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MLS Best XI, Comeback Player of the Year

Major League Soccer Communications

LOS ANGELES -- Major League Soccer's 2008 year-end awards concluded today, on the eve of MLS Cup 2008, as the League unveiled the 2008 Best XI team, and announced that FC Dallas forward and Best XI member Kenny Cooper received the Comeback Player of the Year award.

The Best XI is an annual award recognizing the League's top 11 players at each individual position on the field - one goalkeeper, three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards. The MLS Comeback Player of the Year recognizes a player who has battled adversity and to returned to perform at the highest level in Major League Soccer.

Cooper, 24, a native of Dallas, Texas, played and started all of FC Dallas' 30 regular season games this year after suffering a broken right tibia eight games into the 2007 MLS season. He returned in 2008 and set the League ablaze, scoring 18 goals and recording three assists. He finished second in the Budweiser Golden Boot, awarded to the League's top goal scorer, behind Landon Donovan (20 goals). Cooper tied for first in the League with four game-winning goals, ranked second to Donovan with four multiple-goal games, and he led the League in shots and shots on goal.

Cooper was a First XI selection for the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star team that defeated West Ham United and was twice named the MLS Player of the Week (Week 18 and 19). In his three MLS seasons he has 33 goals and nine assists. Cooper signed with FC Dallas on Feb. 6, 2006 following four seasons with Manchester United Reserves.

The 2008 MLS Best XI includes seven first-time recipients of the honor. This season's Best XI goalkeeper, Jon Busch, is receiving the honor for the first time. Busch also earned his first Panasonic Goalkeeper of the Year award this season.

The defense is led by four-time Best XI member Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), and rounded out by two first-time recipients in Visa Defender of the Year Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew) and Bakary Soumare (Chicago Fire).

The 2008 Volkswagen MLS Most Valuable Player, Argentine attacking midfielder, Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus Crew), highlights the midfield, earning the honor for the second consecutive season. Midfielders making the Best XI for the first time are Cuauhtémoc Blanco (Chicago Fire), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew) and Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA). Joining that quartet in midfield is Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), earning his third Best XI honor.

The Best XI forwards are the League's top two scorers, Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Cooper (FC Dallas). Donovan, the Budweiser Golden Boot winner, is a two-time Best XI winner, while Cooper has earned the honor for the first time in his three-year MLS career.

The Columbus Crew, Supporters' Shield winners and an MLS Cup 2008 finalist, placed three players on the Best XI team, as did the Chicago Fire. Chivas USA, FC Dallas, the Kansas City Wizards, the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New England Revolution each had one player selected to the Best XI squad.

The winner of the Comeback Player of the Year and the Best XI members received the most votes from the media, MLS players and MLS coaches and general managers.

2008 MLS Best XI:
GOALKEEPER (1): Jon Busch (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (3): Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Bakary Soumare (Chicago Fire), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Cuauhtémoc Blanco (Chicago Fire), Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus Crew), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA)
FORWARDS (2): Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)

2008 MLS Best XI:
GOALKEEPER - JON BUSCH (Chicago Fire)
DOB - August 18, 1976
Citizenship - United States

Busch, a seven-year MLS veteran, was awarded the Panasonic Goalkeeper of the Year Award after leading his club to a second-place finish (13-10-7) in the Eastern Conference. He led the Fire to the Eastern Conference Championship game. During the regular season he tied for the League lead among goalkeepers in shutouts (10), tied for second in wins (13) and was second in goals against average (1.10). This marks the first time Busch has been named to the League's Best XI team.

DEFENDER - JIMMY CONRAD (Kansas City Wizards)
DOB - Feb. 24, 1977
Citizenship - United States

Conrad, a 10-year veteran, had arguably the best season of his MLS career. He played every minute of the Wizards 30-games this year. He was one of only six players to play all 2,700 minutes during the regular season. Conrad had a career-high six goals and ranked second on the team in goals scored. He was named to the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star team and is now a four-time Best XI member.

DEFENDER - BAKARY SOUMARE (Chicago Fire)
DOB - Nov. 9, 1985
Citizenship - Mali

Soumare, in his second year, defined himself as one of the best defenders in the League. Starting 28 games for the Fire, the 23-year-old Generation adidas defender from Mali was part of a defense that allowed just 33 goals in 30 games, helping the Chicago Fire to the Eastern Conference Championship game.

DEFENDER - CHAD MARSHALL (Columbus Crew)
DOB - August 22, 1984
Citizenship - United States

Marshall, 24, was named Visa Defender of the Year after leading his club to the Supporters Shield (17-7-6) and the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Marshall was drafted second overall in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft and battled back from concussions in 2007 to lead the Crew defense to the MLS Cup. Marshall led one of the League's best defensive units, starting 29 games as it allowed a measly total of 36 goals.

MIDFIELDER - SHALRIE JOSEPH (New England Revolution)
DOB - May 24, 1978
Citizenship - Grenada

Joseph is a three-time Best XI recipient and a five-time MLS All-Star. His imposing physical presence and ability to control the game on the ground and in the air have made him a key component in the New England midfield. Joseph, played 2,384 minutes in 27 games in 2008, while scoring one goal and adding one assist, as he was named to the Best XI for the second consecutive year.

MIDFIELDER - SACHA KLJESTAN (Chivas USA)
DOB - Sept. 9, 1985
Citizenship - United States

Kljestan, 23, a three-year veteran, continued his inventive play leading Chivas USA to a second-place finish in the Western Conference and a spot in the Western Conference semifinals. The 2006 Rookie of the Year finalist led the Red-and-White with a career-high five goals and added seven assists in 21 games.

MIDFIELDER - ROBBIE ROGERS (Columbus Crew)
DOB - May 12, 1987
Citizenship - United States

In his first full season in the League, the 21-year-old Huntington Beach, Calif. native, supplied an offensive spark to the Supporters' Shield-winning Columbus Crew. A key cog in the Crew's dynamic attack, Rogers moved freely throughout the midfield, scoring six goals and adding three assists in 27 games for the Crew.

MIDFIELDER - CUAUHTEMOC BLANCO (Chicago Fire)
DOB - Jan. 17, 1972
Citizenship - Mexico

The Mexican midfielder wowed onlookers and established himself as the leader of a Fire team that again reached Eastern Conference Championship. The former Club America and Mexican national team standout signed as a Designated Player on April 3, 2007 and joined the team midway through last season. Blanco was fourth in the league in assists with 11 in addition to the seven goals he scored in 27 games played.

MIDFIELDER - GUILLERMO BARROS SCHELOTTO (Columbus Crew)
DOB - May 4, 1973
Citizenship - Argentina

Schelotto was named the 2008 Volkswagen Most Valuable Player, leading the league with 19 assists, tied for second-most in a single season in MLS history, while adding seven goals. The former Boca Juniors standout and 2007 MLS Best XI honoree led the Crew to a 17-7-6 record and 57 points and a spot in MLS Cup 2008. Schelotto finished the year with five game-winning assists and was named MLS Player of the Month for August.

FORWARD - LANDON DONOVAN (Los Angeles Galaxy)
DOB - March 4, 1982
Citizenship - United States

Donovan, an eight-year veteran, led the highest scoring team in the League on his way to winning the Budweiser Golden Boot award. Donovan recorded two hat tricks and led the League with six multiple goal games, finishing the season with 20 goals. Donovan becomes the sixth player in MLS history to score 20 or more goals in a single season. Donovan was named the 2008 U.S. Soccer Honda Player of the Year and is a three-time MLS Cup winner.

FORWARD - KENNY COOPER (FC Dallas)
DOB - Oct. 21, 1984
Citizenship - United States

The 6-3, 200-lb., Dallas product returned to prominence as the driving force in the FC Dallas attack. After suffering a broken right tibia in 2007, Cooper returned to score 18 goals, finishing second in the Budweiser Golden Boot standings and started a career-high 30 games for FC Dallas in 2008.

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