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Major League Soccer’s biggest stars named to 2017 MLS Best XI

NEW YORK (Via MLS) – Major League Soccer has revealed the 2017 MLS Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position on the field as determined by media, MLS players and MLS technical staff. The 11 players named to the Best XI represent some of the league’s most exciting and accomplished talent comprised of international stars, breakout players and top newcomers to the league.

2017 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Tim Melia (Sporting Kansas City)
Defenders: Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
Midfielders: Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Víctor Vázquez (Toronto FC), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
Forwards: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Nemanja Nikolić (Chicago Fire), David Villa (New York City FC)

The 2017 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia suits up in between the posts on the Best XI. The American had a breakout season in 2017, posting career highs in wins (12), shutouts (10), saves (91), minutes (2,759) and games started (31), while leading Sporting Kansas City to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title. Melia’s 10 shutouts ranked second in the league as he helped SKC to its seventh consecutive postseason appearance.

Manning the Best XI back line are three standout defenders who led their clubs to postseason appearances. The 2017 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara anchored a Sporting defense that conceded a league-low 29 goals, the fewest allowed in a single MLS regular season since 2012. Opara led SKC to a record fourth U.S. Open Cup title in 2017, his second Open Cup title with the club. Joining him is towering 6-foot-5 Kendall Waston, who provided an intimidating aerial presence with a career-high four goals scored, helping Vancouver Whitecaps FC to a third-place finish in the Western Conference standings. Rounding out the group is Toronto FC’s Justin Morrow, who scored a career-high eight goals in his eighth MLS campaign this season. Morrow helped Toronto produce a dominant regular season, allowing a mere 37 goals scored for the second-lowest total in the league this season.

All five 2017 Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalists, along with the top four vote receivers for the 2017 MLS Newcomer of the Year, compose a talented midfield and forward group on the Best XI squad. Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri became the second player in MLS history to register a 20-plus goal and 10-plus assist season, helping his squad to the top spot in the Western Conference standings. Valeri set a league record when he scored in nine consecutive matches this season. In the Eastern Conference, Víctor Vázquez helped Toronto FC set an MLS regular season record with 69 points. The Spanish midfielder finished second in MLS with 16 assists to go along with eight goals scored.

Toronto FC teammate Sebastian Giovinco finished inside the top 10 with 16 goals scored, helping TFC become the first Canadian club in league history to capture the Supporters’ Shield, while also winning the 2017 Canadian Championship. The skilled Italian playmaker ranks tied for third in MLS history with 55 goals scored across a player’s first three seasons in the league. Complementing Giovinco on the Best XI is New York City FC forward David Villa, whose 63 goals rank first all-time among a player’s first three seasons in the league. Villa finished second in the league with 21 goals scored in addition to nine assists on the season.

Nemanja Nikolić makes the Best XI squad in his debut MLS season after capturing the 2017 MLS Golden Boot with 24 goals scored, the fourth time he has led his respective league in goals scored, accomplishing the feat across three different countries. A talented and young Designated Player duo from Atlanta United rounds out the Best XI. Forward Josef Martínez scored 19 goals in his debut MLS season, fourth-most in the league this season and the highest goal total ever by a player on an expansion team. The 23-year-old Almirón, meanwhile finished tied for fourth in MLS with 14 assists to go along with his nine goals scored. The talented MLS newcomers helped Atlanta become the third active expansion team to make the postseason in its debut MLS season, while the club’s 70 goals scored this season set an expansion team record.

Seven of the players named to the Best XI are first-time selections, with Waston and Villa making their second appearances, and Giovinco and Valeri each making their third appearances. All players on the Best XI squad played for teams that qualified for the 2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

2017 MLS Best XI Bios:

Tim Melia – Goalkeeper – Sporting Kansas City
Nationality: USA Born: May 15, 1986
The 2017 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year registered a club-record 0.78 goals against average in 31 regular season starts. Melia helped SKC win the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy, his second with the club after capturing the title in 2015. Named the 2015 MLS Comeback Player of the Year, Melia ranked second in the league with 10 shutouts this season.

Justin Morrow – Defender – Toronto FC
Nationality: USA Born: October 4, 1987
The versatile defender played an integral part in Toronto FC’s historic season as he scored a career-high eight goals, while contributing to 12 clean sheets. Morrow helped Toronto become the first Canadian club to win the Supporters’ Shield while also capturing a domestic double with a 2017 Canadian Championship title. The American defender also helped the United States Men’s National Team to a first-place finish at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Ike Opara – Defender – Sporting Kansas City
Nationality: USA Born: February 21, 1989
The 2017 MLS Defender of the Year had a breakout year leading a Sporting defense that conceded a league-low 29 goals, the fewest allowed in a single MLS season since 2012. He also helped SKC capture their fourth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title, tied for the most of any MLS team in the tournament’s history. Since Opara arrived at the club, SKC have qualified for five consecutive postseasons. Opara shook off consecutive injury-riddled seasons to register career highs in games played (30), games started (30) and minutes played (2,700) in the 2017 campaign.

Kendall Waston – Defender – Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Nationality: Costa Rica Born: January 1, 1988
Waston emerged as a leader in his first season as captain for Whitecaps FC, registering an MLS career-high four goals while finishing third in voting for the 2017 MLS Defender of the Year. Behind Waston’s leadership, Vancouver returned to the postseason with a third-place finish in the Western Conference. On the international stage, the Costa Rica national team player scored the game-winning goal in clinching a spot for his country in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Miguel Almirón – Midfielder – Atlanta United
Nationality: Paraguay Born: February 10, 1994
The 23-year-old Almirón quickly became a must-see attraction as the playmaker at the heart of the Five Stripes’ dynamic attack, bagging nine goals and 14 assists. He helped the club to a 14-8-8 record in his 30 appearances as Atlanta earned a fourth-place Eastern Conference finish, becoming the third active expansion team in MLS to make the playoffs in its debut season. A mainstay on Paraguay’s national team after earning caps in both the 2016 Copa America Centenario and in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Almirón held the top selling jersey in MLS this year.

Víctor Vázquez – Midfielder – Toronto FC
Nationality: Spain Born: January 20, 1987
The former FC Barcelona academy player led Toronto FC to the best regular season points total in MLS history. Vázquez led Toronto FC to become the first Canadian club to capture the Supporters’ Shield. The Spaniard finished the season with 16 assists, the second most in MLS, to go along with his eight goals scored. Vázquez also led the league with six game-winning assists.

Diego Valeri – Midfielder – Portland Timbers
Nationality: Argentina Born: May 1, 1986
The Argentine playmaker became the second player ever to record a 20-goal, 10-assist season in MLS, finishing the year with 21 scores and 11 helpers to lead Portland to the top seed in the Western Conference. The Argentine’s 32 combined goals and assists ranks tied for fifth-most in league history, while his nine consecutive matches with a goal scored set a new MLS record. Valeri previously led Portland to the 2015 MLS Cup title where he was named MLS Cup MVP.

Sebastian Giovinco – Forward/Midfielder – Toronto FC
Nationality: Italy Born: January 26, 1987
Giovinco helped lead Toronto to an historic season with the most points ever in an MLS season (69 points), as the Italian scoring 16 goals and provided six assists. With six direct free kick goals in 2017, Giovinco set a single-season MLS record while also becoming the all-time career leader in league history (13 career free kick goals). This season Giovinco garnered his third consecutive selections to the MLS Best XI squad and to the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target.

Josef Martínez – Forward – Atlanta United
Nationality: Venezuela Born: May 19, 1993
The dynamic Venezuelan forward finished his debut MLS season with 19 goals scored, the most ever by a player in an expansion team’s first season. Martínez’s three hat tricks in one season tie an MLS mark while his 0.95 goals per game average ranks third in league annals among players with at least five goals scored in a single season. Martínez helped Atlanta to finish second in the league with 70 goals scored, the most ever by an expansion team in its first season in MLS.

Nemanja Nikolić – Forward – Chicago Fire
Nationality: Hungary/Serbia Born: December 31, 1987
Nikolić joins Valeri and Villa as 20-plus goal scorers in 2017, the fourth time in league history three players have scored 20 or more goals in the same season. The 2017 Golden Boot winner (24 goals) finishes as the leading goalscorer in his respective league for the fourth consecutive season, accomplishing the feat across three different countries. The Hungary National Team forward helped Chicago return to the postseason with a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference standings.

David Villa – Forward – New York City FC
Nationality: Spain Born: December 3, 1981
Villa makes his second MLS Best XI team after scoring 22 goals and leading NYCFC to the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer, Villa is one of only two players in league history to register consecutive 20-plus goal campaigns. Villa’s 63 goals rank first all-time among a player’s first three seasons in the league. Villa has played in three World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014), leading Spain to the 2010 title while receiving the Silver Shoe for scoring the second most goals in the tournament.