Monday, December 17, 2012

Top 20 MLS Players of 2012 -- Numbers 20-11

As the calendar year comes to a close and we gear up for next season in MLS, it's a good time to reflect on the year that was.

With a bit of perspective that the off-season brings, let's take a look at Late Challenge's list of the top 20 players in MLS in 2012.  This list is based on each player's impact on the field during this past season.  No reputations, no salaries, just on-field performance.  Here it is:

20. Nick Rimando - GK - Real Salt Lake

Nick Rimando was once again a wall in net for Real Salt Lake.  He posted 12 shutouts and a 1.06 goals against average.  His incredible acrobatics versus Seattle in the playoffs lifted him into legend status league-wide.  And he won Save of the Year, denying Kei Kamara a clear chance on goal.

19. Eddie Johnson - FW - Seattle Sounders

There was a lot of doubt surrounding the return of Eddie Johnson before the season started.  Was he in shape?  Did he still have a scoring touch?

With quality service all around him, he was able to silence critics from day one.  He ended the year with 14 goals and three assists pushing Seattle to the Western Conference Finals.

18. Chris Pontius - M/F - D.C. United

Chris Pontius came back from a broken leg last year to a golden leg this year.  His play allowed the MLS all-stars to defeat Chelsea and lifted D.C. United to the playoffs where they eventually fell to the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference Championships.

He led the team with 12 goals and added 4 assists on the year.  His dynamic and flexible play allowed D.C. to use him either up top or in the midfield and his versatility was priceless when Dwane DeRosario went out with injury at the end of the year.

17. Omar Gonzalez - D - L.A. Galaxy

Gonzo proved this year that he probably should have been the MVP of 2011.  His absence at the beginning of this season was killer to the Galaxy who found themselves near the bottom of the table after the first two months.

After his return to the team from his knee injury, the Galaxy tore apart the league.  They were the best team during the second half of the season and through the playoffs.  His goal in the MLS Cup Final gave him the game MVP award and lifted the Galaxy to their 4th championship.

16. Fredy Montero - FW - Seattle Sounders

Montero continued to bedrock the Sounders attack in 2012 with 13 goals and 9 assists (incl. playoffs).  His dynamic play was a perfect fit with Eddie Johnson.  He still has yet to produce for the Sounders in the playoffs, but I believe that is mostly because of the competition they have faced.  His 40 yard bomb of a goal was my pick for goal of the year.  Seattle probably wouldn't have made the playoffs without his contributions.

15. Víctor Bernárdez - D - San Jose Earthquakes    

Bernárdez dominated the Earthquakes defense in his first year in MLS.  The Honduran international helped guide San Jose to the league's best record and he was rewarded with a nomination for MLS Defender of the Year.

14. Jimmy Nielsen - GK - Sporting Kansas City

The SKC backstop led all of MLS in GAA with 0.79 and 15 shutouts.  The "White Puma" gave the SKC the confidence needed to attack, knowing they had a wall behind them.

13. Kenny Cooper - FW - New York Red Bulls

Kenny Cooper greatly benefited from being partnered up with Thierry Henry this year.  After a low year in Portland, Cooper exploded in New York for 18 goals and 3 assists, putting him second in the league in goals behind Chris Wondolowski.

Some might argue that Henry did most of the work for the Red Bulls, but Cooper consistantly found himself in the right places and helped the Red Bulls to the playoffs.

12. Osvaldo Alonso - M - Seattle Sounders

Ossie was the rock of a very productive Seattle Sounders team.  But, most of his contributions don't show up on the scoresheet.  He is the most difficult defensive midfielder to play against in the league (along with Kyle Beckerman).  If you go back and watch highlights from Sounders matches, Ossie is constantly breaking up attacks and turning defense into offense.  Any team in the league would love him.  Works hard and doesn't make anything easy for opponents.

11. Alan Gordon - FW - San Jose Earthquakes

When Alan Gordon was called into US National Team camp, many thought it was more symbolic than anything else.  When he played and contributed to the winning goal against Antigua & Barbuda, people realized that he is truly valuable not only to the national team, but how important he is to the Quakes.

Perhaps the best true target striker in the MLS, he put in 13 goals and also notched 7 assists.  His hold up play is a big reason Chris Wondolowski was able to find the net so many times.  Expect his output to continue next year.

Click HERE for numbers 1-10!

What do you think?  Did we forget anybody?  Somebody too high?  Leave a comment and let us know.