it's all over! The Columbus Crew won the MLS Cup on Saturday 9y December by defeating LAFC 2-1 at Lower.com Field. They included Cucho Hernandez and Yaw Yeboah, but could any of the MLS champions make the 2023 MLS Team of the Season?
Goalkeeper: Stefan Frei
The best players in the American League this season? More like the best player in the NFL every season! Stefan Frei is no stranger to goalkeeping accolades with his consistent shot-stopping techniques that have helped Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders win games.
In the 2023 season, it was no different as he notched 14 clean sheets, the most of any goalkeeper in MLS. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to keep a clean sheet when it mattered most in the Western Conference semifinals, but he was still the best goalkeeper statistically throughout the competition.
Defense line: Ryan Hollingshead, Michael, Thiago Martinez, Diego Palacios
Our team is starting to take shape with the defensive line. Ryan Hollingshead is the preferred right-back having consistently impressed since joining Los Angeles FC from FC Dallas. He was tasked by Steve Cherundolo with winning tackles and stopping opposition attacks.
Right alongside Hollingshead is Brazilian defender Thiago Martins. This year he has been one of the few players to make a difference in the back line for New York City FC as he was able to win nearly 80% of his tackles on oncoming strikers. While the franchise finished well short of making the playoffs, he could have made a difference on a team with higher aspirations.
The other centre-back is another Brazilian, Mikael. This Houston Dynamo defender had a breakout season in 2023, showcasing his abilities on defense and helping the Texans reach the MLS Cup playoffs. He even scored a rare goal in a closely contested match against LAFC to win the match 1-0.
On the left side, we have Diego Palacios. The Ecuadorian has a great work rate and ethic that helped Los Angeles reach the MLS Cup Final. His steely determination has resulted in him having the highest amount of combined successful tackles and interceptions. With him in the team, it meant that Los Angeles FC could easily win the ball back, much to the delight of this section of MLS fans.
Midfield: Luciano Acosta, Hani Mokhtar, Hector Herrera
The midfield for the Franchise Sports 2023 MLS Team of the Season is definitely more attacking with an inverted triangle with one defensive midfielder and then two players pushing more up the pitch. Our chosen DM is Houston Dynamo's Hector Herrera. The Mexico international was reminiscent of Andrea Pirlo in Serie A or Leeds United's in-form Kalvin Phillips, able to help dictate play and provide quality leadership attributes.
At this stage, Hani Mokhtar is looking forward to becoming one of the greatest players in the history of the American Football League. After all, the Nashville club's attacking midfielder has scored 15 goals and set up nine more for his teammates. He would fit into any franchise in the league! Luciano Acosta may not be the marquee Argentine player in Major League Soccer, but he played a huge role in reinventing FC Cincinnati into one of the top clubs in the United States. He is a role model on the TQL field having scored 17 goals and assisted 10 others while serving as club captain.
Attack: Denis Bouanga, Kocho, Giorgos Giakoumakis
Our forwards in the 2023 MLS Team of the Season play in a wing-based attacking system, one on either side and then a central striker. On the left wing, we have LAFC's exceptional player Denis Bwanga. The Gabonese striker was frustrated last season as he was forced to sit on the bench for most of the 2022 season when his team won the MLS Cup. However, he was included in the starting lineup in 2023, forcing his manager to continue playing him constantly. While his 20 goals in the regular season (and five more in the playoff run) speak for themselves, that's not the sum of his skills. He can keep the ball and move it in high-pressure situations, stretching LA's offense.
On the right wing, we selected MLS Cup winner Cucho Hernandez. The Colombian showed a sixth sense as he always made the right plays. Whether distributing the ball or shooting on goal himself, he played a big role in the Columbus Crew's successes in both the regular season and postseason with 25 goals and eight assists. This included his brilliant striker from the penalty spot in the MLS Cup Final to take the lead.
Every team needs the kind of unselfish players who score more times than they give up. So we chose Giorgos Giakoumakis from Atlanta United. The Greek striker knows how to pass but knows that he often gets a better chance himself. He is certainly one of the best players in the league, he can score with his feet or his head, from short or long distance. The former Celtic striker has been able to turn games around with a penchant for scoring goals.
Where is Messi?
Well, we didn't include Inter Miami's Lionel Messi. Although he may be the 'best footballer' in MLS at the moment, he rarely plays in the competition.
Firstly, he only signed for the club midway through the season, helping the team win the League Cup but rarely playing in the league. Muscle injuries kept him out of action and he only scored one goal in the MLS. In theory, he should be able to make a bigger impact in his first full season with Inter Miami in 2024.