Monday, December 17, 2012

Top 20 MLS Players of 2012 -- Numbers 1-10

Continuing our list of the top 20 MLS players of 2012.  For the countdown from 20 to 11 click HERE.

10. Kei Kamara - FW - Sporting Kansas City

Kei Kamara runs all over the field every time he suits up.  His work rate keeps the offensive engine of SKC running.  He opens up space for C.J. Sapong in the middle, gets on the end of corners, and has some pretty amazing distribution (see video).

He had a rough playoffs, but any team in the league would love his production.  11 goals and 8 assists in league play helped SKC to first place in the East.

9. Will Bruin - FW - Houston Dynamo

Will Bruin exploded this season for 12 goals and 4 assists, but became a real star during the most crucial parts of the Dynamo's playoff run.  Bruin caught fire and scored 4 goals and notched an assist in the build-up to MLS Cup taking the 5th seed in the East to their second straight MLS Cup final.

Some compare him to Brian Ching, which makes sense as he is being mentored by the US vet.  Bruin has a bright future with the Dynamo and the US National Team.  Expect a call-up in January camp for the 6'2" forward.

8. Matt Besler - D - Sporting Kansas City

The MLS Defender of the Year was one of the main reasons Sporting KC had the best goals against average in the league (27 goals allowed in 34 games).

His speed and athleticism were a pain all year even for the best forwards.  Another bright young talent with a future in the US National team, Besler is locked into Kansas City for several years to come.  He signed a contract extension with the team, praising the city, organization, and fans.

If he continues to play the way he did this year, at 25 years old, large teams in Europe will come calling to try to pry him away from his current beloved home.

7. Brad Davis - M - Houston Dynamo

Few players are as under-appreciated as Brad Davis.  His distribution is legendary in MLS.  His left foot is magical.  He led the Dynamo with 12 assists and added 8 goals to the attack.

His goal against D.C. United on BBVA Compass Stadium's opening game was a rocket blast from outside of the box that showed just how deadly he is on his left.  He somehow missed out on the MLS Best XI this year, even though he captained his team all the way to the playoffs.

He is respected and admired by teammates and feared by adversaries.  Beyond Brian Ching, nobody has meant more to the Dynamo over the years.

6. Landon Donovan - M - L.A. Galaxy

In an "off year" Landon Donovan still produced 9 goals and 14 assists for the champions.  He still has the pace to get behind and punish defenses, but is becoming a deadlier passer than ever before.

His leadership helped the Galaxy recover what could have been a disastrous season and make it into the playoffs as the hottest team the second half of the year.

While his quotes off of the field about his future made waves, he did nothing on the field except continue producing all the way through the MLS Cup Final.

5. Alvaro Saborio - FW - Real Salt Lake

The greatest scorer in Real Salt Lake history with 40 career MLS goals and a team record 17 goals this year, he was far and away the most valuable player on the veteran team.

When Saborio was out, either with the Costa Rican national team or with injury, Real Salt Lake struggled to find the back of the net.  His hold up play and strength in the air are so crucial to Real Salt Lake and his technical ability plays so well with the speed of Fabian Espindola.

RSL have gone through major changes this off-season, but if they can find a compliment to Sabo (and he can stay healthy), they will find the net just fine in 2013.

4. Thierry Henry - FW - New York Red Bulls

The French legend took a mediocre New York team that surrounded some expensive pieces (including Henry himself) and dragged them into the playoffs on the strength of 15 goals and 12 assists.

He somehow retained composure when Rafa Marquez was imploding before everybody's eyes.  He picked up the slack of Joel Lidpere's down year and a sloppy defense.

His amazing goals gave fans in New York something to cheer about and almost had the team into the Eastern Conference Finals if it weren't for a late D.C. United goal.  He played hurt and gave his all, which is all you can ask from the highest paid player in MLS.

3. Graham Zusi - M - Sporting Kansas City

Zusi had quite the year.  Coming out of relative obscurity to become an MVP candidate and key figure on the US National Team.  He led the league with 15 assists and also notched 5 goals (4 of which were game-winners).

His speed down the right side of SKC's midfield and distribution gave them a deadly counter-attack. And, his vision and commitment to get back and defend also helped them keep the ball out of their own net.

I would expect Zusi to be on top of most people's lists for preseason MVP favorite in 2013.

2. Robbie Keane - FW - L.A. Galaxy

The MVP of the league from June on, Robbie Keane returned from the European Championships and lit MLS on fire.  He ended the season with 16 goals and 9 assists but didn't stop there.

He was the most important player for the Galaxy during their run to the Cup.  He scored 6 more goals (six!) and added an assist (and a drawn PK) in the postseason.  He carried LA on his back for several stretches throughout the year and is a vital part of the team's future.

It will be fun to see who L.A. brings in this off-season.  If it's a creative play maker *cough* Kak√° *cough* then I wouldn't be surprised to see him get 20-25 goals next season.

1. Chris Wondolowski - FW - San Jose Earthquakes

27 goals.  Yup.  He tied the all-time single-season record with 27 goals in one season.  Oh, and he added 7 assists, a goal against Chelsea in the All-star Game, and MLS MVP.  Not much else you can say, except this year it was Wondo's world and we were just living in it (or being scored on in it).

So, who did we miss?  Anybody ranked too high?  Too low?  Who should we look out for next year?  Let us know in the comments below or on facebook.