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FC Dallas Forward Jeff Cunningham Named 2009 MLS Best XI

November 16, 2009 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - FC Dallas News Release

FRISCO, Texas (Monday, Nov. 16, 2009) - FC Dallas forward Jeff Cunningham is among the MLS Best XI for the third time in his career, according to the list MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced today during his annual State of the League address.

The Best XI recognizes the league's top 11 players at each position on the field - one goalkeeper, three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards. Six members of the 2009 Best XI are prior recipients of the honor, while five have been named to the squad for the first time.

The Best XI members received the most votes from the media, MLS players and MLS coaches and general managers.

The 2009 Golden Boot winner Cunningham joins his closest suitor in that race, Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids) at forward. Cunningham led the MLS with 17 goals during the 2009 season, scoring 16 in the final 14 games of the season as FC Dallas finished among the hottest teams in the league.

Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton earned his third major award of this year and his second career Best XI nod. This year's Goalkeeper of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year, Thornton was a Best XI member in 1998 when he helped lead the Chicago Fire to an MLS Cup championship.

The Best XI defense includes Chad Marshall, a two-time Best XI member and this year's Visa Defender of the Year. Joining Marshall on the back line are two first-time recipients - the Houston Dynamo's Geoff Cameron and the Chicago Fire's Wilman Conde.

The star-studded midfield includes two four-time honorees, Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), and Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC). Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) earned his third selection. MLS Newcomer of the Year finalist Freddie Ljungberg (Seattle Sounders FC) earned MLS Best XI honors for the first time, as did Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo).

This season 10 clubs are represented on the Best XI. Houston is the only club with two representatives. Of the top 11 players, 10 were members of the 2009 MLS All-Star team, and seven are finalists for the League's top end-of-season awards, including Volkswagen MLS MVP finalists Cunningham, Donovan and Joseph. Nine members of the Best XI have senior national team appearances. Conde and Cameron are the only two without a full national team cap.

The Volkswagen MLS MVP will be awarded Thursday, Nov. 19. ESPNews will broadcast the award ceremony. Below is a breakdown of the MLS Best XI by position and in alphabetical order:

2009 MLS Best XI:

GOALKEEPER (1): Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)

DEFENDERS (3): Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Wilman Conde (Chicago Fire), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Freddie Ljungberg (Seattle Sounders FC)

FORWARDS (2): Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas)

2009 MLS Best XI:

GOALKEEPER - ZACH THORNTON (Chivas USA)

DOB - October 10, 1973

Citizenship - United States

Thornton, a 14-year MLS veteran, was voted the 2009 Goalkeeper of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year after leading his club to a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. He led all goalkeepers with 0.87 goals against average and 12 shutouts. This is the Thornton's second Best XI nod, his first in more than a decade, since leading the Chicago Fire to victory in MLS Cup '98.

DEFENDER - GEOFF CAMERON (Houston Dynamo)

DOB - July 11, 1985

Citizenship - United States

Cameron, 24, was a finalist for Visa Defender of the Year after leading his club to playoffs and a second seed in the Western Conference bracket with a record of 13-8-9 during the regular season. The versatile second-year defender from Attleboro, Mass., played 29 games this season and was a member of the 2009 MLS All-Star team. He recorded two goals and six assists and was a defensive force for a team that allowed a League-low 29 goals. This marks the first time Cameron has been named to the Best XI.

DEFENDER - WILMAN CONDE (Chicago Fire)

DOB - August 29, 1982

Citizenship - Colombia

Conde has been an imposing presence for Chicago since entering the League in 2007. Conde played 18 games for the Chicago Fire and was a key contributor to a team that finished second in the Eastern Conference. The 27-year-old Colombian defender was part of a defense that allowed just 34 goals in 30 games. A 2009 MLS All-Star, Conde added two goals and two assists from his position in central defense. This is the first Best XI honor for Conde.

DEFENDER - CHAD MARSHALL (Columbus Crew)

DOB - August 22, 1984

Citizenship - United States

Marshall, a six-year MLS veteran, has established himself as the top center back in League. This season he anchored a Columbus defense that allowed only 31 goals, en route to its second straight Supporters' Shield. Marshall won his second straight Visa Defender of the Year award this year and is now a two-time Best XI honoree. The 6-foot-4 defender scored four goals for the second straight year, which was tied for third most on the team.

MIDFIELDER - DWAYNE DE ROSARIO (Toronto FC)

DOB - May 15, 1978

Citizenship - Canada

De Rosario didn't let a change of scenery interrupt his brilliant form, as he was named to the Best XI for the fourth time in his nine-year MLS career. The 31-year-old from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, recorded 11 goals and six assists for Toronto FC in his first season with the club. De Rosario was traded to his hometown Toronto FC during the offseason after three seasons starring with the Houston Dynamo. He becomes the first player to be named to the Best XI with three different clubs.

MIDFIELDER - LANDON DONOVAN (Los Angeles Galaxy)

DOB - March 4, 1982

Citizenship - United States

Donovan scored 12 goals on his way to leading the Galaxy to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The 27-year-old U.S. international put off-field distractions to the side throughout the season and achieved perhaps the most complete season of his nine-year career. Donovan captained a Galaxy squad that finished as the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs, after last year finishing tied for last in the conference. Donovan was named to the MLS All-Star team for the ninth time this season, and was the Player of the Month of July and Week 29 Player of the Week. This marks Donovan's third Best XI nomination.

MIDFIELDER - STUART HOLDEN (Houston Dynamo)

DOB - August 1, 1985

Citizenship - United States

Holden had a breakout season in 2009, starting a career-high 26 games and scoring a career-high six goals. The 24-year-old from Houston used the departure of mainstay attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, to catapult his career. Holden impressed National Team coach Bob Bradley and has become a regular for the U.S. National Team. Holden is receiving his first Best XI nod and was also named to his first MLS All-Star Team this season.

MIDFIELDER - SHALRIE JOSEPH (New England Revolution)

DOB - May 24, 1978

Citizenship - Grenada

A perennial All-Star, Joseph stepped his game up even further in 2009 to carry an injury-riddled Revolution squad to a third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs while logging career-highs with eight goals and eight assists. Joseph, 31, excelled in varying roles, often moving up to the front line to give the Revolution a scoring threat. He led his team in scoring, was named to his sixth consecutive All-Star team and received his first career Player of the Week award. This marks Joseph's fourth career Best XI selection, and he's among the three finalists for the Volkswagen MLS Most Valuable Player.

MIDFIELDER - FREDDIE LJUNGBERG (Seattle Sounders FC)

DOB - April 16, 1977

Citizenship - Sweden

The Swedish superstar made a remarkable recovery from offseason hip surgery while making a smooth transition from the English Premier League to Major League Soccer. Ljungberg, who became Seattle's first Designated Player prior to the 2009 season, led a dynamic offense with a team high nine assists. His vision and creativity helped spark the Sounders run to the playoffs - only the second expansion team in MLS history to qualify. Ljungberg was named an MLS All-Star in his first season, was MLS Player of the Month for October and was a finalist for the MLS Newcomer of the Year award.

FORWARD - JEFF CUNNINGHAM (FC Dallas)

DOB - August 21, 1976

Citizenship - United States

Cunningham showed this season that he is still one of the League's premier forwards. The 33-year-old 12-year MLS veteran scored a career-high 17 goals and added eight assists. Cunningham took the Budweiser Golden Boot scoring title for the second time and is one of the three finalists for the Volkswagen MLS Most Valuable Player. Cunningham erupted for 16 goals in the final 14 games of the season and now ranks second all-time in career goals with 121, behind only Jaime Moreno (131). This marks the third Best XI nomination for Cunningham.

FORWARD - CONOR CASEY (Colorado Rapids)

DOB - July 2, 1981

Citizenship - United States

In his third MLS season after spending most of his professional career in Germany, Casey returned to the United States and landed with his home state club in the Colorado Rapids. The rugged 6-foot-1 forward showed scoring finesse as well this season, notching 16 goals in 24 games, His strong form earned his way back into the U.S. National Team, where he scored two crucial goals in the World Cup-clinching victory in Honduras. Casey surpassed his 2008 MLS total of 11 goals and was named to the MLS All-Star Team for the first time. Casey finished second in the Budweiser Golden Boot race to Cunningham. He won MLS Player of the Week three times this season and was Player of the Month for the month of May.


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