With the U.S. Women’s National Team winning the World Cup and the U.S. Men’s National Team stumbling in the final of the Gold Cup against Mexico, most, if not all, of the focus returns to Major League Soccer as it heads into the second half of its season.
Led by Carlos Vela, LAFC has dominated the league so far while defending champion Atlanta United have rebounded well after a slow start to the year under new manager Frank de Boer.
The San Jose Earthquakes have turned things around almost miraculously since their nightmare start to the season in March, highlighted by Cristian Espinoza’s stellar play all season so far.
Here’s our Best XI through the first half of the 2019 MLS regular season. The listed players made it through the body of their work this season and the impact they’ve had on their respective team’s success.
Bill Hamid, D.C. United: D.C. United goalkeeper has had one heck of a return to MLS. He leads the league in both saves (81) and clean sheets (8) entering the second half of the season.
Walker Zimmerman, Los Angeles Football Club: Even before leaving LAFC for international duty, Zimmerman has continued to grow as a star centerback in MLS and is the most important player in LAFC’s backline.
Matt Hedges, FC Dallas: Hedges continues to grow as one of MLS’s best centerbacks, earning his third-straight nod to the MLS All-Star team, selected by coach James O’Connor. He’s been the model of consistency, starting in 16 of 17 games this season, missing one to suspension.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Atlanta United: Even with a rough start to the season for the club, Pirez has led the team back into the playoff convo from the back.
Romain Metanire, Minnesota United: Coming from the French second division (Ligue 2), Metanire has been one of the best right backs in MLS this season. He’s played a crucial role in the Loons backline in what seems to be MNUFC’s first playoff-bound season.
Diego Rossi, Los Angeles Football Club: Much like Vela, Rossi is just as lethal in the attack as Carlos Vela is for LAFC, scoring 10 goals so far, tying Wayne Rooney for fourth in scoring.
Cristian Espinoza, San Jose Earthquakes: Even with the Quakes’ tough start to the season, Espinoza has been the brightest star in San Jose. He’s been a consistent threat on the wings for a San Jose attack that’s propelled the Quakes back atop the playoff line.
Maxi Moralez, New York City FC: Moralez has had a great last two months statistically and played as big a part of NYCFC’s recent 12-game unbeaten streak as other guys like Anton Tinnerholm, Alex Ring and Heber have. Moralez’s 11 assists are only second to Carlos Vela’s 12 and his performance last month helped him net MLS Player of the Month.
Carlos Vela, Los Angeles Football Club: Barring any injury, Vela should be taking home the Golden Boot at the end of the season. With 19 goals, four more than his 15 from his MLS debut campaign last year, he’s led the way for LAFC’s attack to stay atop the league. He also leads the league in assists with 12
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, L.A. Galaxy: Zlatan’s 13 goals puts him just six behind Vela in second place in the league’s top goal scorers, but Zlatan is a consistent threat night in and night out.
Josef Martinez, Atlanta United: The league’s reigning Golden Boot winner has found his groove again and has guided Atlanta out of a tough beginning of the year.
Bench: GK – Sean Johnson (New York City FC); D- Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City); M- Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes), Justin Meram (Atlanta United); F- Brian White (New York Red Bulls), San Johnson (Real Salt Lake)