Sounders FC defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso was named to the Major League Soccer Best XI team announced Monday.
Alonso, 27, was a key part of a Seattle defense that allowed the second-fewest goals (33) and shots on goal (122) in MLS this season, and recorded the third-most shutouts (12). He also had a goal and two assists in a team-leading 2,688 minutes of league play.
It was the first time Alonso was named to the team, which honors the top starting lineup available in the league, and which is determined by the vote of club representatives, players and media. Alonso is a two-time MLS All-Star. He was named to the MLS Team of the Week four times and player of the tournament in the 2012 U.S. Open Cup.
He is the third Sounders named to a Best XI, joining Freddie Ljungberg in 2009 and Kasey Keller in 2011.
“I’m feeling so good,” Alonso said through a club press release. “I think I did a good job this year playing for my team: being an All-Star and now Best XI. So, I’m feeling happy, and I enjoy this moment.”
Other members of the Best XI are goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen (Kansas City); defenders Victor Bernardez (San Jose), Matt Besler (Kansas City) and Aurelien Collin (Kansas City); midfielders Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Chris Pontius (D.C.) and Graham Zusi (Kansas City); and forwards Thierry Henry (New York), Robbie Keane (Los Angeles) and Chris Wondolowski (San Jose).
The Best XI list was part of MLS commissioner Don Garber’s “state of the league” address and conference call. Other Garber highlights:
• He called the 2012 season the most successful in league history, citing record attendance, increased broadcast presence on NBC and NBCSN, and expansion into Montreal. Garber said attendance is up more than 25 percent since 2005, and the 114 sellouts this season set a league record. There were six matches — three at CenturyLink Field in Seattle — with crowds of 50,000 or more.
• The return to MLS of Sounders midfielder Eddie Johnson was one of the league’s top stories.
• Since 2007, MLS has added seven franchises and 10 soccer stadiums, and the expansion fee jumped from $10 million for Toronto in 2007 to $40 million for Montreal last season.
• The 2013 season will begin March 2. The schedule and playoff format will remain the same as in 2012.
• There is no planned change for the Designated Player rules, although the salary cap will increase as called for in the collective bargaining agreement.
• Flushing Meadows, N.Y., remains the most likely spot for a 20th MLS franchise, perhaps in 2016. Garber also cited Miami, Orlando and Minneapolis as eventual expansion possibilities if appropriate stadiums can be built.
He repeated that “we need to be south of Washington, D.C.,” and cited Florida as a logical place for at least one franchise.
• Garber has no problem with a pair of low-seeded teams — No. 5 Houston at No. 4 Los Angeles — meeting for the MLS Cup, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. The game will also be available in a league-record 110 countries.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt