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Picking the All-Star lucky seven
by Ridge Mahoney, July 14th, 2008 1:45PM

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By design or luck, MLS officials can account for every league team when seven additions to the 2008 All-Star Team are named Tuesday.

The 11 players voted to the team encompass seven teams, so with seven slots available to round out the 18-man squad, a bit of political correctness could cover every league market.

No such process will be followed here in naming seven supplementary choices, but as the league steadily grows larger, the difficulty of picking the most deserving 18 players while actually giving thought to the positions those players might fill in a quasi-competitive match also increases.

Of course, it's not likely Revs coach Steve Nicol (five picks) and Commissioner Don Garber (the remaining two selections) will collude and conspire to pull off such a PC coup. Nicol is likely to be accused of favoritism if he picks any more of his own players, since the Revs lead the pack with three players - keeper Matt Reis, defender Michael Parkurst, and midfielder Shalrie Joseph - out of the 11 already determined. Those critics who do speak out, though, might have a tough time rationalizing the exclusion of Steve Ralston, who has run the show cleverly in midfield when not deployed at forward.

Fortunately for Garber, balloting swept in publicity icons David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, so maybe the Commissioner can get by with nudging Juan Pablo Angel onto the team to appease the New York mega-market. Somehow, the rabid fans at BMO Field didn't bombard the on-line channels enough to get one of their players into the first XI, but the home team has to have representation, so look to Maurice Edu, or stalwart captain Jim Brennan, as the homie.

By league mandate, players were voted upon in a 3-5-2 formation, so a logical method of rounding out the squad is to add a goalkeeper, two defenders, two midfielders, and two forwards, with perhaps a bit of preference given to players capable of playing more than one position, especially a left back in case Nicol thinks a four-man defensive line might be useful against West Ham United.

A reminder: the chosen persons are Reis in goal; a back three of Frankie Hejduk, Jimmy Conrad and Parkhurst; Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, Joseph, Beckham and Blanco in midfield; and Landon Donovan and Kenny Cooper up top. Also, Nicol must respect the wishes of coaches Tom Soehn (D.C. United) and Dominic Kinnear (Houston), whose teams play a makeup game at RFK just 48 hours prior to the All-Star kickoff.

So here we go:

Goalie: Jon Busch.
Will Hesmer has saved three penalty kicks. Kevin Hartman and Nick Rimando lead the league with six shutouts. But Chicago keeper Busch has stopped more shots (75) than anybody else and permitted the fewest goals per game (0.93), has amazingly recovered from two major knee surgeries, and is just the kind of crazily likable guy that gives the unique madness inherent in goalkeepers a good name.

Defenders: Gonzalo Segares, Bobby Boswell.
There are several very good candidates, especially on the league's best defensive team, Chicago. Segares and Bakary Soumare finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the voting, and Segares can fill the bill on the left in any system, so he gets in. Excluding Soumare is tough, but the yeoman work of Boswell, the only constant of a Houston back four in various states of flux, deserves acclaim, and thus, acclaimed he is.

If Boswell is unavailable because of the club commitment, so probably would be another deserving candidate, United's Bryan Namoff. Versatility might point to Pablo Mastroeni, as he could also play midfield.

Midfielders: Dwayne DeRosario, Javier Morales.
DeRo has played up front at the behest of Dynamo coach Kinnear, and finished sixth in the midfielders voting. So despite rather modest numbers (four goals, two assists), he's one of the picks for excitement value as well as on merit.

With three goals and seven assists, Morales has played a role in one-half of Real Salt Lake's 20 goals, and there's no way - NO WAY! -- RSL sits atop the Western Conference without him.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Ralston and Edu are deserving as well. If DeRosario is excluded because of club duty two days before, league assist leader Schelotto (eight) gets the slot.

Forwards: Luciano Emilio, Edson Buddle.

A recent surge by Emilio earned him Player of the Month honors for June and moved him right behind co-leaders Donovan and Galaxy teammate Buddle, who have 11 goals. Adding Emilio and Buddle shuts out a bunch of guys with six goals, including Emilio's teammate Jaime Moreno, but that's the way it goes.

The D.C.-Houston conflict might rule out Emilio, Moreno, and Brian Ching. Nicol can turn to Crew grinder Alejandro Moreno, or his own guy, Adam Cristman. Both are members of the six-goal club, as is Ching.

And Ralston (how does the guy do it?).

 



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