Additions and subtractions to the MLS All-Star team that will face Everton Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium (ESPN2, Galavision, 9:30 p.m. ET) are removing much of the luster that is supposed to emanate
from one of the league's showcase events.
True, the All-Star Game is an exhibition, nothing more, and Everton will use the game to help prepare its players for the upcoming English
Premier League season. Yet while conflicts with other competitions are inevitable, the scheduling of Concacaf Champions' League matches for this week has exacerbated congestion beyond the critical
MLS officials say all the right things about cooperating with U.S. Soccer, Concacaf, and other entities for national team callups, and cause some logjams themselves through
SuperLiga, but they do regard games matching league teams - or an All-Star squad - against foreign foes as important, both as a television product and a competitive frame of reference.
While there are enough deserving, talented players to replace those All-Stars unable to participate, the absences focus more scrutiny of a league already burdened by fitting FIFA dates and other
international commitments into its schedule. How the league can work out its conflicts with Concacaf events, U.S. Open Cup, SuperLiga, and other matches is a serious issue this year, and will only
intensify next year with a World Cup to squeeze into the calendar. Dwayne De Rosario
is not in Salt Lake City; he will play for Toronto against Puerto Rico Islanders
Wednesday and has been replaced by Cuauhtemoc Blanco
Despite compiling one of the best records in the league, D.C. United won't have any players in the
All-Star Game, as it faces Salvadoran club Chalatenango Tuesday in the CCL. New York's dismal season would probably preclude it from sending any players, anyway, yet its match Thursday against W
Connection (Trinidad & Tobago) has excluded them.
Under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiated by the MLS Players' Union and the league, for purposes of
paying bonuses and other considerations MLS is obligated to announce a squad of 32 players, as if it was staging an Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference All-Star Game. While the wisdom of playing
an All-Star Game can be debated, the league has tried to upgrade its stature by playing foreign teams rather than a intraleague exhibition, but is running into too many conflicts to field its
Houston doesn't play in this round -- its Concacaf Champions' League schedules starts next month -- yet Brian Ching
- bruised and battered from
playing in the Gold Cup -- has been withdrawn and replaced by Fire defender Bakary Soumare
. Injured Dynamo keeper Pat Onstad
has also been pulled; he's being
replaced by Chivas USA goalie Zach Thornton
All-Star coach Dominic Kinnear
certainly wants to beat Everton, yet he can't be blamed for looking
ahead to an important league match Saturday against D.C. United. He must consider that one of his two players who will play in the All-Star Game, Stuart Holden,
is also coming off an
arduous stretch of Gold Cup matches.
There are always alterations to All-Star rosters, in all sports, because of injuries or fatigue or other complications. Compromises are inevitable.
The fans will get to see many of the league's best players take on a solid English Premier League team, and subplots like the initial All-Star appearance for longtime national-team goalie
, and ex-MetroStar goalie Tim Howard
taking on many of his U.S. teammates and former MLS rivals will shape interesting storylines.
glorified exhibition like the All-Star Game isn't the most serious situation regarding schedule congestion. But at some point, MLS and U.S. Soccer and Concacaf must get on the same page to lessen
the suffering on all sides.