Trio of Timbers earn MLS honors

Will Johnson, Valeri, Ricketts make MLS Best XI team

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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The accolades continue to arrive for the Portland Timbers.

Will Johnson, Diego Valeri and Donovan Ricketts were named on Tuesday to Major League Soccer's Best XI for the 2013 season. The three players was more than any other team. Sporting Kansas City and the L.A. Galaxy had two players among the Best XI. Real Salt Lake, which beat Portland in the Western Conference finals, was not represented.

Ricketts, 36, is the fourth MLS goalkeeper to twice be named to the Best XI. He set career highs with a league-high 14 shutouts, 92 saves and 2,880 minutes played during his first full season with the Timbers.

Valeri, 27, led MLS with 13 assists in his first season in the league, and finished with 10 regular-season goals. The Argentinian midfielder and Los Angeles forward Robbie Keane were the only players this season to reach double digits in goals and assists.

During an MLS webcast to announce the Best XI, Valeri said his favorite moment was his first game in MLS, during which he introduced himself to Portland with a spectacular goal. He said the possession-oriented style of Timbers coach Caleb Porter helped him adjust to MLS.

"We have a really good team, really good coach and obviously that's really important for me to adapt to MLS," Valeri said.

Johnson, 26, was acquired by Portland prior to the 2013 season after six seasons with Real Salt Lake. The Timbers captain, he produced career highs with nine goals and five assists and 2,520 minutes played.

"My teammates really helped me out, got me in good positions on the ball," Johnson said, adding that Porter was instrumental in his success.

MLS players, club management members and media members voted for the Best XI. One goalkeeper, three defenders, four midfielders and three forwards were selected.

Defenders honored were center backs Matt Besler of Sporting Kansas City, Omar Gonzalez of the L.A. Galaxy and MLS defender of the year Jose Goncalves of the New England Revolution. Joining Valeri and Johnson in the Best XI midfield were Tim Cahill of the New York Red Bulls and Graham Zusi of Sporting Kansas City. The forwards were Marco Di Vaio of the Montreal Impact, Mike Magee of the Chicago Fire and Keane of the Galaxy.

On Monday Porter was named the MLS coach of the year. Earlier, Darlington Nagbe was named the winner of the 2013 MLS award for fair play.

The awards for goalkeeper of the year and for newcomer of the year are scheduled to be announced on Wednesday. On Thursday, the most valuable player, the goal of the year, and the save of the year will be announced.

The MLS Cup championship match is at 1 p.m. Saturday, with Real Salt Lake visiting Sporting Kansas City.