Orlando City leads the way with three selections
By Official Florida FC
We spent the last month watching men’s professional soccer return in a bubble in Central Florida.
As Major League Soccer focuses on resuming its regular season, following the Portland Timbers’ victory over Orlando City, Official Florida wanted to wrap up the tournament by selecting a Best XI. Only one person who made the 2019 MLS Best XI made our Best XI from the past month.
At Official Florida FC, we are big believers that fullbacks and holding midfielders are necessities in modern soccer. That means our MLS is Back Best XI has both.
Portland’s Diego Valeri, Philadelphia’s Brenden Aaronson and Los Angeles FC’s Bradley Wright-Phillips — all of whom are super subs for our Best XI — narrowly missed the cut.
GOALIEANDRE BLAKE, PHILADELPHIA UNION
Blake is the best shot-stopper in Major League Soccer. Though he occasionally flapped at high balls in the penalty area, the Reggae Boyz’ No. 1 singlehandedly kept Philadelphia in a handful of contests, including a group stage contest against Orlando City, during the Union’s run to the semifinals. His 32 saves and 86.5 % save percentage led all keepers at MLS is Back.
DEFENSERUAN, ORLANDO CITY
His energetic runs from deep gave Orlando City width on the right and helped the Lions retain possession during their run to the final.
ANTONIO CARLOS, ORLANDO CITY
The Lions central defender was clean in possession and was rarely required to make a tackle in seven games. Entering MLS is Back, Orlando City had shown vulnerability defending set pieces. Carlos played a big role in Orlando not conceding a set piece goal — either directly or indirectly — until the final.
MICHAEL BOXALL, MINNESOTA UNITED
The New Zealand international was the steadier of Minnesota United’s two central defenders during the Loons’ run to the semifinals. He was part of a defense that kept a hard-pressing San Jose squad to a late consolation goal in the quarterfinals and defeated the high-flying Columbus Crew in the Round of 16.
CHASE GASPER, MINNESOTA UNITED
The 24-year-old American is defensively sound, as evidenced by committing one foul in six MLS is Back contests. While his passing could improve — on three occasions during MLS is Back Gasper completed fewer than 80 % of his passes — his ability to win aerials at one end of the park and conjuring key passes at the other helped separate himself from other fullbacks in the competition.
MIDFIELDERYK WILLIAMSON, PORTLAND TIMBERS
Who knows whether the 23-year-old American will be a starter when the MLS regular season resumes. But, when afforded an opportunity to play in MLS is Back, he embraced it. He appeared in all seven matches for the MLS is Back champions. In the knockout rounds his pass completion percentages where exactly what one wants from a central midfielder: 90.7 percent in the Round of 16 win over FC Cincinnati, 88.9 in the quarterfinal win over NYCFC, 90.0 in the semifinal win over the Philadelphia Union and 95 % in the final against Orlando City.
EDUARD ATUESTA, LAFC
The 2019 MLS Best XI holding midfielder produced one of the performances of the tournament to help LAFC obliterate Seattle in the Round of 16. He averaged a 7.21 Whoscored.com rating in five MLS is Back matches.
NANI, ORLANDO CITY
The Orlando City designated player scored the winner against Inter Miami, converted the winning penalty kick against LAFC and produced a beautiful brace in the semifinals against Minnesota United.
SEBASTIAN BLANCO, PORTLAND TIMBERS
The tournament MVP scored three goals and assisted five others. In the Timbers’ tournament opener against the LA Galaxy, he assisted the opener and scored the winner. In five of Portland’s seven games, Blanco either scored or assisted his team’s opening goal. The 32-year-old Argentine also scored what proved to be the match-winner in the semifinals against Philadelphia.
DIEGO ROSSI, LAFC
He scored seven goals in five games. All kidding aside, the 22-year-old was the most lethal attacker in MLS is Back. His goals came on his first eight shots on goal.
FORWARDAYO AKINOLA, TORONTO FC
The 20-year-old forward contributed to 71 % of the goals the Reds scored in MLS is Back. He not only showcased his speed and strength; but, an ability to be in the right place at the right time. The former may eventually wane the latter is what separates class goal-scorers from their peers. Not coincidentally, Toronto looked lost without him in its Round of 16 loss to NYCFC.