Every Major League Soccer team's greatest-ever player


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With the MLS All-Star Game showcase vs. Real Madrid about to go down in Chicago, this seems as appropriate a time as any to conduct an exercise to attempt to name each Major League Soccer franchise’s greatest-ever player.

In this context, the greatest player does not have to be the player with the most talent, or highest-paid, or even most decorated. Sometimes, it’s the most prominent, important or celebrated player a franchise has had. Sometimes, it’s the first player you think of when you hear a team name.

Using those aforementioned guidelines, these are every team’s “greatest.”

Atlanta United FC

Miguel Almiron, midfielder

The historical perspective of a young league such as MLS (“hey, remember yesterday?”) differs tremendously to that of other major U.S. sports, some with 100 or more years of sporting history as a conversational backbone. So, let’s have a little fun and pick a “greatest-ever” player for a franchise that has a total of 21 games under its belt. Atlanta is in the midst of one of the most impressive expansion seasons in league history, and operating as the frontman of Atlanta’s surprise start-up is Almiron, who also earned an MLS All-Star Game selection by the fans in his first season in the league.

Honorable mention: Greg Garza, Josef Martinez, Hector Villalba

Chicago Fire

Peter Nowak, midfielder

Nowak spent the final five years of his decorated playing career in Chicago, which he helped lead to an MLS Cup triumph in the Fire’s first season of play in 1998. He was game MVP in said MLS Cup triumph, and also led Chicago to two U.S. Open Cup wins and was recognized as MLS Best XI three times. 

Honorable mention: Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, C.J. Brown, Ante Razov, Zach Thornton

Colorado Rapids

Pablo Mastroeni, defensive midfielder

When the Miami Fusion contracted after the 2001 season, Mastroeni became the top pick in the allocation draft by Colorado, where he played for the next 12 seasons. Mastroeni was also team captain when the Rapids won their first and only MLS Cup in 2010.

Honorable mention: Marcelo Balboa, Paul Bravo, Conor Casey, Chris Henderson, Carlos Valderrama

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Columbus Crew

Guillermo Barros Schelotto, midfielder

The 2008 season was the finest in Crew history, and Schelotto was a massive reason for that success. Schelotto earned league MVP honors in directing Columbus to the Supporters’ Shield (presented to the team with the best record) and a 3-1 MLS Cup win in which he assisted on all three goals and was named the game’s MVP.

Honorable mention: Jeff Cunningham, Eddie Gaven, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Brian McBride

D.C. United

Marco Etcheverry, midfielder

It might be hard to fathom now that D.C. United isn’t anywhere among the league’s elite, but during the first decade of Major League Soccer, D.C. United was a dominant force. From 1996-2004, D.C. United appeared in five MLS Cups and won four of those. Etcheverry — with his dynamic skills and wild hair (he is also a prominent member of the MLS all-time all-hair team) — led D.C. United to its first three MLS Cup championships (he played until 2003 and just missed out on the 2004 MLS Cup title). 

Honorable mention: Jeff Agoos, Raul Diaz Arce, Christian Gómez, John Harkes, Jamie Moreno, Eddie Pope

FC Dallas (formerly Dallas Burn)

Jason Kreis, midfielder

Before he became an MLS Cup-winning coach for Real Salt Lake, Kreis was one of the league’s most dangerous attacking players. In nine seasons with the then-Dallas Burn, Kreis scored 91 goals in 247 appearances. In 1999, Kreis scored a career-high 18 goals (which tied for the league lead) and was named the league’s MVP. When Kreis retired in 2007 while as a member of Real Salt Lake, his 108 career goals was tops in league history (he’s currently sixth on that all-time list). 

Honorable mention: Mauro Díaz, David Ferreira, Oscar Pareja, Bobby Rhine, Carlos Ruiz

Houston Dynamo

Brad Davis, midfielder

The Dynamo are a franchise with four MLS Cup appearances and two MLS Cup wins (2006-07), and Davis was vital to all of that success. Davis was second in MLS MVP award voting in 2011 when the Dynamo reached their third MLS Cup. Davis — who was a set-piece wizard — is the Dynamo’s all-time leader in appearances (271), starts (252) and assists (104), while also earning six MLS All-Star nods.

Honorable mention: Will Bruin, Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark, Dwayne De Rosario, Stu Holden, Pat Onstad

Los Angeles Galaxy

Landon Donovan, midfielder

Donovan easily could be a choice for “greatest-ever” for two MLS franchises (more on that later), but the best player in league history (he does have the MVP award named after him, after all) is the choice for best from the most successful franchise in league history. Before he even arrived in Los Angeles, Donovan was an established soccer star, having led the San Jose Earthquakes to two MLS Cup wins (2001 and 2003). With the Galaxy, Donovan won four more MLS Cups (2005, 2011, 2012, 2014). Donovan retired following the 2016 season as the league’s all-time goal scorer with 145 goals, which easily out-paces the 134 goals for second-place Jeff Cunningham.

Honorable mention: David Beckham, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Omar Gonzalez, Cobi Jones, Robbie Keane, Carlos Ruiz

Minnesota United

Christian Ramirez, forward

A dominant goal-scoring machine for three seasons for Minnesota United in its pre-MLS NASL days, Ramirez was brought in by the expansion Loons to provide that same scoreboard-altering impact. He hasn’t disappointed, ranking among the league leaders in goals in 2017.

Honorable mention: Kevin Molino, Bobby Shuttleworth

Montreal Impact

Ignacio Piatti, midfielder

It’s tough not to name the Canadian national teamer Patrice Bernier here (or, Didier Drogba, too, but he’s better known for his time with Chelsea in the English Premier League), but Piatti has been nothing short of stellar since joining the Impact. In three seasons in Montreal, Piatti has earned team MVP honors twice, and his presence helped the team come within a game of reaching the MLS Cup in 2016.

Honorable mention: Patrice Bernier, Laurent Ciman, Marco Di Vaio, Didier Drogba

New England Revolution

Taylor Twellman, forward

It’s been more than eight years since Twellman last played after having his career cut short due to concussions, and Twellman’s presence on nationally televised soccer events has begun to overshadow his impressive accomplishments on the field. In his eight seasons with the Revolution, the team achieved its competitive apex. Behind Twellman’s goal-scoring prowess, the Revs went to four MLS Cups in a six-year span. Twellman is New England’s all-time leading goal scorer (101), and was the league’s leading goal scorer and MVP in 2005.

Honorable mention: Clint Dempsey, Diego Fagundez, Jay Heaps, Lee Nguyen, Steve Ralston, Matt Reis

New York City FC

David Villa, forward

Having won the World Cup and European Championship with Spain and a Champions League title with FC Barcelona, Villa was already one of the most decorated players in Europe. Villa came to MLS with little left to prove, and joined NYCFC as one of three high-priced, big-name talents (joining Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo). While Lampard and Pirlo fell short of expectations, Villa might have actually exceeded his and earned league MVP honors in 2016. 

Honorable mention: Jack Harrison, Frank Lampard, Tommy McNamara, Andrea Pirlo

New York Red Bulls (formerly MetroStars)

Dax McCarty, midfielder

When the Red Bulls traded McCarty to the Chicago Fire this past offseason, it might just have been the most unpopular trade for any single fanbase in league history. A stalwart in the NYRB midfield for six seasons, McCarty is now a vital component of Chicago’s rise from dumpster fire to title contender. This much-maligned club has featured plenty of talented players, but none likely were held in as high of regard for both club and fan community as McCarty.

Honorable mention: Juan Pablo Angel, Amado Guevara, Thierry Henry, Tim Howard, Clint Mathis, Luis Robles, Bradley Wright-Phillips

Orlando City

Kaka, midfielder

Kaka was the face of the Orlando City SC franchise long before it even took the field for the first time in 2015. Kaka signed a “Designated Player” contract eight months before OCSC’s first game, and also became the highest-paid player in MLS history ($6.6 million/year). Kaka is still the league’s highest-paid player, and he’s represented his team well (two All-Star Game appearances and an All-Star Game MVP) despite not yet leading Orlando City to the playoffs.

Honorable mention: Cyle Larin, Carlos Rivas

Philadelphia Union

Sebastien Le Toux, forward

Le Toux enjoyed two stints with the Union, the first two seasons for the expansion Union in 2010-11 and then back for a second tour of duty from 2013-16. Le Toux made quite an impression to start, scoring a hat trick in the Union’s first-ever home game. He’s Philadelphia’s all-time leading goal scorer (56) and has more games played for the Union (175) than any other player.

Honorable mention: Andre Blake, Brian Carroll, Conor Casey, Jack McInerney, C.J. Sapong

Portland Timbers

Diego Valeri, midfielder

In 2015, the Timbers marched to their first MLS Cup triumph thanks in large part to the skills of Valeri. In the championship game in Columbus, Valeri scored the fastest goal in MLS Cup history 27 seconds into Portland’s 2-1 win and he was named the game’s MVP. Emphasizing the dynamic threat Valeri can be on the field is the fact that he’s twice led his team in goals scored while also laying to claim to being the Timbers’ all-time assist leader.

Honorable mention: Fanendo Adi, Nat Borchers, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace

Real Salt Lake

Nick Rimando, goalkeeper

Rimando is arguably the greatest goalkeeper in MLS history, holding league records for shutouts, wins, saves and appearances. He’s been Real Salt Lake’s goalkeeper since 2007, and since then helped lead the team to two MLS Cup appearances. In Real Salt Lake’s 2009 MLS Cup victory, Rimando dramatically won a shootout against an L.A. Galaxy team that featured David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Mike Magee.

Honorable mention: Kyle Beckerman, Fabián Espíndola, Robbie Findley, Jason Kreis, Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborío

San Jose Earthquakes

Chris Wondolowski, forward

One could be tempted to pick Landon Donovan here (he did lead San Jose to two MLS Cup titles, while Wondo has yet to even appear in one for the team), but Wondolowski has etched a place among the most lethal goal scorers in league history. Wondolowski has scored 125 of his 129 career goals for San Jose. Those 129 career goals are good for fourth all time, but Wondo is within easy striking distance of second on the all-time list (Jeff Cunningham, 134). In 2012, Wondolowski scored 27 goals, which tied a record from Major League Soccer’s inaugural season when Roy Lassiter bagged the same number of goals for the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny.

Honorable mention: Jeff Agoos, Joe Cannon, Ramiro Corrales, Dwayne De Rosario, Landon Donovan, Eric Wynalda

Seattle Sounders

Osvaldo Alonso, midfielder

With a devastatingly tenacious style of play that earned him the nickname of “Honey Badger,” Alonso has been the folcrum of a franchise that has reached the MLS playoffs in each of its eight seasons. When the Sounders finally earned that elusive MLS Cup trophy, it was the team captain — Alonso — who rightfully hoisted the long-sought-after prize.

Honorable mention: Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans, Stefan Frei, Kasey Keller, Nicolas Lodeiro, Obafemi Martins, Fredy Montero

Sporting Kansas City (formerly Kansas City Wizards)

Preki, midfielder/forward

Soccer players of a certain repute often simply go by one name … Edson Arantes do Nascimento as Pele, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite as Kaka, Predrag Radosavljevic as Preki. Preki’s status might not be as grand globally as those of Pele and Kaka, but the KC Wizards (pre-Sporting KC era) legend accomplished feats not since matched in MLS. Preki is the only player in MLS history to earn MVP honors twice, doing so in 1997 and 2003, when he was also the league’s leading goal scorer. 

Honorable mention: Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer, Chris Klein, Tony Meola, Peter Vermes, Josh Wolff, Graham Zusi

Toronto FC

Sebastian Giovinco, midfielder

Giovinco is a strong challenger for the title of MLS’ “best-ever player.” In 2015, the formica atomica, “Atomic Ant”, made an immediate impact, dragging Toronto FC out of the doldrums of an eight-year playoff drought. Behind Giovinco’s knack for producing goals (he set a league record for most combined goals and assists), Toronto FC made the playoffs for the first time in 2015 and the “Atomic Ant” earned league MVP honors. A season later, he helped Toronto FC make its first MLS Cup appearance. 

Honorable mention: Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Dwayne De Rosario, Danny Dichio

Vancouver Whitecaps

David Ousted, goalkeeper

Ousted has been a fixture between the pipes for the Whitecaps since taking over as the team’s regular goalkeeper midway through the 2013 season. In 2014, Ousted led the league with 13 clean sheets, and tied for the league lead with 13 clean sheets in 2015.

Honorable mention: Camilo Sanvezzo, Jordan Harvey, Eric Hassli, Pedro Morales, Cristian Techera

PHOTOS: Best of the 2017 MLS season

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