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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

See you in Kansas City: My All-Star selections

Nobody asked me for my input on the MLS All-Star voting. The league seems to be pretty pleased with its ways, between fan voting slightly slanted toward the host team and the proclivities of online gamers and a bit of input from the All-Star coach. That’s how they arrived at the 18-man roster that was announced Monday, including some fairly obvious selections and some noteworthy exclusions (especially to fans of a Philadelphia bent).
Brazilian Camilo Sanvezzo of Vancouver is a deserving
MLS All-Star selection. But several snubs stand out
among the 18-man roster announced Monday.
(Associated Press)

In the off chance those methods don’t exactly meet your standards – and the Twitter reaction to today’s unveiling of the full matchday roster for the July 30 game against Italian side A.S. Roma indicates that’s the case – here would be my 18-man roster for the event.

Goalkeepers: Raul Fernandez (FC Dallas), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).

Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Chris Klute (Colorado), Jose Goncalves (New England), Jamison Olave (New York).

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Will Johnson (Portland), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Patrice Bernier (Montreal), Mike Magee (Chicago).

Forwards: Camilo Sanvezzo (Vancouver), Robbie Keane (Los Angeles), Marco Di Vaio (Montreal), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia).

I’ll start on a positive note: I can’t see many problems with the goalkeepers. Fernandez has been sensational at times for Dallas, and Rimando is as good as it gets perennially in this league. I’d love to see a place for the Revs’ Bobby Shuttleworth on the team, but that’s not really in the cards.

In defense, MLS has to cede to the will of the people in voting both Besler and Aurelien Collin from the hosts in Kansas City. While Collin is hardly undeserving of the honor, I see Besler as the better of the pair, and he’s certainly deserving of the start in the center of defense alongside Gonzalez. Hey, it works for the U.S.

Missing from my roster, in addition to Collin, is Corey Ashe, who gets there mostly on reputation for a so-so Houston team this season, and DeAndre Yedlin, which smacks of a token pick for one of the league’s biggest fanbases suffering through a largely unimpressive first half of the season.

Nothing against those three, but I’d rather go with some other options. Take the Revs Goncalves, a revelation in his first MLS season who has committed 17 fouls and hasn’t been carded in 1,620 minutes for the Revs, the team that’s allowed the least goals in MLS (16 in 18 matches). That’s compared to 36 fouls and seven yellows for Collin (even if the Frenchman has three goals).

If there’s a rookie that should be there, it's not Yedlin but rather Klute, who has played 17 games on a Rapids team decimated by injuries through most of the first half of the season. He’s got five assists; Yedlin has one, Ashe is still looking for his first (and, if we’re going backwards, has only two since the start of 2011, a total of 79 games). Then there’s Olave, who I think is simply one of the league’s best defender, and he’s got Collin beaten by one in the goal department.

There aren’t many changes in the midfield. You can’t argue with what Magee has done this season in Los Angeles and Chicago. Zusi is one of the brightest talents of the league, Johnson has been at the heart of Portland’s tremendous season, Beckerman is finally gaining the respect he deserves and Bernier has been the fulcrum of the Impact attack.

The other two on the roster, though, hardly combine to do what Morales has done. Houston's Brad Davis has three goals and three assists in 12 games, so you can assume the five-time all-star has earned the latest of those honors mostly on reputation. It’s nice that Tim Cahill has woken up to score five goals this season – many of them quite clutch – to go with three assists, but it’s still barely equal return on his sizable DP salary. Morales, meanwhile, has accounted for five goals and eight assists – that’s over double Davis’ production – and is as big a reason as any that Real Salt Lake is at the summit of the Supporters’ Shield standings.

Up top, you can’t argue with Keane (seven goals, eight assists in just 12 matches), Di Vaio (11 goals) or Camilo (12 goals, especially after the virtuoso performance against Chicago Sunday). But Chris Wondolowski, who’s on pace for just 10 goals this season after 27 last year, and Thierry Henry (seven goals, four assists in leading New York), are there more on reputation. It’s hard to say that McInerney, who’s been the MLS player of the month in two out of the four months of the season, doesn’t deserve the fourth strikers’ spot over those.

(A quick aside: The 18-man roster is hardly final. There are already rumblings that Keane might be held out with an injury, while the Gold Cup poses the possibility that as many as four American players from the original 35-man pool could get called up by Jurgen Klinsmann. With the tournament final just two days before the All-Star game, it could rule out potential call-ups like Besler, Gonzalez and Zusi while players already there like Beckerman, Rimando, Beltran and Wondolowski may opt out.)


Let’s get real and dispatch of the notion that this should be limited to 18 players. With the league at 19 teams and ever on the brink of expansion, the league is nearing the credibility where an East-versus-West format would be viable, should the league be willing to forsake the paycheck from a big-name foreign team to come to town.

At the very least, to accommodate the fact that the candidate pool is ever growing, how about making it a 23-man roster, similar to an international talent pool, even if not everyone plays in the game?

If that was the case, I’d add:

Jordan Harvey, Vancouver: He’s only played 10 games this season, but he’s got three goals on five shots, all in Vancouver wins.

Darlington Nagbe, Portland: With his five goals and three assists – and the fact that I give Bernier a slight edge in the second holding midfield role over Diego Chara – the diminutive playmaker has been a revelation.

Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia: Hey, he is the MLS assist leader with nine.

Thierry Henry, New York

Dominic Oduro, Columbus: The Crew would be in some serious trouble without him, and the lack of support around him in Ohio gives him the edge over Kansas City’s Claudio Bieler.

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