MLS: All-Star First XI Picks, TSG Complements

All stars?

The following players were announced Sunday as the fan selected “First XI” (not starters, but top fan choices at each position) for the All-Star game Wednesday July 25th at PPL Park in Philadelphia against Chelsea.

GOALKEEPER– Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting KC)

DEFENDERS– Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), Aurelien Collin (Sporting KC), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), Heath Pearce (New York Red Bulls).

MIDFIELDERS– David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), Dwayne DeRosario (D.C. United)

FORWARDS– Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

MLS All-Star coach Ben Olsen will have 15 more names for that squad to be debuted this week. Here’s who he should pick to round out the squad

“That’s all you got?! C’mon give me your best shot!” — Dan Kennedy

G (2): Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA), Andy Gruenebaum (Columbus Crew)

The skinny: Simply put these two have been the best pure shot stoppers in the league this year. Gruenebaum has kept Columbus in the hunt, while Kennedy should start earning comparisons (in style and quickness) to Tim Howard. He’s that good an athlete.

DEF (4):Justin Morrow (San Jose) Victor Bernardez (San Jose), Geoff Cameron (Houston), Lee Young-Pyo (Vancouver Whitecaps)

The skinny: Justin Morrow has bulked up and now has size to match his speed. He’s still prone to mental gaffes, but once he gains some more maturity you’re looking at unique specimen their at left back. His backline mate Victor Bernardez has simply owned the skies in every match he’s played. He plays with a scowl and a nasty streak and with some deceptive trackback ability as well.

Young-Pyo Lee is the Giovanni Van Bronckhorst of the group. Steady and tested.

MID (6): Marvin Chavez (San Jose), Chris Pontius (DC United), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Michael Farfan (Philadelphia)

The skinny: Marvin Chaves. Width. No more needs to be said.

Chris Pontius–while benefitting from DeRo stationed next to him–is still converting his chances.

The two controversial selections here are McCarty and Farfan (Farfan narrowly edging out Felipe Martins of Montreal on current form). McCarty is a glue guy. Beyond playing any role asked this year in New York, he can be moved anywhere on the field, understand the role and give you more than just hustle. Farfan–more than the “now I feel like it” Freddy Adu–has been turned loose effectively new coach John Hackworth. Union fans have to be excited.

Not an all-star, but an all-star…

FWD (3): Saer Sene (New England Revolution), Steven Lenhart (San Jose Earthquakes), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps)

The skinny: The tip of the spear selection criteria is a little different here. While Sene is deserving, the selections of Lenhart and Mattocks (over say Koevermans and Oduro) are questionable. The two were selected because they don’t need a full game to get into rhythm nor are they are expecting ones.

Both bring something a little different to the table, whether it’s Lenhart’s goofy attitude and willingness to risk injury on a play or Mattocks utter lack of understanding of his own immaturity.

Most glaring omissions: Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Kenny Cooper (New York Red Bulls)

Who you got?

TSG starters:

G: Kennedy

DEF: Beitashour, Bernardez, DeMerit, Morrow

CDM: Beckerman

RM/LM: Zusi, Pontius

CAM: DeRosario

STR: Lenhart, Wondolowski

*Note: Can’t have Henry and DeRosario on the pitch at the same time in our opinion; they own the same space.

Who you got?

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Spiritof76 on 2012/07/09 at 8:49 AM

    A few questions, from a newish MLS fan…

    1) Any of these younger MLS guys looking cap-worthy?

    2) Is Jay Demerrit still a good defender?

    3) Been hearing a lot about Eddie Johnson lately. Is he close to your all-star list?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/09 at 8:58 AM

      Thanks for your questions; and GREAT QUESTIONS. In order:

      1) No younger MLS players cap-worthy right now. The closest I see is Justin Morrow of San Jose who is kind of like Bob Bradley considered Colorado’s Anthony Wallace, a big fast physical defender who still needs to learn the game a little. Definitely a better prospect in my opinion and outpaces Beltran and Beitashour from MLS ranks.

      Second to me is Chris Pontius. A lot have him getting a cap shortly, but I think he needs to put up a few more games of solid contribution. He benefits greatly from having DeRo next to him–would like to see his game without the benefits of DeRo at some point.

      2) “Is Jay DeMerit still a good defender?”

      Loaded question. DeMerit is a much smarter defender now than he has ever been. He’s a better organizer and can read plays long before that’s happened.

      That said, this year Wondolowski and Eddie Johnson have both worked him for goals and opportunities showing DeMerit’s loss of speed. He’s probably not a national teamer any longer, but still a good MLS defender.

      3) Eddie Johnson

      Not near the All-Star list, but when you watch him play you see why teams keep taking chances on him. He is the full package of ball hold-up and pace to get behind the backline. He can shoot (when he wants to). However he is still challenged with attitude and the ability to play within a team framework. He loses focus and it’s a shame because he could have been very good if he had dedicated himself to his craft.

      Players off the record who’ve played with Eddie all say the same thing about him, “He’s a good guy (debatable in my book), they love him, think he’s talented, but he lacks game smarts.” Will the game smarts ever come? Who knows.


      • Posted by Spiritof76 on 2012/07/10 at 10:20 AM

        You outdo yourself Matthew. Thanks for the great replies.

        1) Glad to hear your (and others’) opinions of Pontius. Used to live in DC area and he was just building a buzz till the injury (/Davies hat-trick on Pontius’ coattails) last season. Happy to hear he’s back on form. He’s listed on the DC United roster as a M / F. Is he usually deployed in the hole? What slot would you see Jurgen slotting him in?

        Can’t wait to check out more of Morrow as well. The Wondo Magic vs. Beckham 4-3 game was the first time I’d ever watched the Quakes. Definitely impressed with the squad.

        2) I have a USMNT nostalgia crush on Jay Demerrit. The 2010 version of the team made me fall in love with soccer all over again for the first time since 1994, and he was the person that swept me (and many world-class strikers) off our feet. Tried to emulate his play all summer in pick up games. I could still use some brushing up on the defensive technique, but got pretty close on that facial expression. Happy to see he got chosen to the first XI this year (

        3) Noted on EJ. Never followed him early in his career. Regardless, always happy to see a fellow yank improving their game.


  2. Posted by john on 2012/07/09 at 8:59 AM

    marco pappa?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/09 at 9:03 AM

      I debated Pappa and went with Chavez only because if you’re not a forward for MLS on July 25th, you have to track back and play defense.

      Probably deserving. Good mention.


      • Posted by manutebol on 2012/07/09 at 11:57 AM

        good point, Chavez tracks back a lot and has the speed to close attackers down FAST


  3. Posted by Justin on 2012/07/09 at 9:18 AM

    Collin must be a starter. Easily a top 2 center back in MLS. He would be a star in a bigger market(or if he were American b/c of the national team picture).


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/09 at 9:22 AM

      Collin is fantastic and had I not seen firsthand just how strong Victor Bernardez is when tracking back on someone challenging the line I would choose Collin. I think Collin is tremendous, but I think Bernardez is a smidge better right now.


  4. Posted by msg24365 on 2012/07/09 at 9:35 AM

    Why don’t we just have the ‘Quakes play Chelsea (Bay Area bias?)? SJ has conceded 24 goals (only 2 teams in the West have conceded more), yet the their D merits 3 All-Star spots? Attending that game in SF has affected you. Also, do not underestimate the pressure to bring in some of MLS’ more recognized names (i.e. Shea, KC forwards, etc.) for this game.

    Lenhart? Really? I think we see Oduro (CHI deserves somebody there) and Keane w/ Sene at FWD (and Cooper replaces Henry if he can’t go). Would not be surprised to

    Don’t think your MF assesments are far off, except it is hard to imagine Chavez getting selected (doesn’t SJ have a much better record when he doesn’t start?). I’d replace him with Bernier (we know how the French Canadiens will whine if no Impact player is selected) or Brad Davis or Laurentowicz (probably will see 2 of these instead of Dax and Chavez). I agree that one Union MF will be selected (game in Philly), but it will probably be either Adu or Gomez.

    Defensively, I’ll give you one more SJ player; Cameron; Lee; and either Carlos Valdes (PHI) or Sheanon Williams (PHI). I could see one of the RSL defenders getting a spot here instead of a Union rep.

    I’d say Cannon is more deserving than Gruenebaum, but I can’t see VAN getting two spots (and this would also get CLB a rep in the game).


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/09 at 9:45 AM

      Fair point. First. I’m not an SJE fan. Second, I debated Beitashour on the right. While he was my pick for most improved player, I don’t necessarily think he’s All-Star worthy right now despite the stats.

      I left them in there.

      The only other questionable selection IMO was Lenhart, but I love his annoyance factor and I think the game needs it. You think John Terry or David Luiz want anymore than a vacation out there. Mattocks would be a fine start or Saer Sene.

      Fair criticism. Again, I’m not an SJE man, but to me Bernardez, Wondo and Morrow are best eleven right now.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/09 at 9:48 AM

      Second, I know there is a lot of love for Carlos Valdes out there. In fact, he was my pick ahead of Omar Gonzalez! for defender of the year last year, but I’ve watched Valdes this year and as much as he’s been steady, he also has been beaten in the air quite handily on numerous occasions and bodied-up in the box as well.

      Can’t have that imo.

      Cannon has been solid, but he’s playing in front of one of the best back lines and I think that has certainly helped. He also, cannot come out on balls and that’s needed imo.


      • Posted by msg24365 on 2012/07/09 at 10:06 AM

        I hear you on the Valdes/head ball thing. My very unscientific analysis (i.e., my gut impression) would estimate that over half of the goals scored against the Union this season are on set pieces and headed crosses.


    • Posted by manutebol on 2012/07/09 at 11:59 AM

      if you think it’s hard to imagine Chavez getting selected then you have no idea what you are talking about. he has been tremendous this year and easily deserves to be there.


      • Posted by msg24365 on 2012/07/10 at 1:14 PM

        Chavez has played at least 70 mins in only 9 of 19 SJ games this season. His play might have been strong when he was on (he killed — absolutely killed — my Union), but, if you read my comment carefully, I can’t see him making it in addition to (or ahead of) all of those other SJ players. They are not going to take 5 or 6 from SJ.


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