All the big names...well, most of them...OK, some of the big names in MLS are in Colorado tonight for the league's 2015 All-Star Game against Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League. The game has all the glitz and glamour you might imagine when we're talking about a poorly-selected roster, Commerce City, and a foreign club who would consider a 4th place finish to be a wonderful triumph rather than, you know, 4th place.
D.C. United was ignored by the fan vote, which is no surprise to anyone who follows Goal or Save of the Week voting. Commissioner Don Garber then chose "famous player" over "player who has actually played in MLS" with each of his picks. That was fine, because the days of United having a huge name on their roster are long gone. Then Pablo Mastroeni filled out his roster, and the snubs got a little more pointed. Whatever Pablo, I'm sure you have some early November golf outings to plan since you're not going to be coaching a playoff game this year.
Where was I? Oh right, this whole thing is a silly trifle, but it might be entertaining if you can ignore the crude "no Uniteds allowed" sign hanging outside Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Key player: No one from D.C. United
Let's go a different way with this, since "key player" in an exhibition is hard to argue even when your team has players involved. Here are some United players who deserved a look based on the merit of their play on the field:
Bill Hamid: We don't know for sure that he'd be at the all-star game if not for his recent hand and knee surgeries, but it seems like a safe assumption. Hamid has been huge for United just about every time he's been on the field.
Player he'd replace: David Ousted is pretty excellent, but Hamid is better. Let's ignore Clint Irwin's inclusion - like other ASG rosters, he's one of those players who are there because his team is hosting - and swap out the Dane for the best GK in the league.
Bobby Boswell: Just like last year, he's had two different partners at center back take up a significant number of games next to him. I don't think Boswell has been as good this year as he was last year, but his leadership is a big factor in United's defensive stinginess.
Player he'd replace: Chad Marshall. Last year Boswell deserved Defender of the Year over Marshall, so this hypothetical and inconsequential scenario is where we make things right.
Perry Kitchen: He doesn't win as many balls as some other defensive midfielders due to United's tendency to apply less pressure and to herd people into bad shots or passes, but Kitchen has been pretty damn good all season long. Plus, he completes his passes at a higher rate (85.8%) than certain other players who were wrongly picked by Garber to fill out this roster.
Player he'd replace: Dax McCarty. It's McCarty I'm talking about. Despite being praised for his use of the ball, McCarty is less reliable with it in a formation designed to give him more short-range passing options than Kitchen has in United's 442. Kitchen is one of several players - Darwin Ceren and Matias Laba come to mind - that should be irritated that McCarty is getting an all-star bonus while they aren't. Garber had the chance to get this right, since McCarty is there to replace Frank Lampard, but got it wrong a second time.
Chris Rolfe: It hasn't been a great month or so for Rolfe, but for much of the season he was carrying United's offense. It's not just that he's been United's key creator, either; there are tangible results to back this claim up. Rolfe averages a goal or assist per 173.4 minutes played. That's a lot better than, say, Gyasi Zardes (244.2) or Graham Zusi (205.2).
Player he'd replace: Let's go with Zusi, who is no better than the 4th most important attacking player for Sporting Kansas City.
Key question: Is this the last "MLS vs. Foreign Club" all-star game?
There has been some discussion of a return to the East vs. West format of the distant past. I've also seen mention of a couple other spins on the game revolving around keeping it entirely within MLS. I can't say I particularly care about any of the formats so much as I do about fans and the league doing a better job of doling out roster spots.
However, one idea that is out there is making it East vs. West and then giving the winning conference home field advantage in MLS Cup. It's a horrible idea, unless you want to potentially have to play on the road with a trophy on the line because someone's attempt to over-elaborate and entertain during an exhibition turns into a dumb goal. If keeping the international plunderers happy by involving them in this game is what keeps this bit of lunacy at bay, so be it.
Match date/time: Wednesday 7/29, 9:00pm Eastern
Venue: Dick's Sporting Goods Park (Commerce City, CO)
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Sports Go (English), Fox Soccer2Go (English)
Treat this as tonight's gamethread and/or angry dome.