Major League soccer announced their end of the season, Best XI, today. And while the LA Galaxy didn’t have the best year on the field, two players garnered some recognition. And recognized they were. MLS placed both Giovani dos Santos and Jelle Van Damme on their Best XI list.
Jelle Van Damme was a revelation at center back this year. He was physical and smart, provided some perfectly placed passes, and was dangerous on set pieces — on both sides of the ball. Van Damme was the emotional leader on defense, and his humorous voice in the locker room was second only to his leadership on the field. For his play, the Belgian was voted “LA Galaxy Defender of the Year” by the media and probably would’ve taken home the LA Galaxy MVP award if the press had voted on it as well.
Van Damme must now reenact his performance with the weight of knowing that the Galaxy will continue to build the defense around him and that the locker room is expecting his leadership. He was a surprise in 2016 but can 2017 be even better?
Regardless, the Galaxy may have asked themselves what life without Omar Gonzalez would look like? But Jelle has made sure that life is looking pretty rosy for 2017 as long as Van Damme, who’s under contract, returns to play for Los Angeles.
Giovani dos Santos also garnered league-wide attention in 2016. Dos Santos was a pivotal part of the success the Galaxy had on the field scoring 14 goals and adding 12 assists, along with being named the LA Galaxy’s “Player of the Year” by the fans. Dos Santos showed significant progress from his inaugural MLS season. And particularly flourished during Robbie Keane’s lengthy absences due to injury and international duty.
With Keane out the door, 2017 will be an important year to either establish himself as a game changer for the Galaxy down the road or to succumb to the label of being an incomplete player who is prone to disappearing.
Two LA Galaxy players presided over a defense that gave up the third least goals in MLS (39 goals) and the highest scoring offense in the Western Conference (54 goals), but they ultimately failed to come together on the field in 2016. But with older players being jettisoned, both Van Damme and Dos Santos will need to be on their toes if they’re to lift the LA Galaxy back into the upper echelon of MLS teams next year.
The rest of MLS’ Best XI can be found here:
2016 MLS BEST XI
Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders: Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids), Jelle Van Damme (LA Galaxy)
Midfielders: Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact)
Forwards: Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)