With the season at an end, an effort should be made to look back on the performances of the players. Who performed best, who deserves recognition for what they added in each phase of the pitch. Sporting Kansas City had three players make the team, while Atlanta United FC have two players in the team. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire FC, and New York City FC are each represented by a single player in the team.
GK – Tim Melia (Sporting Kansas City)
– Despite a season-ending injury that kept him from the final three games of the regular season, Tim Melia put in the best season of his career. Leading an SKC defence to an excellent season that saw them let in a league-fewest 29 goals, Melia made a career-high 31 appearances, 12 wins, 10 shutouts, and 91 saves. All of these during the regular season on top of spectacular performances throughout SKC’s campaign that let to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The 2017 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Melia was a shoe-in for the team of the Season.
DF – Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
– A nominee for MLS Defender of the Year, Kendall Waston’s defensive performances aided the Whitecaps back into the playoffs after missing out last season. In 25 games played, Waston scored four goals and made and assist. He was invaluable in the Whitecaps set piece routines and a firm anchor in the defence. An outstanding defender, Waston put in a solid performance across the season that earned him his spot on this TotS.
DF – Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City)
– The 2017 Defender of the Year award recipient, Ike Opara was a significant piece in SKC’s league-best defence that allowed only 23 goals. Six of those 23 goals were scored in the four matches during the season that Opara didn’t play. A bastion that helped enable SKC’s fantastic league-performance, Opara was an easy choice for both his award and this Team of the Season.
DF – Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
– At 31 years old, Graham Zusi is no young athlete, yet he has found a way to evolve his game. Throughout his career, Zusi has traditional played in a midfield role whether playing wide or centrally. This season SKC head coach Peter Vermes made the tactical decision to play Zusi at right-back partway through the season, and it revolutionized Zusi’s play. He has since become not only SKC’s starting right-back, but has become the same for the USMNT. His play as a marauding full-back has been excellent, and he has developed into one of the best right-backs in the league. This evolution in his play has earned him his position on this Team of the Season as a reinvented right-back.
MF – Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United FC)
– The most expensive signing for Atlanta’s inaugural season, Miguel Almiron put forward a performance that has seen his services coveted in Europe. A dynamic piece in Atlanta’s counter-attacking playstyle, Almiron’s work down the wing and even in a deep-lying forward position helped Atlanta’s play in the final third move with excellent fluidity. Chalking up nine goals and eight assists in 27 appearances, Almiron was one of the best midfielders on the pitch in any given match throughout the season, and Atlanta will be looking for him to continue performing at the same level or better in the upcoming season. All of these things combined give Almiron an easy place among the decorated company in this Team of the Season.
MF – Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
– Diego Valeri was named the 2017 MLS Most Valuable Player, and deservedly so. He aided the Timbers to first-place in the Western conference with 21 goals and 11 assists over his 32 league appearances. Not only that, but Valeri set an MLS record by scoring in nine consecutive matches. Valeri ended the season only three goals behind the eventual Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic, but ultimately had a much more complete performance on the pitch which earned him the MVP award. Valeri was certainly the best player in the MLS this last season, and we’ll be hoping for more such performances in the upcoming season.
MF – Victor Vazquez (Toronto FC)
– Making his debut in an already efficient Toronto team, Victor Vazquez made 31 appearances in Toronto’s record-setting season. He scored eight goals, and recorded 10 assists to aid the Canadian team towards their MLS Cup win. With excellent link-up play between Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco, and Jozy Altidore, Vazquez made a good team better in a way that only a quality player can. Being 30 years old, Vazquez is on the downward end of his career, but being able to put in a season like this at that age can leave us optimistic that he can continue producing the same for several seasons in the future.
MF – Romain Alessandrini (LA Galaxy)
– One of the only highlights of the LA Galaxy’s 2017 season was the performance of Romain Alessandrini in his debut season. Ending the season level on points with DC United at the bottom of the league, the Galaxy’s squad failed in nearly every phase of the pitch on a regular basis. Alessandrini had a hand in more than half of the Galaxy’s goals scored this season, with thirteen goals and eleven assists in 30 appearances. If the Galaxy can figure out the rest of their squad problems, then Alessandrini has the potential to put forth even more impressive figures next season. Given that his performances were on par with the rest of the players on this team, despite the abysmal results of the Galaxy, Alessandrini is an easy pick for this TotS.
FW – Josef Martinez (Atlanta United FC)
– Josef Martinez missed nearly three months of the season, and yet managed to keep in the contest for the golden boot throughout the second half of the season. Scoring 19 goals in the 20 appearances to finish fourth in the running for the golden boot behind three other members of this TotS, Diego Valeri, David Villa, and Nemanja Nikolic. Despite making only 2/3rds the amount of appearances of the aforementioned players, Martinez managed to keep up with their scoring records toward the end of the season. Should Martinez continue to be as industrious next season, there is no reason that he should be a front-runner for the golden boot. His industriousness despite an overall lack of playing time throughout the season has shown that he is one of the premier forwards of the MLS, and definitely deserving of his place on this team.
FW – Nemanja Nikolic (Chicago Fire FC)
– Nemanja Nikolic made an outstanding MLS debut with Chicago Fire. Initially overshadowed by others in the league, Nikolic began making waves with his innate goal-scoring ability. Chalking up 24 goals in 34 appearances, Nikolic topped both Diego Valeri and David Villa to win the 2017 MLS Golden Boot award. He spearheaded a Fire team that was in the race early-on for top of the Eastern Conference and still placed third in a very competitive conference. All this for a team that was worst in the MLS in both 2015 and 2016. Nikolic is a dynamic forward who’s place at the top of the MLS will likely not diminish, and who definitely earned his place on this year’s TotS.
FW – David Villa (New York City FC)
– David Villa has not stopped churning out top performances since his arrival in the MLS with NYCFC for their inaugural season in 2015. Pitching in 22 goals and nine assists, Villa was a crucial piece in NYCFC’s attack and aided them to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference as well as finishing runners-up in the Supporters’ Shield. If Villa puts in a similar performance next season, he will undoubtedly go down as one of the best designated players to have ever played in the MLS. Falling just short of the Golden Boot for the second season in a row, perhaps he will be able to finally earn the award in the 2018 season.