Red Bulls, Galaxy dominate MLS All-Star First XI
If the fan vote is any indication, the MLS All-Star team will be heavy on the stars when they take on English Premier League champions Manchester United in the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game on July 27 at Red Bull Arena.
Marquee names including Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez highlight the "First XI" — the 11 top vote-getters in the fan vote — revealed on Sunday. The announcement came at halftime of the Portland-Seattle match on ESPN.
LA's Donovan and New York's Henry currently share the lead in the race for the Golden Boot, with nine goals each. Galaxy midfielder Beckham is second in the league in assists with eight, one fewer than Houston's Brad Davis. Márquez has been a mainstay in the Red Bulls' defense, though he has missed time through injury and international duty.
The First XI is particularly heavy on players from the Western Conference-leading LA Galaxy and Eastern Conference powerhouse New York Red Bulls.
The Galaxy have four players represented, with defenders Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin joining Donovan and Beckham. Gonzalez and Franklin have led an LA defense that averages .76 goals against.
The Red Bulls boast three on the list, including Henry, Márquez and second-year center back Tim Ream, whose performances garnered him a call into the US national team for last month's Gold Cup.
Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller received the most votes of all the netminders. This is his third straight All-Star nod since returning to the United States in 2009.
The First XI also includes three players who have never been named to the MLS All-Star team.
San Jose's Chris Wondolowski, the 2010 Golden Boot winner, has obviously earned the respect of fans across North America for his consistent scoring. Brek Shea, the young attacker from FC Dallas, is enjoying a season some pundits call worthy of MVP consideration. And Portland captain Jack Jewsbury, who leads the Portland Timbers with four goals and is fourth in MLS with six assists, is the lone representative of either of this year's expansion teams.
Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler was also selected for the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star team as the player with the most fan votes via text. Besler received an astounding 30 percent of all text votes submitted between June 8 and July 5 and he received nearly three times as many text votes as the next closest player.
The First XI received the most votes at their respective positions from combined fan voting on three platforms: online at MLSsoccer.com, via text message and via Twitter. The online and text voting ballot consisted of six players from each club, as chosen by a panel of media members.
Sunday's announced First XI is not necessarily the starting lineup for the match. MLS All-Star coach Hans Backe will select the starters based on player availability and tactical considerations. If First XI selections are unavailable due to injury, international duty or other commitments, Backe will select alternates for the game-day roster, but all First XI players are All-Stars.
Two selections by MLS Commissioner Don Garber will be announced July 16. The complete game day roster will be announced on Monday, July 18.
MLS All-Star First XI
Goalkeeper: Kasey Keller (SEA)
Defenders: Omar Gonzalez (LA), Sean Franklin (LA), Rafa Márquez (NY), Tim Ream (NY)
Midfielders: David Beckham (LA), Jack Jewsbury (POR), Brek Shea (DAL)
Forwards: Landon Donovan (LA), Thierry Henry (NY), Chris Wondolowski (SJ)
AT&T Text Voting Winner:
Defender: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)