Last week, MLS fans voted the 11 players they felt deserved to be on the MLS All-Star team to take on Arsenal on July 28. Like with any sport, the Fan XI was more a popularity contest mostly based on USMNT players and big name DP’s. So this is is a more appropriate XI based on what players have done this MLS season. Just like with the Fan XI, this doesn’t match up with any specific positions. It is merely the 11 players I feel are most deserving of being on the All-Star team.
The fans selected Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake for the All-Star Game and I have no problem with this choice. You can probably put four or five goalkeepers in this spot and I don’t think too many people would have a problem. If I was picking the team, I would take Colorado Rapids’ Zac MacMath. The Rapids have allowed a league low 13 goals while most teams have allowed at least 20 goals. That has been a huge part of their unexpected success. And MacMath himself has only allowed 11 goals. Despite MacMath’s great start to the season, Colorado already signed Tim Howard and the writing was on the wall that he would start and not MacMath. Nothing against Blake, but MacMath deserves a chance to show what he can do and maybe a team would actually give him the permanent starting job he deserves.
The fans voted in Philadelphia’s Keegan Rosenberry, Sporting KC’s Matt Besler and Montreal Impact’s Laurent Ciman. I have Rosenberry on my roster and though he’s not on my roster, I have no issues with Ciman on the team. Besler hasn’t really done much this season for an inconsistent Sporting KC and has been benched after coming back from Copa America duty. Besler finally got to start but in a 1-0 loss to the last place Chicago Fire, after the Sporting back line was fooled on a controversial quick play.
With Rosenberry, I would include FC Dallas’ Walker Zimmerman and Colorado’s Axel Sjoberg. Zimmerman and Sjoberg were a huge part of their team to put them in the top two positions of the East. Both players have been involved in seven clean sheets and have been top notch all season.
I have the biggest problem with who the fans voted in midfield. For one, Kaka has been injured so he likely cannot play anyway. Andrea Pirlo has been better this season than last but he’s still not nearly at the top of the list among best MLS midfielders. Portland’s Darlington Nagbe has been invisible at times this season while Giovani dos Santos could be the one that makes the best argument for being on the squad.
I am going to replace all four. Two players should have been obvious choices. Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti is only one of two MLS players with double digit goals this season and New York Red Bulls Sacha Kljestan is the only MLS player with double digit assists. Even separating the numbers, both players have proven to command the game so it’s insane to think that they weren’t voted in. The next two, Portland’s Diego Valeri and New England’s Lee Nguyen are less obvious but deserving choices. Valeri is coming back from injury so it would be touch-and-go if Portland would be willing to have him play an exhibition game but he does have seven goals and five assists. Nguyen’s stats are flipped with five goals and seven assists so they are two players that have shown to be versatile in scoring as well as passing the ball to someone else so they score.
Three of the most famous MLS stars were chosen to represent the league up top. NYCFC’s David Villa, Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco and Montreal’s Didier Drogba were selected. At this time last year, I wouldn’t have thought David Villa would be close to earning an All-Star bid but he has been dominant and is on an MVP run. With a league leading 12 goals and NYCFC top of the Eastern Conference, David Villa is more than deserving and is on my lineup. Sebastian Giovinco is also on my lineup. He has maybe cooled off a bit after a phenomenal season last year but with eight goals and seven assists, Giovinco has proven to be essential. The third forward spot is a bit trickier but instead of Drogba, I went with Bradley Wright-Phillips. The Red Bulls seem to win or lose based on BWP’s form and with nine goals this season after a slow start to the season, the Red Bulls are back up to third place in the East.