David Beckham, Kasey Keller and Thierry Henry were all named to the Best XI team in an announcement by MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Thursday, highlighting a team that includes a mix of both newcomers and traditional faces to the league’s annual star-studded squad.
The list also features all three candidates in the MVP race, including D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, who set a new league record with his sixth Best XI selection. De Rosario captured the first Budweiser Golden Boot of his career with 16 goals and 12 assists while splitting his time between DC, the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC.
Houston Dynamo winger Brad Davis and FC Dallas playmaker Brek Shea, who will learn next week if they can stop De Rosario from winning his first MVP award, were both named to the Best XI for the first time in their careers.
Davis started all 34 games and led the league with 16 assists this season, helping pilot the Houston Dynamo to the MLS Cup on Nov. 20 at The Home Depot Center. Shea made his good on a breakthrough year in 2010 by reaching career highs in starts (30) and goals (11) this season, and helped FC Dallas overcome the early-season loss of injured playmaker and 2010 MVP David Ferreira.
The LA Galaxy, meanwhile, lead the way with four selections after a convincing run to their second straight Supporters’ Shield and a berth in the MLS Cup against the Dynamo.
Beckham is joined by midfielder Landon Donovan and defenders Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant. Donovan, who led the team with 12 goals despite missing time both to injury and the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, was selected for the fourth consecutive season and fifth time in his career.
Gonzalez, who was named the Defender of the Year on Wednesday, was named to his second consecutive team, while Dunivant earned the first Best XI nod of his nine-year career after anchoring the right side of the Galaxy’s defense over 32 starts during the regular season.
Beckham earned the honor for the first time since arriving in MLS in 2007, capping off what has been his best season in the league thus far. Healthy again after a torn Achilles tendon dramatically stunted his season in 2010, he reached MLS career highs this year in starts (26) and assists (15), and logged seven game-winning assists while the Galaxy surged to the best regular-season record in the league.
It was also a memorable year and a first Best XI selection for Henry, who led the New York Red Bulls with 14 goals while shining in his first full season in the league. He becomes the first New York player selected to the team since his former strike partner Juan Pablo Ángel broke into the league in 2007.
Keller is the lone representative from the Seattle Sounders, who rode the veteran goalkeeper’s dynamic play in goal this season to a club-record 63 points and third a consecutive postseason berth. Keller, who will turn 42 years old later this month, started all 34 games this season in net for the Sounders and led all goalkeepers with 18 wins.
Real Salt Lake defender Jámison Olave picked up his second consecutive Best XI selection after he was named the Defender of the Year in 2010. The Colombia native was a nominee for the award again this season after he helped anchor RSL’s stingy defense over the course of 24 starts, adding two goals and an assist.
San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski rounds out the front line with a second straight appearance. Wondolowski was named the 2011 Castrol Index MLS Player of the Year after his team-high 16 goals and three assists earned him a second-place finish in the Golden Boot race behind De Rosario.
Seven members of the Best XI were named to the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star First XI and seven were named finalists for other 2011 postseason awards.