MLS All-Star: Who do the numbers tell you to choose?
Have you been sitting at the computer, unable to make up your mind on who to vote into the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game against Bayern Munich?
Well, we are here to help. Below are the 11 players who most deserve to make it based on their statistics from the first half of the season. While the numbers are most important, we are also not completely ignoring what our eyeballs see on the field.
As a result, it's important to establish a couple caveats: if a player has not played in 60 percent of his team’s minutes he is ineligible. Sorry Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey. How much impact do you really make if you aren’t on the field half the time?
Also: We are using a classic (flat) 4-4-2 formation, as that has been the most-used formation in MLS this season at 104 games. The 4-2-3-1 formation came in second with 93 uses. This will also affect the players that are chosen for the team, as you will see below.
If you haven't already, be sure to vote for your favorite players, or the team you think could beat Bayern, using the online ballot. And be sure to weigh in with your own preferred XI in the comments below!
GK: Jon Busch (San Jose Earthquakes) – The veteran has enjoyed a renaissance season with San Jose, helping the Quakes to the 4th-best defense in terms of goals conceded per game. Busch leads the league in save percentage at 77.5, a whole three percentage points higher than second place. This is despite having to make the second-most saves in MLS (56).
RB: Andrew Farrell (New England Revolution) – He has been forced into duty at center back for 7 of his 15 matches, but let’s not disqualify him from the right back spot because of it. The former No. 1 pick ranks in the top 15 in both interceptions and tackles.
CB: Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders) – He has been the only consistent presence along the backline for the league’s best team, but that is not why he’s here. The former two-time Defender of the Year leads the league in blocks (16), aerials won (76), and is fourth in total clearances.
CB: Bobby Boswell (D.C. United) – The rock of the Eastern Conference, Boswell has helped lower D.C.’s goals-against average from 1.7 in 2013 to 1.1 in 2014. He is also third in the league in clearances (122) behind Matt Hedges (129) and Carlos Bocanegra (133).
LB: Jair Benitez (FC Dallas) – With Farrell holding down the fort defensively on the right side, let's look at a player who is adept getting forward on the left. Benitez has been great at streaking down the flank and hitting crosses accurately, despite his advanced age (35). Benitez has an open-play crossing accuracy of 38.6 percent, three and a half percentage points higher than any other player with at least 30 open-play crosses.
RM: Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact) – Mapp’s play has been so spectacular that one of our editors has even called for him to be part of the US national team picture, despite not appearing on the international level in seven years. He has completed the sixth-most dribbles in MLS and has the third-best dribble completion rate (57 percent) among players with at least 30 attempts. Mapp has also completed his 52 open-play crosses at an above-average rate. Throw in 24 chances created and you've got the best right winger/midfielder in the league.
CM: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders) – If you want the perfect holding midfielder all you have to do is look at the Honey Badger. He has attempted the most passes in the league (1,047) and completed them at the highest rate (90.3%). On the defensive side Alonso is fourth in MLS in tackles (57) and 15th in interceptions.
CM: Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City) – In the other central midfielder spot, we need a player who can not only be a playmaker but also handle some defensive responsibilities. Feilhaber fits that bill. He is tied for seventh in tackles and chances created, the only player to rank in the top 10 in the two very different categories.
LM: Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes) – Salinas has a similar statistical profile to Mapp, ranking fourth in dribbles completed, fifth in dribble completion rate (56 percent) and tied for fifth in open play crosses. What Salinas adds to the mix is his ability to deliver set pieces. His 17 chances created from set plays is second in MLS.
F: Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls) – Of course he leads the league with 14 goals, which is more than enough to place him on the team, but that’s not it. He also leads MLS in shooting accuracy (67.5 percent) and shot conversion rate (35 percent) among players with at least 20 shots.
F: Erick Torres (Chivas USA) – He has scored 71 percent of his team’s goals, single-handedly dragging Chivas USA to respectability. He has been able to do so due to his 31.6 percent conversion rate, which sits as the third-highest percentage in MLS. He has also taken advantage of the big chances when they have come, converting eight of his 10, well above the league average of 54 percent.