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© Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Opara & Mannone In MLS Best XI

Major League Soccer has revealed the 2019 MLS Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position as determined by media, MLS players and MLS club technical staff. The 11 players named to the Best XI hail from eight different countries and represent some of the league’s most exciting and accomplished talent comprised of international stars, breakout players and top newcomers to the league. Seven different MLS clubs are represented by this year’s Best XI squad, all of which qualified for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.

2019 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Vito Mannone (Minnesota United FC)
Defenders: Ike Opara (Minnesota United FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles Football Club)
Midfielders: Eduard Atuesta (Los Angeles Football Club), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Maxi Moralez (New York City FC), Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC)
Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club)

Manning the Best XI defense are three standout Americans who led their clubs to postseason appearances. The 2017 and 2019 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara led an incredible defensive turnaround for Minnesota United FC en route to the club’s first postseason appearance. Joining Opara is 22-year-old Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson, who helped the club to two trophies this season and a berth in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League. As a result of his stellar play with Atlanta, Robinson earned his first ever call-ups to the U.S. Men’s National Team during the September and October FIFA windows. Rounding out the defense is 26-year-old Walker Zimmerman who anchored the stingiest defense in the league this season for LAFC, which allowed an MLS-low 37 goals and posted the best goal differential in league history (+48). Zimmerman has emerged as a regular for the USMNT with seven caps this year.

The 2019 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Vito Mannone suits up between the posts on the Best XI after leading the third-biggest defensive turnaround in league history for Minnesota United FC. Minnesota allowed 43 goals this season, a 28-goal improvement from the 71 goals allowed in 2018. Mannone ranked second in MLS this season with 129 saves and became the 28th goalkeeper in MLS history to record double-digit saves in a clean sheet performance.

Seven of the players named to the Best XI are first-time selections, with Opara, Ibrahimović, and Vela making their second appearances, and Martínez making his third appearance.

Vito Mannone | Goalkeeper | Minnesota United FC | Nationality: Italy | Born: February 3, 1988
In his first season in MLS, Mannone helped a dramatic defensive turnaround for Minnesota as the club posted the third-best defensive improvement in league history, allowing 28 fewer goals in 2019 compared to 2018. Mannone finished second in the league with 129 saves and helped Minnesota qualify to the postseason for the first time in its MLS history. A former player for Arsenal and on loan with Minnesota this season from Reading FC, this is Mannone’s first MLS Best XI selection.

Ike Opara | Defender | Minnesota United FC | Nationality: USA | Born: February 21, 1989
Opara won his second MLS Defender of the Year Award (2017, 2019) this season after guiding Minnesota United FC to their first ever appearance in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. In Opara’s first year with the club, Minnesota posted the third-largest defensive turnaround in league history, allowing 28 fewer goals this year (43) compared to last year (71). Opara tied a career-high with three goals scored this season to go along with one assist. This is Opara’s second MLS Best XI selection (2017).