and Mauro Diaz were named to MLS’s top 11. It is the second consecutive season that Hedges had earned the honor. Hedges becomes the second player in club history to record back-to-back MLS Best XI nods. Ronnie O’Brien was named to the MLS Best XI in 2005 and 2006.
The 11 players named to the Best XI represent some of the league’s most exciting and accomplished talent comprised of international stars and breakout players.
2016 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids), Jelle Van Damme (LA Galaxy)
Midfielders: Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact)
Forwards: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
The 2016 Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake suits up in between the posts on the Best XI. The Jamaican international had a breakout season in 2016, becoming the undisputed starter for the Philadelphia Union with 32 regular season starts en route to helping the Union qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The first goalkeeper to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft in 2014, Blake has outshined his competition this year with his remarkable shot-stopping abilities and athletic prowess, earning himself a 2016 MLS All-Star nod in the process.
Manning the Best XI back line are three standout defenders who led their clubs to the top three finishes in the Western Conference. The 2016 MLS Defender of the Year, Matt Hedges anchored FC Dallas in one of the franchise’s most successful seasons which saw the club capture the 2016 Supporters’ Shield and 2016 U.S. Open Cup title. Joining him is the towering 6-foot-7, 2015 MLS SuperDraft pick Axel Sjoberg, whose unassuming breakout season helped the Rapids complete one of the greatest turnarounds in MLS history, going from a last place finish in the West in 2015 to the Supporters’ Shield runner-ups in 2016. Closing out the group is LA Galaxy newcomer Jelle Van Damme, whose steadfast leadership and daunting presence along the back line steered the Galaxy to its eighth consecutive postseason appearance.
Some of the most skillful players on the ball make up a dangerous quartet of midfielders on the Best XI squad. From the Western Conference, Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy) was one of only two players league wide to register double digit-goals (14) and assists (12) in 2016, while Mauro Diaz ranked tied for third in MLS in assists (13) en route to leading FC Dallas to its double titles. In the Eastern Conference, Ignacio Piatti finished tied for third in the league with 17 goals, helping the Montreal Impact to become the first Canadian team to reach the Conference Championships. Rounding out the midfield group is 2016 MVP finalist Sacha Kljestan, who led the Red Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference with 20 assists, the second highest single-season assist mark in league history.
The Best XI forward contingent is made up of three of the most lethal strikers the league has seen, all hailing from the Eastern Conference. Combining for 121 goals since 2015 are 2015 Golden Boot and MLS MVP winner Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), 2016 Golden boot runner-up David Villa (New York City FC), and 2016 and 2014 Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls). All three players continued to light up the field this year, with New York rivals, Villa and Wright-Phillips, ending the regular season with 23 and 24 goals, respectively, while earning the tag as the league’s most prolific strikers over the past two years with 41 combined goals apiece. Giovinco has continued his dominance in Canada, leading the league in combined goals (17) and assists (15) for the second straight year.
Seven of the players named to the 2016 MLS Best XI are first-time selections, while Giovinco, Hedges and Wright-Phillips each make their second appearance.