Three Union players were named to Major League Soccer’s Best XI for the year on Friday, a further endorsement of the Supporters’ Shield-winning team’s talent.
Andre Blake and Mark McKenzie were obvious selections. Blake won the Goalkeeper of the Year award for his campaign; McKenzie was a dominant centerback, and finished second in Defender of the Year voting. (The winner, Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman, led the expansion team to the playoffs. He also made the Best XI.)
The third honoree was a surprise: Brenden Aaronson in midfield. He certainly had a great year, and drew one of the league’s biggest headlines with his record-setting $6 million sale to Red Bull Salzburg. But if you think Jamiro Monteiro, Jose Andres Martinez and Alejandro Bedoya were more important to the Union’s winning their first trophy, plenty of people will agree with you.
Aaronson was joined in the Best XI midfield — often the most competitive places in the voting — by Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo, Portland’s Diego Chara, and Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro. The Medford native thus beat stars including Portland’s Diego Valeri and Columbus’ Lucas Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe to the honor.
Aaronson finished second in the Young Player of the Year voting to Los Angeles FC star Diego Rossi, who also earned the Golden Boot with a league-high 14 goals.
The Union will play their playoff opener Tuesday at Subaru Park against the worse seed of Friday’s two play-in game winners. No. 8 seed New England will host 9-seed Montreal at 6:30 p.m. (FS1, Fox Deportes), and 7-seed Nashville will host 10-seed Miami at 9 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
Goalkeeper: Andre Blake, Union
Defenders: Mark McKenzie, Union; Jonathan Mensah, Columbus Crew; Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC
Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson, Union; Diego Chara, Portland Timbers; Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders; Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC
Forwards: Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders; Diego Rossi, Los Angeles FC; Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders