1. Kasey Keller
Simply put, Keller’s the best goalkeeper in Major League Soccer history. I defy anyone to refute this. The only possible argument against is that he’s only played half a season so far. But his performances so far for an expansion team have been off the charts. After fretting about the state of the back line in the preseason, Seattle has given up only 16 goals this season – third fewest in MLS.
2. Osvaldo Alonso
The best defensive midfielder in a league chock-full of them. With all due respect to New England’s Shalrie Joseph, Alonso is the most tenacious defensive player I’ve seen in the league this year. It is impossible to get by him in a one-on-one situation. Add his tireless work ethic, tremendous passing (after initially focusing on completing all of his passes, Alonso’s gotten more confident as the season goes on), and superior speed and quickness put him a level above.
3. Freddie Ljungberg
Freddie just beats out Sr. Montero for the third spot. He’s been working in increasing his top-end acceleration for the past two weeks while the Sounders take a small break from the MLS schedule. Should he add the ability to beat people with speed (he has not shown this yet – against Houston a breakaway was thwarted by a recovering Julius James) he will be unstoppable coming out of the midfield.
4. Fredy Montero
Far and away the most technically-gifted player on the team, Montero’s added a renewed focus in the past two months of the season. All credit is due to coach Sigi Schmid, who reduced his minutes as a message to the star striker to start giving a star effort. (Yes, I stole that line from Remember the Titans.)
5. Brad Evans
The quintessential glue guy, Evans can play anywhere. I dare say he might have success as a forward, if they ever deployed him there. Cerebral, athletic, good in the air, and displaying leadership qualities beyond his years. He is rightfully getting a chance to play for his country in the Gold Cup – experience that can only benefit him when he returns to Seattle.
Also receiving votes: Steve Zakuani, James Riley