On Sunday, Major League Soccer unveiled the All Star Game roster for the game to be played July 28 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose against Arsenal Football Club.
Here are the twelve players voted by the fans:
GK Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), D Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), D Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), D Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), MF Kaká (Orlando City SC), MF Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), MF Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC), MF Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), F Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact), F Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), F David Villa (New York City FC - AT&T/EA SPORTSTM "More Than a Vote" Challenge).
And finally, coach Dom Kinnear selected twelve more players to round out a squad of 26:
GK David Bingham, D Steve Birnbaum (DC United), D Andrew Farrell (NE Revolution), D Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), D Liam Ridgewell, MF Jermaine Jones, MF Sasha Kjlestan, MF Trapp, F Clint Dempsey, F Cyle Larin, F Ignacio Piatti, F Chris Wondolowski
That's ONE player from the second-best team in MLS on the All Star Team. More importantly, it is missing many of the Rapids players that have been most integral to the teams remarkable success this year. So. Did the Rapids get unfairly snubbed from ASG? I will present evidence on both sides, and let you, our faithful readers, decide.
Argument: Yes! Several Colorado Rapids players were wrongfully snubbed!
To this argument, there are many bones to pick.
First, if one were to ask 'who are the best central defenders in MLS?', the short list of CBs would include, to my mind, Steve Birnbaum, Laurent Ciman, Matt Hedges, and Axel Sjoberg. Andrew Farrell, Liam Ridgewell, and Kendall Waston just haven't been as impressive. Moreover, Farrell's New England has surrendered 33 goals, Ridgewell's Portland have shipped 31 goals, and Waston's Vancouver side have given up a league-worst 35 goals. Axel Sjoberg's Rapids have yielded a mere 13 goals. The Rapids are on pace to potentially break the MLS record for fewest goals yielded in a year. That record of 20 goals over 34 goals is held by the 2010 Real Salt Lake team. Axel is a big part of that success.
So are Micheal Azira and Sam Cronin, our very successful and talented defensive midfielders.
Of course, All Star teams don't often select a lineup filled with defensive midfielders. But still, there is a strong argument to be made that either Cronin or Azira belong at the ASG. Don Garber's pick of Kyle Beckerman might be the safe pick, but Beckerman hasn't impressed me this season much. Neither has Columbus' Wil Trapp, a selection of Dom Kinnear. Trapp's Columbus have been bad, and Trapp has been a spark plug of offense in past years. This year, well, there isn't much offense in Ohio, and Trapp is at least part of the reason.
Another problem: the vote itself is unfair. Fans are asked to pick three defenders, four midfielders, three attackers. As if that were a popular formation that might actually take the field. Moreover, the fans are asked to pick ‘defenders' and ‘midfielders'; positions that are akin to picking ‘outfielders' and ‘infielders' in baseball, as if Trevor Story and Joey Votto offer essentially the same skill set. The fan vote insures that defensive midfielders are going to be disenfranchised, since nobody is ever going to pick Dax McCarty over Kaka. And even if they're going to pick a deep lying midfielder, they'll pick the light jogging, light defending, put a soccer ball through a fifth story window type player like Andrea Pirlo over hard-nosed grinders like Sam Cronin.
Lastly, having only two GKs on a roster of 26 is also unfair. Keepers aren't proportionally represented, considered most MLS teams with a 26-28 man roster carry three keepers. And if you're going to consider who have been the three best keepers in MLS to this point, Zac MacMath has got to be in consideration. MacMath is tied for second in MLS with six shutouts, and he's first in goals against, with an average of 0.67 goals allowed per game. If there were three keepers, then MacMath should be the third.
Argument: No. The Rapids did not get snubbed. The 2016 All Star Team is fine the way it is.
The Rapids ARE rightfully represented at the ASG, by USMNT player Jermaine Jones, who has 3 goals, 2 assists for the burgundy boys. He's their best player, AND he can be that d-mid the team needs. PLUS, Jermaine is the true reason for the team's defensive turnaround, since his ability to both create, attack, and harass out of the midfield number ten role make him a true all-star in the fullest sense of the term: he can do it all.
Cronin and Azira, while both perfectly adequate MLS defenders, are not elite. They aren't national team stars or even highly coveted talents. Azira was acquired from the Seattle Sounders for peanuts. Cronin, same, from San Jose. These aren't the kind of marquee names that people shell out big bucks to see at an allstar game.
And Axel Sjoberg, while clearly talented, hasn't established his credentials enough to merit consideration. He's never been capped for his homeland of Sweden. He's only in his first full year of being an everyday starter. And one could argue that the Rapids defensive prowess is a function of the system, not the talent: going into games in a conservative 4-2-3-1, alongside established, wisened MLS players like Bobby Burling and Eric Miller, is what makes the Rapids so good. The Rapids defense is greater than the sum of its parts, and Axel Sjoberg while certainly a ‘good part', is not yet ready to be an All Star selection.
And MacMath an All Star? Forget it. Even if MLS adds a third goal keeper to the roster, there are at least five I can think of who haven't been criticized this year for a shaky game or a howler here and there. Luis Robles, Nick Rimando, David Ousted, Brian Rowe, and Bill Hamid are all top-notch keepers who didn't get a ticket to Northern California. The Rapids didn't get snubbed.
So what say you Rapids fans? Did the Rapids get snubbed in the 2016 All Star Game?