Photo by Andrew Katsampes/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
It happens every year: A deserving candidate for the MLS All-Star Game is left off the squad due to roster limitations.
This season is no different. In fact, there might be more players in 2014 than there have been in recent years that have legitimate cases for inclusion.
The MLS All-Star Game in Portland, Oregon, is fast approaching, and attention will soon turn towards the 23 players that will face Bayern Munich in Wednesday’s friendly at Providence Park. But there are several standouts worthy of an All-Star nod that will not be involved, including Sporting Kansas City duo Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber, Vancouver Whitecaps midfield ace Pedro Morales, D.C. United forward Fabian Espindola.
MLS has gone to greater lengths to ensure that as many deserving players as possible can make their way onto the MLS All-Star roster. The amount of players has gone up every year since 2012 and there is more than just the fans’ vote – which is essentially a popularity contest across all sports – as the head coach of the All-Star team picks the majority of the rest of the team before MLS commissioner Don Garber selects the final two participants.
Still, some quality players get unjustly snubbed in the process. The argument that is commonly made is that MLS should make the All-Star Game be between players representing the Eastern and Western Conferences, but even that approach would not guarantee that every player who enjoyed a good first half to the season would get selected.
Here is a look at some of this year’s more notable omissions from the MLS All-Star squad:
In the midst of the MLS Golden Boot race, Dwyer is having himself quite a season with Eastern Conference-leaders Sporting Kansas City. He has 14 goals – which is tied with MLS All-Star selection Erick Torres of Chivas USA for second most in the league- and one assist in 21 appearances.
He would not be able to play in the game due to injury, but Espindola has been on an impressive tear in his first season with D.C. United that deserves recognition. He has seven goals, eight assists and is a big reason why the club has jumped from the bottom of the East in 2013 to second place.
When Graham Zusi and Matt Besler left Sporting KC for World Cup duty, Feilhaber did a tremendous job in helping fill the void. The veteran midfielder was enjoying a good season up until that point, but turned his level of play up a notch when his teammates departed. His three goals and five assists don’t do justice to the type of impact he has had this year.
His numbers alone give him a good argument for inclusion, but Morales’ overall play has been stout for the Vancouver Whitecaps. He has dominated several games this season, contributed with seven goals and eight assists in 20 matches, and would likely have even better statistics if some of his young teammates were a bit more sharp in the final third.
The New York Red Bulls’ leaky back line has been saved time and again by the heroic Robles, who has a highlight-reel worth of stops this season. Robles started out the season incredibly and looked to be a lock for the All-Star Game, but New York’s defensive issues have persisted to the point that the veteran goalkeeper has had to make a league-high 70 saves en route to posting just three clean sheets.
The leading candidate for MLS Rookie of the Year, Shipp has pieced together a strong starting half to 2014. He has shown an ability to make an impact despite his unimposing stature, using his skill to score six goals and record five assists for a Chicago Fire side that is struggling but just five points shy of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Who is this year’s biggest MLS All-Star Game snub? Is it Dwyer, Feilhaber, Morales or someone else? Should MLS switch to an East vs. West format?
Share your thoughts below.