Union Best XI of the 2010s: staff picks, part one

Photo: Earl Gardner

Today, we’re running the first three of our staff picks for the Union’s Best XI of the 2010s.

As a reminder, the only rules are these: You can use any player who was signed to a Union contract at any point before Dec. 1, 2019. You can use any formation you want. And you can use any criteria you want.

Chris Gibbons

Each player on this list has either had the team’s best statistical season at his position, was undeniably the best player on his iteration of the squad, or will end up in the team’s Ring of Honor. Also, I don’t care about whether this formation makes sense or not. If MLS’s Best XI can be all forwards and a keeper, I can play a 3-3-3-1.

Jim O’Leary

















I know this formation doesn’t make sense. I don’t care. Some of these players are self-evident, so I won’t waste anyone’s time talking about them. Some of them are here because I’m worried their contributions will be lost to time if we don’t start talking about them now. Some are here simply because I liked them as players, nothing more in-depth than that.

But one player in particular, the one that probably will get the most notice is Freddy Adu. He was kind of a flop for the Union, but his signing was the moment I started paying attention to the Union. Because if the Union are good enough for the boy that was going to lead the US to the soccer promised land, then they were good enough for me.

Dan Walsh
Dan Walsh's best Union XI

Dan’s best Union XI could play a really good diamond formation.

We’ll go with a slightly offset 4-4-2 diamond, with Le Toux as the center forward and Michael Farfan as the second striker who plays more like a free-ranging winger/forward, in the mold of Fabian Espindola with Salt Lake and as the Union featured this season when Fafa Picault or David Accam played.

Let’s start with Farfan and Amobi Okugo, as their inclusion probably prompts the most discussion. When featured as a right-sided attacking midfielder, the quiet Farfan may have been more fun to watch than any other player to wear the blue and gold. Along those lines, Okugo remains to my eyes the best center back to suit up for Philadelphia (though I might change my mind later and say it was Maurice Edu). If only they had stayed in their best positions (and Okugo not gotten hurt after departing for Orlando).

Beyond that, much of this list speaks for itself. Kai Wagner was a close pick over Jordan Harvey, and Andre Blake is such a no-brainer that no one else should be in the discussion. (Yes, he had a down season, but this is a former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year that we’re talking about here.) Sheanon Williams gets the nod over Rosenberry and Gaddis, though Rosenberry would likely have surpassed him had he not departed so prematurely.

Danny Califf captains this side. He set the tone for what this club could and should be, and the disastrous trades of Califf and Le Toux remain the Union’s original sins. Alejandro Bedoya is vice captain, because he led this team toward recapturing that early character and spirit, which had seemed permanently lost until this year.


  1. Surprised Roger Torres didn’t get any mentions. I know he sometimes was a little more flash than substance but he had some magical moments for the club. Also surprised that Barnetta and Maidana got no mentions as well (Barnetta was an engine that drove the Union midfield and provided a fire that the team sometimes lacked), and Maidana (despite being a statue) I believe finished tied for 1st or 2nd in the league in assists one year.

    • Scott of Nazareth says:

      Barnetta/Maidana were the first two that came to my mind as well.
      Bedoya, Le Toux, Nogs, & Wagner on all 3 teams I very much agree with.
      Think Mondragon/McMath are contrarian selections coming off a less than stellar year for Blake.

    • I had Barnetta on my list and then scratched him to replace him with Dockal. I was going with one or the other. Barnetta was fantastic, but Dockal stepped it up to another level. I liked Maidana too, but I think both Barnetta and Dockal were superior.

      When picking these teams, I like picking a team that could actually play together out on the field. (My only potential reach away from that was decision-making at striker.)

      Side note, re: Roger Torres — Yeah, I liked him too, but you got to at least be a regular starter to make this list.

  2. Lahoud may be the toughest one for me to understand (and Adu, but at least that was explained). If you wanted a true #6, wouldn’t BC be a better choice? Or flip the formation to get Barnetta or Dockal into the squad. Lahoud seems like a great human being, but always felt like a fringe MLS’er while here.

    • He’s a “I just like him” pick. I figured we’d have enough people picking Barnetta and Dockal and so on, so there was plenty of room for nostalgia.

  3. Based on some of the names thrown into the midfields, I am surprised Medanjunin received no mentions.

    • I’d have listed him if I included an “honorable mention.” He definitely just barely missed the cut. I still wonder about the wisdom of the Union letting him go.

      • This is one of those moves that will only make sense once we see who they replace him with; or, if the replacement is a dud, the move will be viewed as a disaster.

  4. very interesting exercise. i truly would want to see Chris’ lineup play. added points for hoops that you can actually see.


    MY FAVORITES TO WATCH followed them since the beginning


  6. In Tanner We Trust says:

    The no-brainers to me are Blake, Bedoya, Monteiro, Le Toux, Nogueira, and Barnetta (although I understand Dockal in his place). I had a pretty strong recency bias with my picks, but that’s supported by the standings. I understand nostalgia but Przybylko is the most lethal striker we’ve ever had. Imagine if he didn’t have health issues. And Elliott really grew on me this year, so I included him.

  7. So many controversial players to chose from…
    What about Kleberson (the least-used best signing)?
    Edu may have been talented, but he is the U’s Andrew Bynum signing; not sure the U saw enough of him at his best to be included.
    Gaddis…is he top decade talent-wise, or lack of option at RB wise?
    Lahud? I mean, yeah…love the guy and will always be a fan, but “best XI” at the exclusion of decidedly more talented guys? (i.e. Chaco).
    Love this as a way to pass the time until the U do something in the off-season.

  8. When I did my list, I did not include Kai because he has only been here a year (and likewise didn’t include Kacper or Mondragon). I think there were players whose total accomplishments with the Union were more than theirs. (I had Ray at LB and Sheannon at RB with CJ alongside Seba at forward.)

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Did you include Monteiro? I also considered that viewpoint of Kai, then I remembered Jordan Harvey was only here for a short while and he’s our 2nd best LB ever. Ray only played LB cuz there was no one else. I think he could’ve been a better RB with more time spent on the right side.

      • I did not include Monteiro. My midfield was Bedoya, Medunjanin, Carroll, and Ilsinho. I also created a “bench” with 7 players which included Okugo, Maidana, and Nogueira in the midfield.
        Although Monteiro may be the best player of those, I felt the body of work with the Union for the others was greater than what Monteiro did in one season.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        I respect that for sure. Personally, Monteiro is the closest thing we’ve ever had to an MVP candidate imho.

  9. el Pachyderm says:

    …I think you are all “Stoned…Imaculate” for not having Roger Torres or Kleberson on this list.
    Easily the most creative players ever in this city…

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      There was an All3Points podcast we did where we praised Kleberson for a great pass to the team’s only consistently attacking player… Antoine Hoppenot. My how things have changed.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        No doubt… to be honest Kleberson was the best player to ever wear the uniform and an argument could be made he may be one of the best players to ever play in MLS.
        Things never quite lined up for him in his career but that guy was unreal.
        Buried on the bench by Hackworth… still makes me chuckle.
        BTW… not for nothing, I watched almost every U12 game the team won in that event recently — LAG owned the Union in the first match and it was a tactical switch by Kleberson as coach in the second go around that changed things for the Union kids and led them to victory in the tourney.
        Kleberson. Great player. Excellent coach.

      • Kleberson was the best player, but did he do the most for the Union? I think including him would have been akin to the Boston Braves including Babe Ruth on their all time team.

      • old soccer coach says:

        El P thanks for the info on Kleberson’s coaching. Worth knowing.
        FWIW, saw a Steel preseason game a few years ago against an NCAA side, which means they could not use academy players.
        It was early, so conditioning dictated 60-75 minutes only.
        Kleberson finished the game at right back. in the same way that Beckham and Ibrahimovic stood out immediately upon first sight as quality, so did Kleberson.

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