Good Friday morning Caps fans. If you’re in the U.S. like me, you’re gearing up for a three day weekend and it feels glorious.
The MLS All Star game is, in most every way, a joke. Played in the middle of the summer fixture crush, against a European team who doesn’t really want to be there, the game has largely outlived its usefulness (at least in its current form).
Since joining the league, the Caps have had six all stars (extra credit if you can name them). So not a bad tally but far below bigger market teams like LA Galaxy, which dominate the roster (tbt to when the league basically added Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to the roster without them having played an MLS game).
Neither the game nor the roster is meant to represent the true best players in the league but rather a means of providing entertainment. Which is OK! But lets shift our attention to the All Star balloting, which opened yesterday, and pretend it is a reflection of the best players in the league thus far.
I voted yesterday because I have no life, so here are my choices for the Starting XI to face Atletico Madrid in Orlando. Disagree with my opinions? Tell us who has impressed you in the comments. Or just follow Caleb Wilkins’ advice and vote for FC Cincinnati players!
Tyler Miller, LAFC
Its sort of tough to gauge how good Tyler Miller actually has been this year, given that LAFC has the benefit of an excellent defense, deep midfield and one of the best attack forces in league history. It doesn’t take much to be a good goalkeeper behind all that.
I almost went for Luis Robles in this spot, but Miller has a roughly equal goals against and has played almost 250 more minutes than Robles. His expected goals against is worse (presumably he is reaping some benefits from the team in front of him) but I think Miller has shown more improvement from last year than any of the other elite keepers in the league and that earned him my vote.
Doneil Henry, Vancouver Whitecaps
I don’t think its a hyperbole to say that Vancouver would be Colorado Rapids-level bad without Erik Godoy and, especially Doneil Henry. Dude has had multiple key blocks each match and has chipped in a few goals to boot. I may be a homer but its hard to imagine a more valuable defender in the league.
Kemar Lawrence, New York Red Bulls
The NYRB side that won the Supporters Shield last year has been decidedly meh—but not Lawrence. I don’t think its going out on a limb to say that Lawrence has been the Red Bulls most vital player and he remains the top left back in the league.
Steven Beitashour, LAFC
Yes, I realize I selected all fullbacks for my defensive picks. Beita, however, has been a key part in the success of LAFC, even as he remains underrated throughout the league. This would be a small way of giving him his due.
Julian Gressel, Atlanta United
It has also been an underwhelming year for Atlanta United but Gressel has been extremely valuable while Frank de Boer figures things out tactically.
Nani, Orlando City
Some big-name European arrivals have flopped in MLS, but not Nani. As Caps fans know, he’s made an imprint on virtually every OCSC match this year and is one of the top passers in the league.
Aleksander Katai, Chicago Fire
Katai has flown under the radar given how mediocre the Fire are but he’s actually been one of the better midfielders in the league this season. He ranks fourth in combined xG+xA among all midfielders, placing him firmly at the elite level. I considered Saphir Taider or Albert Rusnak here as well but wanted to give Katai his due for a strong first half.
Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC
His stats are tough to gauge given that he arrived in Toronto several matches into the season but Pozuelo certainly passes the eye test, beginning in his first match with a fabulous brace of goals. He has really given a boost to what was once a lackluster Toronto side that crashed and burned out of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Alberth Elis, Houston Dynamo
Another player who has preyed on the Caps this season, Elis’ rare blend of pace and finishing have helped give Houston a realistic path to an MLS Cup run. He will almost certainly attract the attention of European teams but for now, he has been invaluable (along with his teammate Mauro Manotas).
Diego Rossi, LAFC
Carlos Vela, LAFC
Duh Part Two
Onto the links!
Shameless Self Promotion
We have another match to look forward to this weekend, this time against FC Dallas. If you’re still stuck on Wednesday’s game, however, Sam Rowan has you covered with the report card. More forward thinking? I sat down with Big D Soccer, FC Dallas’ SB Nation blog, to get the low down on the Texas side has faired this season.
Best of the Rest
The U.S. begins their U-20 World Cup campaign today. Can they make a run behind a historically talented squad?
Lawyers finally tracked down Cristiano Ronaldo to serve him with allegations of rape in the U.S. Whether he ever sets foot in the country again remains to be seen, however.
FC Barcelona is opening a youth academy in Orlando. We can only assume they didn’t choose Vancouver because its too darn cold
The Rapids are having some trouble finding a manager, mainly because they’ve had to pay their last two head coaches a lot of money in order to fire them