MLS introduces The Replacements

On July 23, Colorado Rapids forward Jeff Cunningham slipped home his club's third goal in a 4-1 rout of the Chicago Fire, then sprinted for the sideline.

Hopping over the field boards at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Cunningham did his best impersonation of a Barker's Beauty from "The Price is Right", displaying a sign hung on the wall by a group of fans. The sign read: "What do you have to do to be an All-Star? Lead the league in goals?"

Apparently, Cunningham was thinking the same thing.

That goal against the Fire gave Cunningham 10 for the season, the most in the league. Yet when the 2005 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star starters and reserves were announced on July 13 and 14, Cunningham wasn't included. So, he had to come in through the back door, being selected as a replacement for injured FC Dallas striker Eddie Johnson.

"I'm excited," Cunningham said. "It's better late than never. Every player wants to be voted in the first 11 and start, but unfortunately, there wasn't that option for me. I'm just happy to be here and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it, whether I play one minute or two seconds. I'm going to enjoy the moment."

Cunningham smiled on Thursday when asked about the sign and the celebration, then paid a debt of gratitude for the Rapids fans for getting behind him.

"I'm very happy and thankful for their support," he said. "I believe they're the reason why I'm here, and hopefully, I can reward them with a good showing and just make the organization proud."

San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Brad Davis was in a similar situation. The former MetroStars and Dallas Burn player is in the midst of his best MLS season, as he is tied for the league lead in assists and through his play earned a call-up to the U.S. national team for this month's CONCACAF Gold Cup. With just one MLS All-Star team being selected for Saturday's matchup against English Premier League side Fulham FC, it stands to reason that some worthy players would be left out. But for many, Davis' exclusion was a head-scratcher.

Now, though, the point is moot, as Davis has been summoned to the All-Star team to replace injured MetroStars midfielder Amado Guevara.

Also making an appearance as an injury replacement is Honduras international Ivan Guerrero. Signed in the offseason by the Chicago Fire, Guerrero has provided a spark for the Fire and helped his country advance to the semifinals of this month's CONCACAF Gold Cup.

"I even surprise myself at the adaptation," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "The coach has been able to use me at wide left, wide back, even at times on the right. I also know the group of people I'm with makes it easier to do that."

On the All-Star nod, Guerrero added: "It's an honor to be selected. Coach called me at the last minute, but it's great to be able to represent the team and I hope to be able to contribute to the rest of the team."

New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst arrived in Columbus on Friday. The rookie was picked to replace Los Angeles Galaxy center back Tyrone Marshall, who was injured on Wednesday, just a day after being chosen to replace injured Revs forward Pat Noonan.

Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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