MLS The Daily Kickoff

By Anonymous (not verified), November 10, 2022
Thu 11/10/2022 11:02 AM
MLS Soccer
MLS Soccer
Good morning, y'all. Your pal Sam here. Let's soccer.



MLS Kickoff Story
Kind of quiet in MLS, huh? Although I do think Nashville's trade for Fafa Picault is pretty decent and I'm increasingly wondering why an international spot is being traded for less allocation money now compared to a year ago. And, of course, St. Louis CITY SC's expansion draft is cresting over the horizon. But there's not much headline-worthy out there just yet, which gives us an excuse to haul off and give you this year's People's Best XI.For those who don't know, this Best XI is not about "being good at soccer." This is about the players who, for whatever reason, have been determined by a totally biased jury (me) to be "for the people." Please note: Being good at soccer does kind of help, the people love good soccer. Anyway, without regard for formation or tactics, here's your The Daily Kickoff People's Best XI 2022.Goalkeeper - Brad Stuver, Austin FCStuver spent years bouncing around MLS, even spending time as the MLS pool goalkeeper for a second. He didn't get his shot at a starting gig until joining Austin and has only gone and turned into one of the best keepers in MLS. Statistically, he checked in as the fourth-best shot-stopper in the league this year. He became a key part of why Austin were able to outperform expectations and underlying numbers this year.In general, that kind of character arc would be enough to earn a spot on the PBXI, but he's also spent plenty of time off the field being for the people. He became the first-ever MLS player to be named a nominee for the ESPN Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the ESPYs thanks to his work with The Laundry Project and Athlete Ally among other projects. If there were captains for this kind of thing, he might be leading the team out on the field. I mean, we haven't even gotten a chance to mention the time this season he dove after a ball and into the framework of the goal and cut his knee up, and that was awesome. Stuver is a unanimous PBXI member, receiving 100% of the one vote.Defender - Jakob Glesnes, Philadelphia UnionSometimes there's a crossover between the actual Best XI and the People's Best XI. Glesnes is here for good reason. In addition to being named Defender of the Year in MLS for an outstanding Union side, he's scored from distance so many times in his career that the Union fans will yell "SHOOOOT" every single time he touches the ball, even if he's 90 yards away from goal. And that makes me laugh. Like every time. What's more for the people than that?Defender - Andrew Gutman, Atlanta UnitedGutman became the single-brightest spot in a remarkably bleak year for Atlanta United, mainly because he's just wired differently. To a near-concerning degree. You were just as likely to look up and see Gutman sprinting into his own box to make a goal-saving tackle as you were to look up and see him—I promise you this is not a joke—sprinting into the opponent's box and playing as a second striker. There's absolutely no one like him in MLS right now. Probably ever.Gutman's whole mindset can be summed up with a goal he scored in Philadelphia where he literally dove headfirst into the middle of the goalmouth scramble to score one of his four goals on the season. I'm telling y'all, wired different. And that kind of intensity is more than enough to earn a spot in the PBXI.Defender - John Tolkin, New York Red BullsThis one feels pretty self-explanatory if you've watched him do literally anything at any point over the last couple of years but the main thing here is that he attempted to flick the ball over a defender's head in a friendly against Barcelona and then practically face planted on a dive after he realized he was about to lose possession from it and I don't really know what else I need to explain here.Midfielder - Carles Gil, New England RevolutionCarles didn't quite match his MVP season a year ago, but maybe that was only because his back was sore? He played over 3,000 minutes this year, made more passes than any other player in MLS, made 300 more touches than the next closest player, spent (this is not a bit) 16 whole minutes more on the ball than the next closest player, and just generally exuded "only person actually working on the group project energy."He got frustrated enough at one point with New England's tactical setup that he yelled at the bench to get it sorted and it kind of seems like they listened. He also delivered a couple of phenomenal, profanity-laden post-game interviews. The best one came after an early season game in the snow against RSL in which he said "I cannot talk with my teammates, I cannot run, I cannot do anything. It's impossible, this is not football. Stop the f****** game." Outstanding stuff all around.Midfielder - Jose Martinez, Philadelphia UnionHe's just got a guaranteed spot here at this point. PBXI emeritus midfielder Jose Martinez did a whole bunch of Jose Martinez things this year while helping lead the Union to nearly winning a double. His crowning PBXI achievement though came when he got sent off for a red card against Chicago and held up one finger to the Chicago crowd to, as Jim Curtin put it, let them know that the Union were in first place. What's more for the people than sharing critical information about the sport?Forward - Kei Kamara, CF MontréalKei showed back up in the league this year after playing just 16 MLS games in 2020 and spending 2021 in Finland. Then, at 37 years old (!), he went and scored nine times while delivering seven assists on his way to averaging the fourth-highest goals and assists per 90 ratio in the league. He averaged a goal contribution nearly every 90 minutes he took the field. At 37! He went from one of the surprises of the season to one of the best stories of the season.Forward - Diego Fagundez, Austin FCThere's something about having your best-ever MLS season after spending 12 years in the league that speaks to me. There's also something about banging in multiple free kicks that really, really speaks to me. Fagundez was just awesome this year.Forward - Brenner, FC CincinnatiBrenner came back from one of the least impressive introductions to MLS we've ever seen to become one of the league's most productive forwards. There haven't been many players in MLS ever who have produced less bang for their buck in their first season than Brenner, but he turned that around this year and helped inspire one of the league's best stories in FC Cincinnati. Persistence counts for a lot in PBXI voting. Oh, and averaging more than one goal contribution per 90 helps a lot too. The people love goals, y'all.Forward - Chicho Arango, LAFCThere were rumors spinning all summer that LAFC were looking to move on from Arango. He responded by doing nothing but continuing to score at an elite level for the rest of the season and in the playoffs. Now, it kind of feels like LAFC have no choice but to keep him. Either way, being absolutely unbothered by something like that because all you exist to do is score goals and have fascinatingly aerodynamic hair and celebrate all the goals you keep scoring and all the great hair you have in style is 100% PBXI material.Forward - Dejan Joveljic, LA GalaxyDejan and Arango are of the same mold here. Both didn't get quite the same love from their managers that they were getting from the fans, but they just kept on scoring all the same. Joveljic routinely came on in a substitute role and scored almost immediately. He had one of the celebrations in the year on one of those goals when a shirtless Joevlic got literally pulled into the crowd by LAG supporters for a group celebration. That alone made him a surefire selection. But then he went ahead and called himself "The future of the Galaxy" and that kind of high-self esteem sealed the deal even further.