Five hours after being named to his first Major League Soccer Best XI, Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara shared his thoughts on what it meant, in his 10th season in MLS, to be selected to his league’s team of the season.
“I think [being selected] is a reward for my hard work and for my performances every game,” the 34-year-old Timber said. “I feel pretty happy.”
Though Chara was selected to the league’s all-star team in the middle of MLS’s 2019 season, Friday marked the first time he was given the league’s season-ending honor. He joins Will Johnson, Donovan Ricketts and Diego Valeri (three times) as Timbers who’ve been named to at least one Best XI.
- INFOGRAPHIC: Chara's 2020 season by the numbers
“I think this came at the right moment,” Chara explained. “I think it's because of everything … the MLS is Back Tournament and now, [making] the playoffs. I think that everything makes me happy, and I am happy to get the opportunity to get this [honor].”
For Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese, Friday’s media session became a chance to honor one of this team’s most valuable players, explaining “everybody [with the Timbers] was so happy that he was able to be in the Best XI.
“[It was] well deserved, maybe overdue, but we're very happy for him,” Savarese continued. “He's playing at a very high level not only because of the things that he does without the ball, which is what everybody talks about, but I think most of all is what he's doing with the ball, something that not too many people talk about …”
Those qualities have led to a career high in assists (six) despite a season shortened because of COVID-19 precautions. Chara also maintained his customary high rate of passing success. His 88 percent completion rate marked the fourth-straight season he’s hit that mark.
“On the field,” Savarese said, “Chara is one that can start the buildup, is good on the ball, be able to get higher in some moments, has speed, understands when to go, when not to go, keeps the balance of the team. Sometimes, he's that guy there that, in the emergency moments, helps you to be able to salvage situations. And then on the other side, his support to all the players, you feel it when you're on the field. The players feel more confidence to do what they have to do … he’s definitely a player that every coach would like to coach, and we're very fortunate that he is here.”
Chara was joined in this year’s Best XI by Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake; defenders Mark McKennzie (Philadelphia), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew SC) and Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC); midfielders Brendan Aaronson (Philadephia), Nicolás Lodiero (Seattle Sounders FC) and Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC); and forwards Diego Rossi (Los Angeles FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle) and Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle). He was also named to the team of the tournament at this summer’s MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida.