By AVI CREDITOR
PHILADELPHIA — The last time Dwayne De Rosario took the field against Chelsea, he was an MVP. It's only fitting that the D.C. United star captains the MLS side going up against the Blues in Wednesday night's MLS All-Star Game.
De Rosario was given captain's honors by MLS and D.C. United coach Ben Olsen Monday, and he'll don the armband for MLS against the UEFA Champions League winners at PPL Park.
"To be recognized as the captain is a huge honor," De Rosario told reporters Monday. "Hopefully I can go out there and represent everyone well."
De Rosario took home MVP honors in the 2006 MLS All-Star Game at Toyota Park, scoring the only goal in MLS' 1-0 victory over Chelsea. He is the only MLS link between that 2006 team and this year's All-Star squad. Peter Nowak, the manager of the 2006 team, was slated to be this year's All-Star coach before his dismissal from the Philadelphia Union paved the way for Olsen to step in. Olsen opted for De Rosario despite having other team captains Landon Donovan, Kyle Beckerman, Carlos Valdes, Jay DeMerit, Thierry Henry and Jimmy Nielsen at his disposal.
"(De Rosario has) been in quite a few of these," Olsen said. "I could have picked a whole bunch of guys. There are a lot of good leaders around here."
Here are more notes from MLS All-Star Game:
BECKHAM TO PLAY
Despite David Beckham being selected as an All-Star for the third time in his MLS career, there was speculation that the Los Angeles Galaxy star would miss out on the festivities for a role in the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in his native England. While Beckham will still have a role in London later in the week, he will also be at PPL Park to play in the All-Star Game against his former Premier League adversary, Chelsea.
The Galaxy released a statement Monday saying that Beckham and Donovan would be missing out on the club's friendly on Tuesday against Tottenham in order to participate in the All-Star Game. The news was met with appreciation by MLS commissioner Don Garber.
"We are pleased that David Beckham will be available to play in Wednesday’s All-Star Game and also be able to serve as an ambassador for the 2012 Olympic Games in London this week," Garber said in a statement. "Since 2004, David has actively supported his country’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, and he played a pivotal role in that successful effort. We have known for years that his duty would eventually include the Games themselves, either as a player or an ambassador. We admire David’s dedication to his country’s Olympic endeavor and greatly appreciate his support and commitment to MLS."
MLS GOES FOR THE WIN
It has been four years since the MLS All-Stars won their mid-summer classic, when they beat West Ham at BMO Field in Toronto in 2008. Despite the hurdles in bringing the All-Star team together while facing the reigning European club champions, Olsen and his squad are eyeing a chance to put the 2009 defeat in penalties to Everton and consecutive losses to Manchester United in the rear-view mirror.
"It's a good mix, but you never know how this kind of comes together," Olsen said. "The players get out there, you can only do so much in a short amount of time. I think it's important to understand that it's a celebration of MLS and going against a great team, we'll do our best and try to represent the league in the right way and try to get a result."
Between players from different teams coming in at different times and only having a couple of training sessions together before the match in addition to the game being nothing more than an exhibition, the result is not necessarily at the forefront of everyone's minds, but after blowout losses to Manchester United in the last two years, restoring respect is a priority.
“It’s an All-Star Game at the end of the day,” Donovan said. "But I think guys take some pride in it, and it’s good to have guys who are experiencing it for the first time, because they’re probably a little more excited than guys who have been there before.
“I think we’re going to be a lot more competitive this time around. I think Ben did a good job. A lot of times you just get a bunch of offensive players, and even the defenders are more attack-minded defenders. Ben’s done a good job of putting together a real team, so I think we’re going to have a much better chance."
OLSEN PLAYS 'FANTASY SOCCER'
Olsen likened making his MLS All-Star selections to playing fantasy soccer: Looking up and down the league's rosters, analyzing statistics and performances and ultimately going with who he thinks are the best and most-deserving players for the task at hand.
"It was actually a really good exercise for me to do as a young coach," Olsen said. "To go through the league and have some fun. I got plenty of input from my staff and everybody else who wants to play fantasy soccer as well with me."
Olsen's selections reflect a mixture of first-timers and experienced All-Stars while demonstrating balance across the field.
"You have to have some kind of balance, and that's why guys like Beckerman and (Osvaldo) Alonso were key to getting on here," Olsen said. "We wanted a guy that has some explosiveness up top in Eddie (Johnson) and some wide guys that know how to get forward."
JOHNSON RETURNS TO FORM
One of Olsen's more noteworthy All-Star selections was Johnson, who has returned to his goal-scoring form after four mostly disappointing years abroad. The 28-year-old Johnson has eight goals for the Seattle Sounders and is more than halfway to breaking his single-season record of 15 set as a member of the Kansas City Wizards in 2007.
Donovan has noticed a maturity in Johnson, one of his past teammates on the U.S. national team.
"He seems like he’s grown up a lot, even in the last year," Donovan said. "I know he went through a really hard time in the past couple of years, but he’s doing well in Seattle. You can tell in his demeanor and the way he’s playing that he’s happy again, that he’s playing well, so we’re all happy for him."