The Columbus Crew’s Jonathan Mensah may not have won MLS Defender of the Year, but the Black & Gold center back did receive recognition from Major League Soccer for his play in 2020. On Friday, MLS announced its annual Best XI team and Jonathan was one of three center backs selected alongside Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman and the Philadelphia Union’s Mark McKenzie.
The Best XI is created to recognize the top players in MLS each year, represented through a standard formation. The players are selected by members of the media, MLS players and MLS club technical staff.
Zimmerman was named MLS Defender of the Year this week, while McKenzie and Jonathan finished second and third respectively. This is the 30-year-old Crew center back’s first time being named to the MLS Best XI.
“We want to congratulate Jonathan on earning this worthy recognition as one of the top players in MLS in 2020,” Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. “Jonathan has been one of our key performers since earning the captain’s role, playing every minute of every match for the Club during a long and at times incredibly compact season. He has been pivotal to the success of our backline this year and a large reason why we had one of the best defensive records in the League during the regular season. We are proud of Jonathan’s accomplishments and we know he will continue to perform at a high level during the playoffs.”
Jonathan had his best season to date for the Crew in 2020 since joining the club in January of 2016. The Ghanian international was the heart of a Columbus defense that conceded only 21 goals in 23 games in this shortened regular season. That mark was second-best in MLS, trailing only the Supporters’ Shield-winning Union, who allowed just 20 goals in the same number of games.
“It feels great to be part of the Best XI of the season,” Jonathan said of receiving the honor. “I have been selected into the Bext XI but we did it as a team. So I want to thank my teammates, coaching staff and all the assistant coaches for helping me do my best during the regular season.”
In his fourth year with the Black & Gold, Jonathan played every minute of every game, totaling 2,070, which included featuring in his 100th game for the Crew. The center back was a part of an MLS-best nine shutouts throughout the season, while Jonathan also led the league in blocks (30), passes from a defender (1,473) and clearances (114).
Jonathan is the 12th Crew player in the team’s 25-year history to be named to the MLS Best XI and the first since goalkeeper Zack Steffen in 2018. Jonathan is the club’s fourth defender to receive the honor, joining Thomas Dooley (1997, 1998), Robin Frasier (2004) and Chad Marshall (2008, 2009).
The Crew begins its run in the MLS Cup playoffs, hosting the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. That game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET and air locally on SportsTime Ohio and nationally on TUDN and UniMas.
2020 MLS BEST XI
Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders: Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
ALL-TIME CREW SC PLAYERS TO EARN MLS BEST XI HONORS
1997: Thomas Dooley, Brad Friedel
1998: Thomas Dooley, Stern John
2002: Jeff Cunningham
2004: Robin Fraser
2007: Guillermo Barros Schelotto
2008: Chad Marshall, Robbie Rogers, Guillermo Barros Schelotto
2009: Chad Marshall
2015: Ethan Finlay, Kei Kamara
2018: Zack Steffen
2020: Jonathan Mensah