The 2015 season has come to a close, and as such, it's a good time to look back on the 2015 NASL season. Today, I'm going to share my Best XI for the season, which looks a little bit different than many of the other ones floating around the internet.
This season, there were some very difficult choices to be made, and some players that I really wanted to include that wound up being left off. Omar Cummings and Billy Forbes were bright spots in an otherwise dismal San Antonio season. Fort Lauderdale was so loaded with attacking talent that there's just no way to fit them all in. Ottawa's defensive unit was so good that it was tempting to just pick them all, and not selecting either of Marcos Senna or Raul just feels dirty. That said, here are the eleven players I wound up going with:
Romuald Peiser (Ottawa Fury FC) - I don't think I even need to explain the logic in this selection, Peiser was outstanding this season. There's a very good reason there was legitimate talk about a goalkeeper as the league's best player for this season, and without him, I'm not sure Ottawa even make the playoffs.
Ayoze (New York Cosmos) - Ayoze is one of the more overlooked players in the league, in my opinion. His ability to contribute to the attack and still be a rock in defense has allowed Leo Fernandes to develop this season, and his left footed threat on set pieces has been invaluable to the champions. The Spanish defender isn't ever going to fill up the stat sheet, but watching the Cosmos week in and week out makes it obvious just how good he actually is.
Justin Davis (Minnesota United) - Like Ayoze, Davis plays on the left side of the defense. He and Ayoze had such fantastic seasons, however, that I just couldn't justify picking a different fullback based solely on the fact that they played primarily on the right. Davis scored five times and tallied two assists this season, and will probably draw significant interest from MLS sides this winter.
Rafael Alves (Ottawa Fury FC) - Peiser was very good this season, but he was helped out by a very good defensive unit in front of him. Alves was easily the best of that bunch, and it will be fascinating to watch where this season's strong showing takes him.
Roversio (New York Cosmos) - Roversio hasn't been making many of these Best XI lists, largely due to the fact that injuries kept him out of action for about half of the 2015 season. It's easy to see just how important the Brazilian is to the champions, however, when looking at the club's record when he's involved. The club lost only once in a match that Roversio played this season, and that single loss was a match in which Roversio was forced off the pitch in the first 30 minutes, with the scoring still yet to be opened. For my money, he's the best center back playing club soccer in North America at the moment, and if New York could get an injury free season from him, they might just run the table.
Danny Szetela (New York Cosmos) - This was probably the most difficult decision for me, as Richie Ryan and Szetela both did so many of the oft-overlooked little things for their clubs that made both of them into title contenders. I was back and forth on the pair heading into the title match, but for me, Szetela's showing in the final game of the season was enough to tip the scales in his favor.
Ibson (Minnesota United FC) - The Loons didn't skip a beat after Miguel Ibarra left the club this summer, and Ibson was probably the biggest reason why. The 32-year old Brazilian does a little of everything for his club, and is that sort of player that makes everyone around him better.
Lance Laing (FC Edmonton) - In my opinion, without Laing, Edmonton probably would have finished on the bottom of the NASL table. I had a very difficult time choosing between the Jamaican international and Stefano Pinho for Player of the Year, so he's a no-brainer for this team.
Tiyi Shipalane (Carolina RailHawks) - Like Laing, Shipalane is almost single-handedly responsible for most of the good things that happened in Carolina this season. His re-signing gives the club a real building block for next season, and it will be very interesting to see what he can do if Carolina's new ownership surrounds him with more talent.
Christian Ramirez (Minnesota United FC) - Ramirez didn't post the same sort of gaudy numbers this season as he did in 2014, but he still did enough to earn his way into my Best XI. Had Tom Heinemann done anything in the first 60% of the season, this could have been a far more difficult choice.
Stefano Pinho (Fort Lauderdale Strikers) - Golden Ball, Golden Boot, Best XI.