Tuesday, November 27, 2012
SEATTLE — Sounders FC midfielder Osvaldo Alonso was named Monday to the 2012 MLS Best XI, a recognition of the league’s best 11 players as voted by teams, players and media.
It was another honor in an unforgettable year, personally and professionally, for the 27-year-old Cuban American, who played in his first MLS All-Star Game this season and earned U.S. citizenship in June.
“I think I did a good job this year playing for my team, being an All-Star and now Best XI, so I’m feeling happy,” said Alonso, Seattle’s team MVP in 2010 and 2011, in a team release.
Two other Sounders have earned Best XI honors: midfielder Freddie Ljungberg in 2009 and goalkeeper Kasey Keller in 2011.
The 10 others named to the Best XI this year were goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen (Kansas City); defenders Victor Bernardez (San Jose), Matt Besler (Kansas City), and Aurelien Collin (Kansas City); midfielders Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), and Graham Zusi (Kansas City); and forwards Chris Wondolowski (San Jose), Robbie Keane (Los Angeles) and Thierry Henry (New York).
The rest of the postseason awards will be handed out this week in the buildup to Saturday’s MLS Cup.
Seattle forward Eddie Johnson is a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year, which will be announced Tuesday.
Teammate Michael Gspurning is up for Goalkeeper of the Year on Wednesday, though Nielsen is the favorite following the Best XI announcement.
Forward Fredy Montero and defender Patrick Ianni are among the top-four finalists for MLS Goal of the Year, which is open to fan voting through today and will be announced Thursday.
State of the league address
MLS commissioner Don Garber held a state of the league conference call Monday, calling 2012 “clearly the most successful season” in league history.
He particularly noted record attendance, which increased for a fourth consecutive year and set high marks with a near-19,000 average and 114 sellouts.
Garber was also pleased with a new TV partnership with NBC that featured 14 million viewers, and another positive expansion to Montreal (“an instant success,” he said).
The commissioner announced that next season will start March 2, the earliest ever. Details will be released in the near future on a First Kick weekend that could affect the Sounders, who are scheduled to play in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on March 5-7 and 12-14 against Mexican club Tigres UANL.
Garber indicated next year’s regular season and playoff formats will stay mostly the same, though the league will look to add more rest in the postseason and avoid conflicts with international competitions.
Sounders FC is set to host four of six Cascadia Cup games against Portland and Vancouver in 2013 after hosting two this year.
No increase to the salary cap is expected other than what was negotiated in the collective-bargaining agreement.
There are also no plans to expand the designated player rule, of which Seattle has a maximum of three (Montero, Mauro Rosales, Christian Tiffert).
MLS efforts are still focused on adding a 20th team in New York, perhaps by 2016.
Garber made a point of acknowledging Johnson’s resurgent season with the Sounders, adding, “I still think he has a number of good years left in him.”
Six MLS games this past season boasted crowds of 50,000 or more, a league record. Three of those were in Seattle.
An ESPN broadcast of a Seattle Sounders FC-Portland Timbers game this season was the third-most watched regular-season game in network history, the commissioner said.