Giovinco, Borchers, Kamara lead our 2015 MLS team of the season
With the 2015 Major League Soccer season in the books and the Portland Timbers crowned as MLS Cup champions, Jason Davis recaps the best XI of the year.
Goalkeeper: Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls
The 2015 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year earned his place in this team by helping the New York Red Bulls to the best goal differential in the league. Robles consistently made big stops, playing a major role in helping the club earn their second Supporters Shield in three years. Among the best shot-stoppers in the league, he's also not shabby with his distribution.
Defender: Jorge Villafana, Portland Timbers
Villafana has developed into one of Major League Soccer's best left-backs in Portland and proved it through the Timbers' run to an MLS Cup title. Against Columbus in the final, Villafana was fantastic, shutting down Best XI winger Ethan Finlay so completely that Finlay was pulled after 60 minutes. Amazing for a player who earned his way to a pro contract through the MLS Sueno program.
Defender: Laurent Ciman, Montreal Impact
If there was a category for "Defensive Newcomer of the Year," Ciman would walk away with it. The Belgian international was the steadiest thing in a Montreal team that played a season amid constant flux, holding down the backline all year long. In addition to playing stellar defense, Ciman's leadership and experience proved to be incredibly important.
Defender: Nat Borchers, Portland Timbers
It's impossible to miss Borchers and his stunning red beard in the middle of the backline for Portland. Not just because of the beard, but because Borchers is a towering physical presence who executes the physical battle of defending a center forward as well as anyone in MLS. Through the playoffs, Borchers was incredible on both ends of the field, not only preventing goals but providing them as well.
Defender: Harrison Afful, Columbus Crew SC
Afful's role for the Crew SC didn't require him to play much defense, and so he's on this team almost entirely because of the time he spent pushing up from the back into the Columbus attack. Columbus came up short in the MLS Cup final, but Afful's run during the playoffs should go down as one of the best postseason performances by an attacking full-back in league history.
Midfielder: Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas
It wasn't long ago that Fabian Castillo was little more than a wealth of speed contained in a package that was often out of control. In 2015, Castillo learned to rein in his speed and use it to greater effect. The FC Dallas man's nine goals and nine assists are evidence of his maturation as a player in Oscar Pareja's system. Castillo will always be most dangerous on the break, but his season showed he has learned some new tricks.
Midfielder: Dax McCarty, New York Red Bulls
It's a little sad that McCarty had such a poor conference semifinal round against Crew SC, because during the rest of 2015, the defensive midfielder played at an elite level. Insanely accurate as a passer and the key to springing the Red Bulls' attack from deep-lying positions, McCarty made everyone around him in the New York lineup look for his presence and leadership.
Midfielder: Benny Feilhaber, Sporting KC
Feilhaber made Sporting Kansas City go on the attacking end this year. There were better goal scorers in the league in 2015, but no one showed the creative abilities that Feilhaber consistently brought to his team during the regular season. Sporting's campaign ended in disappointment at the hands of the eventual champions, but Feilhaber was not a culprit of that. Simply put, Feilhaber is the best midfield passer in MLS.
Forward: Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
The MVP. If not for the fact that Landon Donovan's name now graces the award, there might be an argument that it should carry Giovinco's name in recognition of his otherworldly 2015 season. The Italian is the first player in MLS history to crest the 20-goal/10-assist barriers in the same season, and he did it while surrounded by a decidedly uneven and unconvincing group of teammates. There is no question that Giovinco is the greatest first-year MLS signing ever.
Forward: Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC
At some point between his departure from MLS back in 2012 and his return to the league this season, Kei Kamara turned into a strong center-forward with good feet and an incredible ability to head the ball. He used those refined skills to score 22 times in 2015, leading Crew SC in goals and in attitude. Kamara isn't the only reason Columbus reached the MLS Cup final this year, but he is certainly among the biggest.
Forward: Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy
Ho hum, another excellent season for Robbie Keane with the Galaxy. Even without Landon Donovan as his partner in crime, Keane recorded 20 goals and eight assists. The adjustment to life post-LD did hurt the Galaxy enough that they crashed out of the playoffs in the knockout round, but that happened through no fault of Keane's. The Irishman simply added to his resume as the best DP signing in league history with his 2015 performance.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.