MLS: Picking an All-Star Team Based on Performances So Far
We have seen some excellent performances so far this 2012 MLS season. Whether it was Thierry Henry's hat-trick vs Montreal or Aurelien Collin's dominance in the back for Kansas City, plenty of players have stood out as clear favorites for a MLS All-Star selection. Here is a list of the best XI so far this season and who would deserve a spot on the team if the selections happened today. Enjoy!
Note: Normal All-Star lineups are based off of voting from fans. I am merely selecting the eleven players who deserve a spot based on their excellent early season play. I also acknowledge that a 3-4-3 is not the expected formation the All-Star team would play. However, this formation allowed me to highlight the 11 best players in MLS so far this season.
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Jimmy Nielsen—Nielsen’s MLS career just keeps on exceeding expectations as the keeper is averaging one goal allowed per every 2.67 games. Such a statistic for a goalie is unreal, and considering SKC has played the likes of LA, RSL, and Vancouver so far, it is a real testament to his quality. Right now, there is not a single MLS keeper you would want defending your own goal more than the Danish stud.
Other Notables— Michael Gspurning, Nick Rimando, Jon Busch
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Aurelien Collin—What could turn out to be the best MLS signing of 2011, Aurelien Collin continues to prove he is one of the best at his position in MLS. His size and strength in the back prove to be too much for almost any attacker going up against him 1v1, and his aerial abilities allow him to be significant threat in the attacking third as well. Anchoring the best defense in MLS and netting three goals in his spare time, Collin is an All-Star lock.
Jay Demerit—The veteran American is the rock of a far more steady Vancouver defense in 2012. Demerit and the Whitecaps defense have posted five shutouts in just seven games so far this year, which matches the total amount the team had in all of 2011. The heart of that defense and captain of the team, Jay Demerit is a huge reason why they are having so much defensive success.
Steven Beitashour—The American right-back asserted himself at the end of last season for San Jose, yet few predicted the amount of success he would have at the start of 2012. After serving up two assists last weekend, there is even talk of Beitashour getting a USMNT callup in the next couple of months to fill the soon to be void of Steve Cherundolo. Future USMNT callup or not, Beitashour is a MLS star.
Other Notables: Chance Myers, Wilman Conde, Jamison Olave
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Graham Zusi—Finally, SKC have found their No.10 in the midfield. It might have come from an unlikely source, but former bench-warmer Graham Zusi is now the engine to arguably the most dangerous offense in the league. His vision and creativity in the midfield have created countless opportunities for SKC and has earned him six assists already this campaign. Quite frankly, there might not be a better CAM in all of MLS at this point in time.
Kyle Beckerman—But you don’t need to rack up the assists to get noticed these days. Kyle Beckerman has yet to assist a teammate all season but has been an absolute rock in the central midfield for RSL this year. Time and time again he has broken up counter attacks and won 50-50 balls that have turned into attacking opportunities for his own team. If it weren’t for stronger CDM’s in the USMNT player pool, Klinsmann might just give Beckerman another chance to prove himself at the international level.
Osvaldo Alonso—Much like Beckerman, Alonso has been phenomenal this season at clogging up the middle and being in the right place at the right time. By now, Alonso doesn’t need to score goals or get assists to prove to this league he is one of the best center mids around. While many feel Alonso got snubbed last year during the All-Star selection process, if he continues his excellent form he should get a decent chance at playing in Philadelphia this July.
Dwayne De Rosario—Dwayne De Rosario is picking up right where he left off in DC last season. While there are other weapons around him now to score the goals (Deleon, Salihi, Maicon Santos) De Ro continues to be an excellent playmaker for a team that struggled in the attacking third prior to his arrival. Since the trade to DC he has become the face of the franchise and given nothing but 100 percent effort. On his work ethic alone, he could be an All-Star, but DDR also has the stats to back his candidacy up as well.
Other Notables: Nick Deleon, Darlington Nagbe, Eddie Gaven
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Thierry Henry—Do I even need to explain this one? Who else in this league could put up eight goals and five assists in eight games and still make it seem like he isn’t trying? The New York captain came off his winter loan to Arsenal in terrific form and is single-handedly carrying a Red Bull team that seemingly concedes goals for fun. A lock on this list, and if the season ended today, a lock for MVP.
Chris Wondolowski—If it weren’t for Henry absolutely tearing MLS defenses to shreds week in and week out, we would all be talking about Wondo’s inevitable excellence and consistency. Wondo led all strikers last year with 16 goals through 30 games, and in less than a quarter of that time frame he already has halved his total from 2011. He has proven once again that soccer IQ and positioning are two invaluable characteristics that can turn an average striker into an excellent one.
Kei Kamara—Through eight games Kei Kamara leads the league in shots and 2nd place isn’t really all that close. He leads that statistical category not because he overshoots, but because he continuously finds himself in good positions on the field to take opportunities. Ever since the addition of Bobby Convey on his opposite wing, the SKC attack seems to be much more in-sync and that is to Kamara’s benefit. His recent success has also resulted in him being much more confident taking on defenders in the attacking third, which is a valuable quality we didn’t see much from him previously in his career. Overall, Kamara is having a stellar season and is a huge reason why SKC are as dominant as they are.
Other Notables: Blas Perez, Kenny Cooper, Maicon Santos