SEATTLE, WASH. – Major League Soccer today announced the 2021 MLS Best XI, an annual list recognizing the league’s top players at each position as determined by media, MLS players and MLS club technical staff. This year’s squad includes three Sounders FC players – forward Raúl Ruidíaz, midfielder João Paulo and defender Yeimar Gómez Andrade. This marks the second consecutive season that Seattle has earned its franchise-record three selections and is one behind 2021 Supporters’ Shield winner New England Revolution for the most players in this season’s Best XI. The Rave Green finished the 2021 regular season with 60 points (17-8-9), earning the second seed in the Western Conference before bowing out of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs on November 23 to Real Salt Lake via penalty kicks.
FORWARD RAÚL RUIDÍAZ
Leading the Rave Green in goals for the fourth consecutive season, Ruidíaz becomes the first player in club history to earn back-to-back Best XI selections. The Peruvian’s 17 regular-season goals tied Obafemi Martins’ club record set in 2014 and finished tied for third in MLS in 2021. He also was tied for first in MLS with both seven game-winning goals and four multi-goal games. Sounders FC went unbeaten in the 13 games (10-0-3) that he recorded a goal. Ruidíaz also added two goals in 2021 League’s Cup action, giving him 19 across all competitions in 2021, which also tied Martins’ club record set in 2014. His play this season earned him a start in the 2021 MLS All-Star Game.
MIDFIELDER JOÃO PAULO
João Paulo earns his first MLS Best XI honor, starting 28 of 31 appearances in his second season with Sounders FC, recording three goals and 11 assists (tied for sixth in MLS). A two-way standout in midfield, João Paulo finished fifth league-wide in touches (2,463), while ranking first in tackles won (42), second in interceptions (36) and third in duels won (176) among players with at least 10 assists. The set piece specialist ranked second in MLS with 42 chances created from set plays and tied for third with six assists from set plays. For his efforts this season, João Paulo was voted a starter in the 2021 MLS All-Star Game and is one of five finalists for Landon Donovan MLS MVP.
DEFENDER YEIMAR GÓMEZ ANDRADE
Another first-time Best XI honoree, Yeimar appeared in all but one game in 2021, starting 29 and leading a defense that finished tied for first in MLS with just 33 goals allowed. The towering central defender led MLS with 86 interceptions (13 more than any other player) and finished tied for first with 55 tackles won. He also finished second league-wide with 147 clearances, tied for first with 80 headed clearances and eighth with 87 aerials won. On top of being rewarded with his first career international callup to Colombia for November’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Yeimar was also voted a starter in the 2021 MLS All-Star Game and is one of three finalists for MLS Defender of the Year.
Sounders FC has previously seen multiple players on MLS Best XI twice, first in 2014 when Chad Marshall and Obafemi Martins made the squad. The club also had three selections last year: Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Ruidíaz. Other previous Sounders to earn the honor were Freddie Ljungberg in 2009, Kasey Keller in 2011, Osvaldo Alonso in 2012 and Marshall again in 2018.
2021 MLS BEST XI
GOALKEEPER: Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
DEFENDERS: Yeimar Gómez Andrade (Seattle Sounders FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
MIDFIELDERS:Tajon Buchanan (New England Revolution), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Hany Mukhtar (Nashville SC), João Paulo (Seattle Sounders FC)
FORWARDS: Gustavo Bou (New England Revolution), Valentín Castellanos (New York City FC), Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle Sounders FC)
SOUNDERS FC ALL-TIME MLS BEST XI SELECTIONS
2009: Freddie Ljungberg
2011: Kasey Keller
2012: Osvaldo Alonso
2014: Chad Marshall, Obafemi Martins
2018: Chad Marshall
2020: Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, Raúl Ruidíaz
2021: João Paulo, Raúl Ruidíaz, Yeimar Gómez Andrade