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Nearly cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, MLS’s 2020 season went through a four-month hiatus before returning to play in July. Through a first-ever “MLS Is Back” tournament that ushered in the reappearance of official matches, the league quickly built a new framework and structure that eventually circled back to the regular season and playoffs.
It was undoubtedly a strange year, and in the midst of numerous logistical complications, countless players stood out as profound and impactful figures.
For your consideration, here is the Best XI from the latest 2020 season in MLS.
This was an easy decision. While guiding a Philadelphia squad that only allowed 20 goals in 23 regular season matches, Blake emerged as a wall and arguably the top player for the Union. Although he didn’t need to make as many saves as other names such as Nashville SC’s Joe Willis or Montreal Impact’s Clement Diop, Blake instead gained headlines for the quality of his efforts that changed the outcome of numerous matches.
Justifiably given the league’s 2020 “Defender of the Year” award, Zimmerman was a brilliant and effective member of Nashville’s backline. Aggressive and imposing — especially in the air — it’s tough to think of a defender who was more clutch for their club than the American.
Keep an eye on this young defender from the Bronx. The 21-year-old played with the maturity of a veteran as he regularly dished out passes and disrupted attacking movements in his area of the field. He can only get better from here, and looking forward, it’s going to be exciting to see how he can develop his talents.
Able to thrive on either the left or right, no fullback was more commanding in MLS’s 2020 season than Hollingshead. Well-rounded and also capable of scoring the occasional goal, Dallas’ defender was fantastic as he covered plenty of ground up and down the flanks.
Few MLS players worked harder in 2020 than Chara. Consistently reliable and willing to incessantly defend the heart of the pitch, the Colombian was fantastic as he halted efforts from the opposition. Coupled with his clever passing that provided a handful of assists, Chara finished with what could be one the most successful seasons in his career.
Ever-involved in the build-up and creation of attacking plays, Lodeiro was once again superb as Seattle’s engine in their starting XI. Well-known for the amount of ground that he covers on the field, the Uruguayan playmaker was a key figure that finished the season with two goals and three assists in his last five games.
There’s no way of overlooking the league MVP. As the conductor of Toronto’s attack, Pozuelo guided his team to a 2nd place finish in the Eastern Conference regular-season table. With a whopping total of nine goals and 10 assists, the Spaniard was a constant threat in the final third.
You can’t leave out the tenacious American who ended the season with 10 goals and eight assists. While also improving on his distribution, the forward also seemed to have increased his speed and strength — which was evident every single time a defender failed to stop his runs.
Always lethal in front of net, there are few strikers in the region that are more efficient in front of goal than Ruidiaz. Second only to LAFC’s Diego Rossi when it came to scoring, the Peruvian was irreplaceable for the Sounders with his 12 goals.
Although LAFC didn’t end up having a memorable season — largely due in part to an injury to star player Carlos Vela — Rossi should still hold his head high. The winger finished the year with 14 goals, more than any other player in MLS, and is still just 22 years of age. The sky’s the limit for the Uruguayan.
Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Anton Tinnerholm (New York City FC), Joao Paulo (Seattle Sounders), Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Lucas Zelarayan (Columbus Crew), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).
This was a tough pick, especially when you consider what Jim Curtin accomplished with his Philadelphia Union squad that lifted the 2020 Supporters’ Shield. Nonetheless, Pareja revived an Orlando team that eventually became far greater than the sum of its parts. Thanks to Pareja, Orlando was a dark horse that not only gained notable results but also an invitation to the playoffs for the very first time.
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast. Email: [email protected]More info on Cesar Hernandez
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