The 2019 Major League Soccer regular season featured single-season records in the golden boot and Supporters’ Shield race, and 10 teams eclipsed 50 points.
The best individual performers were scattered across the league, and that is shown in our Pro Soccer USA MLS awards balloting.
On the ballots we received from our beat writers across MLS, 30 different players were mentioned in best XI voting and only one award was unanimous.
Our voting group included Julian Cardillo, Dan Santaromita, Chris Fuhrmeister, Dylan Butler, Glenn Crooks, Laura Gomez, Robert Jonas, Tristan D’Amours and Arman Kafai.
Most Valuable Player
Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC
Vela was the only unanimous award winner.
The Mexican broke Josef Martínez’s single-season scoring record with 34 tallies, and he also provided Los Angeles FC with 15 assists.
Vela closed the regular season with a nine-game scoring streak, including a hat-trick on decision day versus Colorado.
Coach of the Year
Bob Bradley, Los Angeles FC
More than half of our writers believed Bob Bradley’s job with LAFC was the best of the season.
Bradley’s second-year side won the Supporters’ Shield with 72 points from a 21-4-9 record.
The Black and Gold outscored opponents 85-37, notching the most goals and conceding the fewest in MLS.
LAFC has home-field advantage throughout the postseason, and it should be on a mission to win MLS Cup after falling to Real Salt Lake in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Newcomer of the Year
Carles Gil, New England Revolution
Carles Gil was one of the most consistent attackers over 34 games.
The Spaniard tallied 10 goals and 14 assists in his first season with New England after joining from Deportivo La Coruña in Spain.
After New England acquired forward Gustavo Bou, Gil enjoyed even more success, including a stretch over the summer with a goal and an assist in four of five matches.
Rookie of the Year
Brenden Aaronson, Philadelphia Union
Brenden Aaronson’s MLS career began with a March 17 start at Atlanta United. By October, Aaronson earned his first United States men’s national team call-up.
The 18-year-old homegrown midfielder totaled three goals and two assists over 1,722 minutes and was one of a few players who displaced Marco Fabián from the Union lineup.
Aaronson started six of the Union’s past seven games and is in contention to make Jim Curtin’s XI for the Eastern Conference first-round clash with the New York Red Bulls.
Defender of the Year
Ike Opara, Minnesota United
The hefty amount of allocation money Minnesota United used to trade for Ike Opara was well spent.
The former Sporting Kansas City center back helped the Loons earn their first playoff berth and the third-best defensive record in the Western Conference.
In the second half of the season, the Loons recorded six clean sheets, including shutouts of LAFC, New England and Portland, twice.
Others Receiving Votes: Miles Robinson, Atlanta United; Walker Zimmerman, LAFC; Eddie Segura, LAFC
Goalkeeper of the Year
Vito Mannone, Minnesota United
Vito Mannone secured many goalkeeper of the year votes with his performances in the final weeks of the regular season.
The 31-year-old recorded 15 wins, 11 shutouts and 129 saves in Minnesota’s best campaign since it joined MLS. After Sept. 1, the former Arsenal man turned away 39 of the 45 shots he faced.
Others Receiving Votes: Bill Hamid, D.C. United; Matt Turner, New England Revolution
Best XI (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Vito Mannone
Mannone received the majority of our staff votes, while Matt Turner and Bill Hamid split a pair each.
Defenders: Ike Opara, Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson
Thirteen defenders in a variety of formations were nominated by our writers, but Opara, Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson were constant figures on the ballots.
Zimmerman helped LAFC earn the best defensive mark in MLS, and Robinson took a major step up under Frank de Boer and earned his first USMNT call-ups from Gregg Berhalter.
FC Dallas‘ Ryan Hollingshead and New York City FC’s Anton Tinnerholm also received multiple votes. LAFC’s Eddie Segura and Jordan Harvey, Seattle’s Brad Smith, FC Dallas’ Reto Ziegler, NYCFC’s Maxime Chanot, Kai Wagner of Philadelphia and D.C.’s Frederic Brillant all had a single vote.
Midfielders: Maxi Moralez, Alejandro Pozuelo, Eduard Atuesta, Carles Gil
Assists leader Maxi Moralez was on every best XI ballot we received.
Pozuelo, Eduard Atuesta and Gil were on more than half of the nomination sheets, which created a significant gap between them and the other potential honorees.
Pozuelo and Gil were two of four players with 10-plus goals and assists, Moralez played a hand in 27 of NYCFC’s 63 goals and Atuesta was a dominant force behind LAFC’s record-setting attack.
LAFC’s Mark-Anthony Kaye, Philadelphia’s Haris Medunjanin, the Portland duo of Diego Chará and Diego Valeri as well as Atlanta’s Darlington Nagbe also received best XI midfield votes.
Forwards: Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Josef Martínez
The top three scorers in MLS were the only forwards our writers chose for the best XI.
Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Josef Martinez scored 91 goals between them.
The gap between Martínez in third (27) and Diego Rossi in fourth (16) was 11 goals, and only three other strikers reached the 15-tally mark.