Galaxy's Jelle Van Damme and Giovani dos Santos named MLS Best XI

December 5, 2016

LA Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme and forward Giovani dos Santos were named by Major League Soccer today to the 2016 MLS Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position on the field.   The Best XI is determined by media, MLS players, and MLS club staff.

Van Damme, 33, joined LA this offseason from Belgian side Standard Liege and went on to make 29 appearances for LA during the regular season, in addition to three more during the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, which all came as all starts. Van Damme also led a Galaxy defense that allowed just 39 goals on the season, tied for the third-fewest in Major League Soccer, which gave LA the league’s second-best goal differential (+15).

Dos Santos, 27, in his second season with the Galaxy, tallied 14 goals and 12 assists in 28 MLS Regular Season appearances, with 27 starts, two game-winning goals and two game-winning assists. The Mexico international led a Galaxy offense that scored 54 goals, the most in the MLS Western Conference and the third-most in MLS overall. Dos Santos’ 14 goals and 12 assists made him just one of two players in MLS to tally double-digit goals and assists in 2016, joining last year’s MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco of Toronto FC.

The LA Galaxy continue to lead Major League Soccer with 35 players all-time named to the MLS Best XI, including players earning Best XI honors in 16 of MLS’ 21 seasons.

Below are the complete results of the 2016 MLS Best XI:

Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)

Defenders: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids), Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Midfielders: Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas), Giovani dos Santos (Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (NY Red Bulls), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact)

Forwards: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (NYC FC), Bradley Wright-Phillips (NY Red Bulls)

2016 MLS Best XI Bios:

Andre Blake       Goalkeeper       Philadelphia Union       Nationality: Jamaica   
A Generation adidas signing, and the first goalkeeper ever to be taken with the top pick in the history of MLS' college draft, Blake emerged in his first full season as a starter to guide the Union to its second ever postseason appearance and first since 2011. Blake has starred for both club and country, starting all three Copa America Centenario matches for his native Jamaica with 22 career caps while registering 32 starts between the posts for Philadelphia en route to his first AT&T All-Star and MLS Best XI selections this season.

Matt Hedges       Defender       FC Dallas       Nationality: USA     
The 2016 MLS Defender of the Year winner led Dallas to a historic double with a U.S. Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield title this season. Hedges receives his second consecutive Best XI selection as the 26-year-old led Dallas to back-to-back 60-plus point seasons, the first club in MLS history to accomplish the feat. The No. 11 pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Hedges has played over 2,000 minutes in each of his five seasons with FC Dallas.

Axel Sjoberg       Defender       Colorado Rapids       Nationality: Sweden  
The tallest player in MLS at 6’7”, Sjoberg emerged as a physically imposing force for a dominant Colorado Rapids defense that allowed a league-best 32 goals this season. The 25-year-old Sjoberg ranked second in the league with 162 clearances and led Colorado to an undefeated home record, only the fifth team in MLS history to do so. Behind a stellar defense, Colorado advanced to the Western Conference Championships, with Sjoberg playing in every minute of postseason play.

Jelle Van Damme       Defender       LA Galaxy       Nationality: Belgium   
In his first season in MLS, the versatile defender registered four assists over his 28 starts for the Galaxy, leading the club to a league-best eighth consecutive postseason appearance. A finalist for the 2016 MLS Defender of the Year award, Van Damme ranked third in the league with 27 blocked shots while finishing in the top 10 with 95 interceptions this season. The Belgian native has over 30 career caps for his national team including appearances in UEFA Euro and World Cup qualifiers.

Mauro Diaz      Midfielder       FC Dallas       Nationality: Argentina    
One of the most creative playmakers in the league, Diaz has flourished with Dallas, leading the team to U.S. Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield titles in 2016. Diaz helped FCD become the first franchise in MLS history to record consecutive 60-plus point seasons behind a team-leading 13 assists, topping his previous career best of 10 set in 2015. The 25-year-old Argentine is one of only five players league wide to record double digit assist totals in each of the past two seasons.

Giovani dos Santos       Midfielder/Forward       LA Galaxy       Nationality: Mexico  
In his second season with the Galaxy, dos Santos was one of two players league wide to register double digit goals (14) and assists (12) this season, ranking in the top 10 in both categories. After starring in MLS this season, dos Santos earned his first call to represent the Mexican National Team in over a year with a pair of appearances in 2018 World Cup Qualifiers, adding to an already decorated international career which includes a 2012 Olympic gold medal and three Gold Cup titles (2009, 2011, 2015).

Sacha Kljestan       Midfielder       New York Red Bulls       Nationality: USA  
Kljestan made history with 20 assists this season, the second most ever in league annals and the top mark since the second assist rule was changed in 2002. In addition to his league-leading assist numbers, Kljestan added six goals in helping the Red Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference regular season standings. Kljestan’s tremendous performance this season pushed him back into the fray for the U.S. Men’s National Team where he scored two goals and added two assists in five caps while playing in important 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.

Ignacio Piatti       Midfielder              Montreal Impact       Nationality: Argentina  
The Argentine playmaker ranked third in the league with a career-best 17 goals this season, eight more than his previous season-high in 2015. Piatti’s standout season brought Montreal to its second consecutive postseason appearance. The third Designated Player signing in club history, Piatti helped Montreal become the first Canadian club to advance to the MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Championships with four goals and two assists in five postseason matches.

Sebastian Giovinco       Forward       Toronto FC       Nationality: Italy 
In his second season in MLS, the 2015 Landon Donovan MLS MVP had another tremendous campaign, leading the league in combined goals (17) and assists (15) for a second straight year. Toronto’s all-time leading goal scorer, Giovinco was integral in the postseason, scoring four goals and adding four assists in five playoff games to help TFC become the first Canadian team to advance to MLS Cup. While leading Toronto to its highest point total in franchise history, Giovinco garnered his second consecutive selections to the All-Star Team and MLS Best XI squad.

David Villa       Forward       New York City FC       Nationality: Spain  
Villa makes his first MLS Best XI team after scoring 23 goals and leading NYCFC to its first ever postseason appearance this season. Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer, Villa has played in three World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014), leading Spain to the 2010 title while receiving the Silver Shoe for scoring the second most goals in the tournament. The striker’s 41 goals since 2015 are tied for the best in MLS over that span.

Bradley Wright-Phillips       Forward       New York Red Bulls       Nationality: England  
Wright-Phillips collected his second Golden Boot after scoring 24 goals this season, becoming the first player in MLS history to record two seasons with 20-plus goals scored. The Englishman’s 68 goals scored since 2014 set a league record for the most goals over any three-year span. Behind Wright-Phillips, the Red Bulls finished the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season. This is his second selection to the MLS Best XI.

By Staff of and news services

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