Twitter voting for the MLS All-Star Game ends today. I am not a fan of the MLS All-Star Game. Players should be celebrated for excelling at their craft but an All-Star Game seems an antiquated way of rewarding their achievements. It is a relic from an MLS era when seeing stars on TV or in real life was a rarity. That era has passed, and there is little incentive for the players to play at their maximum level when the benefits are few and the dangers are great.
Some deserving players don't even get on the ballot with Major League Soccer's arbitrary qualifier that only six players from each team get on the ballot. Not every team is equally talented and they don't all deserve orange slices at the halftime of the season. It is baffling that Matt Besler is not even a selectable option when he's arguably the most talented player on this team. As James Starritt wrote he's the Invisible Man for Sporting KC and got lost in the crowded popularity contest of an All-Star Game.
The game is smashed into a loaded summer schedule, which means that many players are better served with some time off rather than spending more time out in the late July heat. Although most will try to expend less energy for the game, the potential for injuries is there and exhaustion from another road trip is likely. Look at the schedule for Sporting KC in late July:
July 21st Home game against New England
July 24th Exhibition game against Montpellier HSC
July 25th All-Star Game in Philly
July 28th Home game versus Columbus.
Sporting KC players face a unique dilemma. They can't realistically play the exhibition game on the 24th and then play in Philly 24 hours later. If they were offered the choice (unlikely) would they rather play an exhibition match at home against the French champions, or play an exhibition match on the road against champions from England?
For purely self-indulgent reasons, I'd rather have the players in Kansas City with a full week at home, fielding a full side against the French champions in front of thousands of home fans than watching them for 15 minutes in Philadelphia while the announcers drone on about the LA Galaxy. Sporting's best are All-Stars to me, but I don't need the sideshow of an All-Star Game to prove it for me. It's why I am determined to keep Sporting KC players off my All-Star ballot and out of the All-Star Game.
Keeping the game Sporting-free doesn't look promising: Aurelien Collin is leading the vote for defenders. Jimmy is 2nd in both text voting and goalkeeping. It may already be a lost cause. Still, here's my attempt at tweeting the best possible All-Star side involving no Sporting players, and my (sometimes weak) justification for keeping them out of the game.
Click below for the picks.I am selecting a 3-3-4 formation. No one wants to see a low-scoring All-Star Game and no one is going to do much defending anyways.
Finding a selfish reason to not pick the White Puma: Much of his Jimmy's success is due to the incredible efficiency of the defense in front of him. There were sizable chunks of the early season where Jimmy was out there with little to do while the team controlled possession in the midfield. It seems more fitting to give the slot to a guy who has been doing exceptional work in every game.
Jimmy has better GAA numbers, but Columbus without Overland Park's very own Andy Gruenebaum would be hopeless. He leads the league in saves per game, leads in save percentage (minimum 10 starts), and 2nd in GAA (minimum 10 starts). It doesn't hurt that we play Columbus in a few days, so more time Andy spends at the All-Star Game is less time spent focusing on Sporting. A couple of Chelsea goals might shake the confidence a bit before the game too.
Finding a selfish reason to not pick Kei: A brace in Continental qualifiers, World Cup qualifiers, MLS Cup chase, a US Open Cup run--the man is living the dream. An All-Star appearance against a team he loves so much that he named his dog after them? What other soccer dreams would he have after this one? Let's have someone else fulfill a lifelong dream on this day.
Finding a selfish reason to not pick CJ: I'm still feeling icky about not picking Kei. As for CJ, he is a great player and hasn't slowed down from his rookie season, but it is legitimately tough to select him above the other talented forwards available.
Who I am picking:
Yes he is injured, but he has the results to prove he is more than just a big name. Thierry Henry is still a world class highlight-reel-waiting-to-happen, and he deserves to gingerly hobble on to the field at PPL Park.
You lead the league in goals, you get a spot.
Things get a bit more challenging after the first two selections. Someone from Real Salt Lake should be starting at forward, and he's interchangeable with another striker on his team in Alvaro Saborio. I'll pick Fabian Espindola as he has more exciting footwork that he could show off in an All-Star Game.
It's hard to justify not picking a guy like CJ Sapong and then turn around and pick Dominic Oduro. Call it a mancrush pick, but I love Oduro's speed and eye for the goal. Chicago with Dominic on the field is a much, much greater threat than without him.
Finding a selfish reason to not pick Zusi: He's too important to be in an All-Star Game. Did anyone else get a sense of relief when they saw Graham Zusi come into the Seattle game? Zusi is the glue for this team. The possession game and the ability to place balls on point downfield in any direction is lost without him. The All-Star Game nightmare scenario is seeing him writhing on the ground in PPL Park, out for weeks during the most important stretch of the regular season. No thanks.
Finding a selfish reason to not pick Espinoza: This one's easy. He'll be at the Olympics.
It's DeRo's world right now, we're merely playing in it.
A solid attacking midfielder. Vancouver may be one of the only teams that would refuse a straight-up position trade for Graham Zusi.
The All-Star game should always feature at least one player who starts for the home team. A vote for Gomez is a vote that doesn't go for Philadelphia's Freddy Adu. It's fitting because Gabriel Gomez is a better player than Adu by almost every conceivable measure.
Finding a selfish reason to not pick Collin: Would you think Collin would prefer to play his heart out the French champions in Kansas City for 90 minutes or fake-defend for 20 minutes in Philadelphia?
Houston has suddenly started to allow a number of goals, but I'll judge for their play over the entire season. They maintained a remarkably good record during a long stretch of road games to start the year. Andre Hainault is every bit as good as his defensive partner Geoff Cameron but he'll likely get a fraction of the vote because he isn't a US national team darling.
You think Seattle was whining on Wednesday? Imagine them reacting to a ballot with no Sounders on it. Moving on.
My final pick:
Blast it. I couldn't do it. Like I said he's leading the voting for defenders, and you know he'd kill to be an All-Star. Talent-wise there's no one else close to him at center back right now aside from Besler. To select anyone else would make me physically ill. So it goes.