Best XI: The top American players in MLS

On July 4, here's the best American talent in the league

As we celebrate Independence Day this 4th of July, let’s take a
look around the league at the best American talent MLS currently has to
offer. Call it the MLS All-American Best XI if you like; we call it a
really good dream team.

Goalkeeper

Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
With more than 10 years of MLS experience under his belt –not
to mention a pair of MLS Cups--, the 32 year-old Real Salt Lake ‘keeper
is at the height of his powers. Standing at only 5-foot-10  he may not
be the biggest American keeper currently in MLS, but his intelligence,
quick-reactions and leadership make him the best.

Defenders

Heath Pearce, Chivas USA
Since joining MLS in 2009 after four years plying his trade in Europe,
Pearce has become the premier left back in the league. Possessing the
ability to both  lock down an attacker and whip pinpoint crosses from
the wing, he’s been capped by the USMNT 32 times.

Tim Ream, New York Red Bulls
Billed by some as the USMNT centerback of the future, Ream came into
MLS in 2010 as an unheralded 2nd round pick in the SuperDraft. His
composure on the ball earned him a starting role in all 30 league
matches that year and six caps with the US team since November.

Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy
At 6-foot-5, the LA Galaxy centerback has size for days and isn’t
afraid to use it. He intimidates opponents on the ground and owns them
in the air. The latter has been crucial on set pieces and has seen him
score four goals in the offensive half of the field. Gonzalez was the
2009 MLS Rookie of the Year.

Sean Franklin, LA Galaxy
Selected 4th in the 2008 SuperDraft by the LA Galaxy, Franklin adapted
quickly to MLS, providing LA with a combination of toughness and
technique at right back. After being awarded the 2008 MLS Rookie of the
Year Award, he missed most of 2009 due to injury. He regained his form
in 2010, however, and earned his first US cap in 2011.

Midfielders

Brek Shea, FC Dallas
With a knack for both flashy play and hair, the 2nd overall pick in the
2008 MLS SuperDraft recalls a young Clint Mathis at times. A versatile
speedster and deft passer of the ball, Shea has seen some time as both a
defender and a striker, but it’s on the wing where he excels. He’s
adept at striking the ball, notching eight goals so far this season.

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake
The dread-locked defensive midfielder and team captain is as hard-nosed
as they come, providing a shield for the vaunted Real Salt Lake
defense. His ability to get into the attack by distributing balls from
deep positions helped to make him an MLS All-Star in 2009 and 2010, and
to help earn RSL an MLS Cup in 2009.

Benny Feilhaber, New England Revolution
A recent arrival to the league, Feilhaber’s abilities as a playmaker
have had an immediate impact on the Revolution attack. A stylish
orchestrator, Feilhaber is the owner of 38 caps with the USMNT.

Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy
Where to begin with the greatest American player ever produced? How
about a list of accolades: 7-time Honda Player of the Year, 4-time MLS
Best XI, 4-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year, 3-time MLS Cup winner,
3-time CONCACAF Best XI, 2009 MLS MVP, 2008 MLS Golden Boot winner and
2003 MLS Cup MVP. And there’s likely more to come.

Forwards

Juan Agudelo, New York Red Bulls
America’s next great hope at striker seemingly has it all: speed,
skill, size and confidence. A product of the Red Bull academy, Agudelo
joined the first team in 2010 and saw his first action last October. He
earned his first cap with the US team little more than a month later,
scoring his first international goal and becoming the youngest
goalscorer in USMNT history at the age of 17.

Charlie Davies, D.C. United
The feelgood soccer-story of spring 2011. The one-time USMNT striker is
full of skill and guile but is still working his way back to his peak
condition. But even with his once-blinding speed reduced to simply
scorching, he’s still a handful for defenders. Although aided by a few
PKs, his current position in a tie for first in the 2011 Golden Boot
Race is a testament to his talent.

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