Fire, Quakes highlight All-Star starters
Following the reunion theme that will be prevalent throughout the event, the starting teams for the Eastern and Western Conference teams in the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game will certainly have the feel of last year's MLS Cup.
Both the defending champion San Jose Earthquakes and finalist Chicago Fire have five players on the respective rosters for this year's midsummer showcase, set to be played Sat., July 31 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m., and the match will be televised live on ABC Sports.
Leading the way for the West is Earthquakes midfielder Landon Donovan, who was the leading vote-getter in fan balloting, as well as at the top of the list in balloting of the league's coaches and general managers and of the U.S. soccer media. This will be Donovan's fourth All-Star Game.
Joining him is Earthquakes teammate Jeff Agoos, the only player in league history selected to all nine MLS All-Star Games. Agoos played in the first five while with D.C. United, and has been selected the last four years while with San Jose. The San Jose contingent is rounded out with goalkeeper Pat Onstad, midfielder Richard Mulrooney and striker Brian Ching.
The five players selected from the Chicago Fire are led by midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, who was second to Donovan in the fan balloting and is also making his fourth All-Star appearance as the two continue their star-crossed career paths. Beasley will be joined by Fire teammates Henry Ring (goalkeeper), defender Jim Curtin, midfielder Chris Armas and forward Damani Ralph.
One team in each conference - the MetroStars in the East and Los Angeles Galaxy in the West - has contributed three players each.
Defender Eddie Pope, in his seventh All-Star Game, will lead the MetroStars contingent as the leading vote-getter in balloting among the MLS players while also tied with Donovan in balloting by the coaches and GMs and the media. Pope will be joined by 17-year-old midfielder Eddie Gaven, who becomes the youngest player ever selected to start an MLS All-Star Game. The MetroStars trio is completed with midfielder Amado Guevara.
The Los Angeles Galaxy's three players are highlighted by forward Carlos Ruiz, who will play in his third All-Star Game and was fourth overall in fan balloting and second overall in the Western Conference to Donovan. His teammates among the West starters include midfielder Andreas Herzog and defender Chris Albright.
D.C. United contributed two players to the team guided by their head coach Peter Nowak - forward Jaime Moreno, making his first appearance since 2000, and defender Ryan Nelsen. The East starting team is rounded out by Columbus Crew defender Frankie Hejduk.
The Dallas Burn placed two players among the West starters - defender Cory Gibbs and midfielder Ronnie O'Brien - while Colorado Rapids defender Pablo Mastroeni will round out Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid's starting XI.
Among the starters, 10 players will making their first All-Star Game appearances: Curtin, Gaven, Ralph, Ring (East); Albright, Ching, Gibbs, Herzog, O'Brien, Onstad (West)
The 22 starters were selected through balloting of fans, media, MLS players and the league's coaches and general managers, with each group representing 25 percent of the final tally. Six reserves for each team, along with the two Commissioner's Picks (one for each team), will be announced on Mon., July 12. Also next week, the rosters for the Celebration Match, featuring stars from the 1994 World Cup in a USA v the World format, will be revealed.