NYCFC's Maxi Moralez named to MLS Best XI team for 2019
Best XI features seven first-time selections, while Zlatan Ibrahimović, Josef Martínez, Ike Opara and Carlos Vela make repeat appearances;
Seven MLS clubs and eight countries represented in Best XI
Major League Soccer revealed Monday the 2019 MLS Best XI, recognizing the league's top players at each position as determined by media, MLS players and MLS club technical staff. The 11 players named to the Best XI hail from eight different countries and represent some of the league's most exciting and accomplished talent comprised of international stars, breakout players and top newcomers to the league. Seven different MLS clubs are represented by this year's Best XI squad, all of which qualified for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
2019 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Vito Mannone (Minnesota United FC)
Defenders: Ike Opara (Minnesota United FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles Football Club)
Midfielders: Eduard Atuesta (Los Angeles Football Club), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Maxi Moralez (New York City FC), Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC)
Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club)
•Video soundbytes from Best XI players and their respective club technical staff are available HERE.
•Rights free photography of Best XI players are available HERE.
•Best XI graphics are available HERE.
All three 2019 Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalists compose a forward trio on the Best XI squad that holds the three highest single-season goalscoring marks in league history. Los Angeles Football Club forward Carlos Vela helped the club to an MLS record 72 points this season while breaking the single-season mark with 34 goals of his own, tied for the third-highest total in the global game this year. Vela added 15 assists to finish the season with a league-record 49 combined goals and assists.
Zlatan Ibrahimović, last year's Newcomer of the Year winner, makes his second consecutive MLS Best XI after finishing the season with 30 goals, third most all-time in league history. Atlanta United forward Josef Martínez makes his third consecutive Best XI after finishing the year with 27 goals, tied for fourth most in MLS history. The reigning MLS MVP scored in an MLS-record 15 consecutive matches this season, tied for second most in global soccer since the start of MLS in 1996 behind only Lionel Messi.
The midfield is comprised of four players making their MLS Best XI debut, including two newcomers to the league this season. NYCFC midfielder Maxi Moralez garnered 20 assists this season, second highest in league history and tied for the most in the post-shootout era, to help NYCFC post a club record in points. LAFC 22-year-old midfielder Eduard Atuesta recorded 11 assists this season en route to a record-breaking season for LAFC, earning his first call to Colombia's U-23 National Team in the process. A pair of Spanish newcomers round out the Best XI midfield in Alejandro Pozuelo and Carles Gil, as each was one of only four players this season to record double-digit goals and assists. Pozuelo recorded 12 goals and 12 assists to lead Toronto FC back to the postseason, while the 26-year-old Gil garnered 10 goals and 14 assists for a resurgent New England Revolution squad.
Manning the Best XI defense are three standout Americans who led their clubs to postseason appearances. The 2017 and 2019 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara led an incredible defensive turnaround for Minnesota United FC en route to the club's first postseason appearance. Joining Opara is 22-year-old Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson, who helped the club to two trophies this season and a berth in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League. As a result of his stellar play with Atlanta, Robinson earned his first-ever calls to the U.S. Men's National Team during the September and October FIFA windows. Rounding out the defense is 26-year-old Walker Zimmerman who anchored the stingiest defense in the league this season for LAFC, which allowed an MLS-low 37 goals and posted the best goal differential in league history (+48). Zimmerman has emerged as a regular for the USMNT with seven caps this year.
The 2019 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Vito Mannone, suits up between the posts on the Best XI after leading the third-biggest defensive turnaround in league history for Minnesota United FC. Minnesota allowed 43 goals this season, a 28-goal improvement from the 71 goals allowed in 2018. Mannone ranked second in MLS this season with 129 saves and became the 28th goalkeeper in MLS history to record double-digit saves in a clean sheet performance.
Seven of the players named to the Best XI are first-time selections, with Opara, Ibrahimović, and Vela making their second appearances, and Martínez making his third appearance.
2019 MLS Best XI Bios:
Vito Mannone | Goalkeeper | Minnesota United FC | Nationality: Italy | Born: February 3, 1988
In his first season in MLS, Mannone helped a dramatic defensive turnaround for Minnesota as the club posted the third best defensive improvement in league history, allowing 28 fewer goals in 2019 compared to 2018. Mannone finished second in the league with 129 saves and helped Minnesota qualify to the postseason for the first time in its MLS history. A former player for Arsenal and on loan with Minnesota this season from Reading FC, this is Mannone's first MLS Best XI selection.
Ike Opara | Defender | Minnesota United FC | Nationality: USA | Born: February 21, 1989
Opara won his second MLS Defender of the Year Award (2017, 2019) this season after guiding Minnesota United FC to their first ever appearance in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. In Opara's first year with the club, Minnesota posted the third-largest defensive turnaround in league history, allowing 28 fewer goals this year (43) compared to last year (71). Opara tied a career-high with three goals scored this season to go along with one assist. This is Opara's second MLS Best XI selection (2017).
Miles Robinson | Defender | Atlanta United | Nationality: USA | Born: March 14, 1997
Robinson emerged as a regular starter for the first time in his three seasons in Atlanta, helping the club secure two titles this year in the 2019 Campeones Cup and the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The 22-year-old emerged as a force on the Atlanta backline, earning his first calls to the United States Men's National Team in September and October. The No. 2 pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas, Robinson appeared in all 34 regular season matches for Atlanta this year. This is Robinson's first MLS Best XI selection.
Walker Zimmerman | Defender | Los Angeles Football Club | Nationality: USA | Born: May 19, 1993
Zimmerman joined LAFC ahead of its inaugural MLS season following five years with FC Dallas and has emerged as a lockdown defender. The 26-year-old anchored an LAFC defense that allowed the fewest goals in MLS this season (37) and posted the best goal differential in league history (+48). Zimmerman has also gained playing time for the U.S. Men's National Team since debuting in 2017, becoming a regular this season with seven caps and featuring in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. This is Zimmerman's first MLS Best XI selection.
Eduard Atuesta | Midfielder | Los Angeles Football Club | Nationality: Colombia | Born: June 18, 1997
Atuesta experienced a breakout season for LAFC in his second year with the club, anchoring the midfield for a club that broke an MLS record with 72 points this season. With 11 assists this season, Atuesta was among the top 15 distributors in MLS this season to go along with his three goals. The 22-year-old earned his first call to represent the Colombia U-23 National Team in August. This is Atuesta's first MLS Best XI selection.
Carles Gil | Midfielder | New England Revolution | Nationality: Spain | Born: November 22, 1992
In his first season with the Revolution, Gil guided New England to its first Audi MLS Cup Playoff appearance since 2015. Gil was named the 2019 MLS Newcomer of the Year after finishing the season with 10 goals and 14 assists, one of four MLS players to register double digit goals and assists this season. Previously, Gil spent time with Deportivo La Coruña in La Liga and with Aston Villa in the English Premier League. This is the first MLS Best XI selection for the 26-year-old Gil.
Maxi Moralez I Forward l New York City FC l Nationality: Argentina l Born: February 27, 1987
In his third MLS season, Moralez led NYCFC to its best ever season with a club record 64 points and its first qualification to the Concacaf Champions League, garnering his first selection to the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. The Argentine led the league with 20 assists this year, tied for second most in MLS history and tied as the highest in the post-shootout era. Last season, Moralez was named NYCFC's Player of the Season after his 16 assists finished top four among MLS players. This is Moralez's first MLS Best XI selection.
Alejandro Pozuelo l Midfielder l Toronto FC l Nationality: Spain l Born: September 20, 1991
The 28-year-old Spanish midfielder was one of four players in the league to record double digit goals and assists, finishing his debut MLS season with 12 goals and 12 assists. Pozuelo helped Toronto return to the postseason as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, thanks to a 10-2-4 record in matches where he scored or registered an assist. With experience in the English Premier League with Swansea and in Spain's La Liga with Rayo Vallecano de Madrid and with Belgium's KRC Genk, this is Pozuelo's first MLS Best XI selection.
Zlatan Ibrahimović | Forward | LA Galaxy | Nationality: Sweden | Born: October 3, 1981
The Swedish striker propelled the LA Galaxy to the postseason thanks to his 30 goals and seven assists in 29 matches during the regular season - his second campaign in MLS. The 30 goals are the third most in a single season in league history. The two-time FIFA World Cup player, who was selected to a second MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, joined the Los Angeles Football Club's Carlos Vela as the first two players to average more than one goal per game during a season (minimum 10 games played). This is Ibrahimović's second MLS Best XI selection (2018, 2019)
Josef Martínez | Forward | Atlanta United | Nationality: Venezuela | Born: May 19, 1993
Martínez in three MLS seasons has scored goals at a clip never seen before, already tied for 21st on the MLS all-time goalscoring list with Spanish great David Villa (77 goals). The Venezuelan broke his own MLS record by scoring a goal in 15 consecutive matches this season, which also ties for the second-longest scoring streak in soccer since MLS began play in 1996 (behind only FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi and his 21-game goalscoring streak in 2013-14). Martínez tallied 27 goals and four assists in 29 games in 2019 as a follow-up to his 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP season in which Atlanta garnered its first MLS Cup crown. This is Martínez's third appearance on the MLS Best XI (2017, 2018, 2019).
Carlos Vela | Forward | Los Angeles Football Club | Nationality: Mexico | Born: March 1, 1989
Vela led second-year side the Los Angeles Football Club to a record-breaking season, both collectively and individually. Vela was the 2019 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi when he set an MLS single-season record with 34 goals, to go along with 15 assists, as that combined total of goals and assists (49) is also a league record. The Mexican international fueled LAFC to an MLS single-season record 72 points, a league-tying, single-season record of 85 goals as a club, and the organization's first Supporters' Shield. Earlier this season, the two-time FIFA World Cup player was voted to captain the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target for the second consecutive season. This is Vela's second MLS Best XI selection (2018, 2019).