MLS Playoff 2007 Best XI

AROUND THE WORLD, cup competitions are a volatile, unpredictable counterpart to the long grinding slog of league play. In the United States, the MLS season is condensed into a frantic burst of tense showdowns that determine the champion.

Those that survive to celebrate have truly endured a brief, yet intense, "second season." Modest regular seasons can be redeemed, and even those players who come through for their teams can be bitterly disappointed.

For the 2007 postseason, these are the 11 who stood out.

FORWARDS

Taylor Twellman followed up a regular season of 16 goals to score all three of New England's postseason goals, including an incredible bicycle kick that downed Chicago, 1-0, in the conference final. In MLS Cup, he headed New England into the lead, just as he did last year, but once again the Revs squandered the lead. Twellman upped his tally to 11 playoff goals - second in league history to Carlos Ruiz - but still lost an MLS Cup for the fourth time.

Joseph Ngwenya matched Twellman's goal with his first of the playoffs, a scrappy finish of his own miskicked shot. He'd assisted on the second and third goals in Houston's comeback 4-1 triumph over Dallas in the conference semifinal second leg.

MIDFIELDERS

Both Dwayne De Rosario and Brad Davis had endured rather mediocre regular seasons statistically, and Davis missed nearly half of the season because of a knee injury. But they shone in the playoffs, and DeRo met a Davis cross with a fierce header for the winning goal.

De Rosario finished the playoffs with two goals and two assists; Davis finished off Dallas in the conference final with a stunning free kick.

Shalrie Joseph anchored the middle as the Revs posted three straight shutouts leading up to the final, and his passes to Steve Ralston led to Twellman's goals in both the final and the 1-0 defeat of New York in the conference semifinal.

DEFENDERS

There are far more glamorous players on the Houston roster, but those players elected left back Wade Barrett captain. He kept his side secure in the postseason and by pushing up field in the final increased the pressure on the Revs. Defender Eddie Robinson tackled ferociously and dominated in the air. Staunch, smart work by Michael Parkhurst blunted many attacks and cleared numerous balls in the Revs penalty area. Right back Bryan Namoff played solidly despite defensive troubles that eliminated D.C. in the conference semifinals.

GOALKEEPER

With 24 playoff saves, Matt Reis had more than twice as many as any other goalkeeper. He didn't give up a goal until the final, when a mishit ball turned into the equalizer, and De Rosario's winner left him stranded.

(This article originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Soccer America magazine.)

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