David Villa (FWD, NYCFC): Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer has lived up to the hype that some DPs struggle with when moving to MLS. Last year he was one of the lone bright spots in what was a disappointing inaugural season for NYCFC under Jason Kreis. 2016 has been a massive turnaround for the ambitious club with Patrick Vieira at the helm. Having Pirlo and Lampard in the mix for a full season is obviously making a difference, but David Villa remains the key player for NYCFC. He is currently tied for the league lead in goals with 16 and has not showed any signs of slowing down. With 7 games still remaining, David Villa could still hit the 20 goal mark for the season and will likely be recognized as one of the three finalists for the league MVP award.
Sebastian Giovinco (FWD, Toronto FC): Giovinco is the best player in MLS. It would be difficult for anyone to make a case arguing that. His pace, movement off the ball, creativity, and finishing abilities combine to make him the full package and a nightmare in the eyes of defenses across the league. Toronto FC sits atop the eastern conference standings and with several home games remaining, is one of the favorites to win the Supporter’s Shield. With an astounding 16 goals and 13 assists through 27 games, the Atomic Ant was undoubtedly the front runner to take home the MVP award for a second straight season until it was confirmed that he will miss about 4 weeks through injury this week. Then again, his numbers are already MVP worthy, he may not need to play another minute to win the award.
Bradley Wright-Phillips (FWD, New York Red Bulls): New York’s form this season has an almost direct correlation with whether or not Bradley Wright-Phillips is finding himself on the scoresheet. Through their first 7 games, they had just 3 points and BWP had no goals. Through their last 8 games, they have 16 points and BWP has found the back of the net 7 times. The Englishman is the spearhead of one of the most dynamic attacking teams in MLS. His recent goal scoring form gives him 16 goals on the season, tied with David Villa and Giovinco for the league lead. 5 assists to go along with his goals have made BWP one of the most productive attacking players in MLS.
Chris Pontius (MID, Philadelphia Union): There were some skeptics criticizing Philadelphia for paying a decent sized price tag and taking on an injury prone Chris Pontius this past winter, but Pontius has made the move worth every penny for Philly. The Union are enjoying their best season since 2011 and look destined for the playoffs for the first time since that year. Pontius isn’t a focal point of Philly’s build up and possession play, however, when they get into dangerous spots, he finds a way to put himself in great positions to score and set up others. He might not be as smooth, or as creative as some of the other big names on this list, but he sure is effective. 10 goals and 5 assists are pretty darn productive for a guy who has played as a true winger all season.
Ignacio Piatti (MID, Montreal Impact): Outside of Giovinco, Ignacio Piatti might be the last guy an MLS defender would like to see running at them 1 v 1. He doesn’t have blistering pace, but he does possess a deft touch and the creativity to ghost by defenders. Piatti and Drogba have formed a great partnership in 2016 and have made Montreal one of the most dangerous teams in MLS when they are clicking. Through 26 games, Piatti has accounted for 14 goals and 5 assists, a great record for a forward, let alone a midfielder. Currently sitting 5 points clear of DC United for 5th in the east, Montreal look like a playoff team once again, led by their Argentine playmaker.
Sacha Kljestan (MID, New York Red Bulls): Kljestan was one of the best offseason moves in 2015 when the New York Red Bulls brought him back to MLS after several successful seasons in Europe. He was fantastic for New York during their 2015 Supporter’s Shield campaign and has elevated his game to another level in 2016. Through 27 games, Kljestan has 5 goals and a league leading 15 assists. The Red Bulls high pressing style allows for them to win the ball in dangerous spots when the defense is spread out, Kljestan’s field vision and work rate are the perfect fit the system and it has shown this season. Klinsmann has taken notice and rewarded Kljestan with his first call up to the USMNT in some time. Do not be surprised if Kljestan makes a big impact in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, he is in the best form of his career.
Mauro Diaz (MID, FC Dallas): With Mauro Diaz on the field, FC Dallas are one of the top teams in MLS, without him, they are a mid-table club. Even when Fabian Castillo was a member of the team, Mauro Diaz was their most influential player. Diaz really is the engine that makes FC Dallas run. His ability to find space and bring other players into the game makes him one of the most exciting playmakers MLS has to offer. 4 goals and 10 assists in 2016 are certainly respectable numbers, but Diaz’s impact on his club is much larger than those numbers speak. If Diaz can stay healthy, Dallas will be a serious contender in the west come playoff time.
Matt Hedges (DEF, FC Dallas): FC Dallas has been the most consistent team in MLS so far in 2016. It only makes sense that their leader at the back and most reliable defender be included in the best XI. Hedges is everything you look for in a dependable central defender. He is a great communicator, tough ball winner, and never tries to over complicate things when the ball is at his feet. Since Oscar Pareja took over as head coach, Hedges has developed in to one of the top defenders in the league and made a case for a US National Team call up. There is an argument to be made that he hasn’t played enough matches this season to be considered a best XI player, but in the 19 games he has appeared in, he has been rock solid and worthy of the nod.
Jelle Van Damme (DEF, LA Galaxy): LA’s Belgian center back might have been the front runner for the MLS Defender of the Year award going in to this past weekend’s games, but after an injury forced him off in their match against Vancouver, his hopes of winning the award may be in jeopardy. You can take one look at Van Damme and know exactly the kind of player he is, a no-nonsense defender that loves the physical battles of the game. It is not often that you come across a defender who has the ability to wow the fans like Van Damme with his jaw-dropping goal line clearances as well as crunching tackles. The injury report is saying he should be out 2-3 weeks with an MCL sprain but as long as he doesn’t miss more time, he should be a lock for a best XI nod.
Axel Sjoberg (DEF, Colorado Rapids): The Colorado Rapids have been the best defensive team in MLS this season, allowing just 22 goals in 25 games. Their stingy defense has been the main reason for the club’s turnaround in 2016 as they sit tied for second place in the west with two games in hand. Sjoberg has been the best defender on Colorado’s backline so far and a huge reason their defensive record is so strong. At 6’ 7’’, his height is the first thing you notice when watching the Swedish defender, but the simplicity and intelligence of his game are equally impressive. He has started in 23 of the club’s 25 games and scored two goals himself to go along with an assist. Axel Sjoberg might not be a name that every MLS fan recognizes, but it sure should be.
Andre Blake (GK, Philadelphia Union): The Union turned heads when they made Andre Blake the first ever goalkeeper to be drafted first overall in 2014. The move was confusing considering they already had a talented young keeper in Zac MacMath. It became even more confusing when the Union signed Algerian international goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi following the 2014 World Cup. The entire situation was an absolute mess and resulted in Blake only appearing in a handful of games during his first two seasons as a pro. 2016 has served as Andre Blake’s coming out party. He has solidified himself as the undisputed number one in Philadelphia and been the club’s most valuable player up to this point. It is tough to say where Philly would be without the security that Andre Blake has to offer. There have been several matches in 2016 that Blake has single handedly saved for the Union. Following the conclusion of his excellent 2016 campaign, expect to hear rumors of European offers for the Jamaican international.
Goalkeeper: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes)
Defenders: Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Drew Moor (Toronto FC), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake)
Midfielders: Joao Plata (Real Salt Lake), Thomas McNamara (New York City FC), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers), Kevin Molino (Orlando City SC)
Forwards: Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC), Fanendo Adi (Portland Timbers), Giovani Dos Santos (LA Galaxy)