Six FCD players lead All-Star charge
The ballots have been cast and as expected FC Dallas leads the pack with four starters and two substitutes for the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game.
Named to the squad as starters were the Hoops' first-choice strike pair of U.S. international Eddie Johnson and Guatemalan international Carlos Ruiz, midfielder Ronnie O'Brien and defender Greg Vanney. Holding midfielder Simo Valakari and goalkeeper Scott Garlick were selected as reserves, and the team is of course being coached by FCD boss Colin Clarke and his staff.
The MLS All-Stars will take on Fulham FC of the English Premier League on Sat., July 30 (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Sports).
"It's a credit to the team. The team is doing well," said O'Brien. "The team is getting rewarded for it."
The newbie in the bunch, Johnson will start in his first MLS All-Star Game if he's healthy enough. Still rehabbing a turf toe that has held him down for the past six games, he was still the leading vote-getter from the fans among forwards. Before his injury the Floridian was on fire, scoring five goals and one assist.
"The game is still a couple of weeks away, so we are hopeful he will be ready by then," said Clarke.
Ruiz has played through some injuries and has found himself sixth in MLS with seven goals and three assists, but his 12 games played are the fewest among any of the players in the top 10 for the Golden Boot. He's also done double duty, playing for his country in World Cup qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup -- where he hit for a hat trick against Jamaica.
"Carlos is a great player first and foremost," Clarke said. "He scores with passion and drive for the game. He's a very good goal scorer."
Vanney returned to the league this year after a three-year stint with Bastia in France and will be making his second appearance in the league's midseason classic. The left-footed defender has been solid in the Hoops central defense, leading the No. 1 defense in the Western Conference as well as representing the U.S. in this year's Gold Cup.
"He had a good season -- has done very well and deserves his selection," said Clarke.
O'Brien has caused havoc for defenses in a playmaking role in midfield for FCD. His seven assists are third in the league, and among his six goals he has a couple absolute bombs from long range.
The Ireland native has been stirring the FC Dallas pot all season as muttering of MVP candidacy can be heard throughout the league for the midfielder.
"It's great being selected; it's always an honor. It's always nice to be voted in by the fans, peers and management," said O'Brien. "It's a great game to be involved in with Fulham coming to town. I'm looking forward to it."
Added Clarke: "I think when the stats come out, Ronnie -- he had the most popular vote by coaches and GMs and that says a lot. He's had a great season thus far and we are looking for more from him in the second half of the season."
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.