For the second time in three years, the best of Major League Soccer will take on established international competition, as the 10th MLS All-Star Game features the MLS All-Stars against Fulham FC of England's Barclay's Premiership. Two years ago, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif, the MLS All-Stars defeated CD Guadalajara (Chivas) of Mexico 3-1 in the league's annual midsummer classic.
THE OPPOSITION: One of the oldest soccer clubs in the world, Fulham Football Club was founded in 1879. Nearly synonymous with their Thames-side home of Craven Cottage in southwest London, the club has had a rich and varied history that saw his glory years in the 1960s, when top-flight football was played at the Cottage before crowds regularly in excess of 30,000. In 1975, led by World Cup winners Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery, Fulham reached the FA Cup Final, only to lose to West Ham United. Falling upon desperate times in the mid-90s, Mohamed Al Fayed purchased FFC and heralded a renaissance that saw the club win the First Division in 2000/01 and gain automatic promotion to the Premiership, where they've been ever since.
FULHAM LAST SEASON: After a record-breaking ninth-place finish the season before, optimism was high on the banks of the Thames heading into the 2004/05 Premier League season. But the Whites never fully hit stride, and came into the final match of the campaign needed a victory against Norwich City to ensure survival in the top flight. Led by a pair of goals from Brian McBride, Fulham ran out 6-0 winners and ended the season in 13th place with 44 points, level with Newcastle United.
THE FORMAT: This is the second time the MLS All-Stars have taken on international competition in the All-Star Game. In 2003, on a bright, sunny day at The Home Depot Center, the MLS stars hit for three goals after the halftime break to defeat Chivas of Guadalajara 3-1. Ante Razov gave the MLS the lead in the 57th minute, then just two minutes after Jair Garcia leveled terms for the storied Mexican club, Carlos Ruiz scored in the 68th minute to again give the MLS the lead. DaMarcus Beasley finished off the scoring in the 83rd minute. Ruiz, the then-Los Angeles Galaxy striker playing on his home ground, was named the game's Honda Most Valuable Player.
That was the second consecutive year a single team of MLS All-Stars was selected for the midseason classic, as the year before the MLS All-Stars took on a U.S. national team selection following the USA's historic quarterfinal performance at FIFA World Cup 2002 Korea/Japan. All 18 of the players selected by Bruce Arena for the match plied their trade in MLS.
In 1998, an international theme was also used in the MLS All-Star Game as a team of U.S. MLS stars took on a squad comprised of international MLS stars. Each of the other seven All-Star Games, including last year, have featured an East vs. West format.
McBRIDE, BOCANEGRA RETURN: The 2005 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game is also noteworthy for the return of forward Brian McBride and defender Carlos Bocanegra to face former colleagues from the league. The pair joined Fulham midway through the 2003/04 season, after completing the eighth season of MLS. McBride truly is returning home, having spent his entire professional career with the Columbus Crew after being taken with the first overall pick in the inaugural MLS draft in 1996. Bocanegra signed with the Chicago Fire in 2000 after he was the fourth overall pick in the SuperDraft. Both were regulars a year ago for Fulham. McBride made 31 league appearances (15 starts), scoring six goals, while Bocanegra made 28 appearances (26 as a starter), scoring one goal.
BACK IN THE ALL-STAR GAME: Between them, McBride and Bocanegra made nine appearances in the MLS All-Star Game. McBride was selected for seven games, continuously from 1996-2002, picked as a starter on five occasions, scoring five goals and eight assists. He was selected as the Most Valuable Player in the 1998, scoring the third goal for the MLS USA team in its 6-1 victory at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Bocanegra made All-Star Game appearance in both 2002 and 2003, starting both games and recording an assist on Carlos Ruiz's game-winning goal against Chivas.
MLS ALL-STAR TEAM NOTES
TEAM SELECTION: The MLS All-Star team starting XI was determined by online fan balloting (25 percent), media votes (25 percent), players (25 percent), and MLS coaches and GMs (25 percent). With each voting category counting for a quarter of the total votes, the formula used for determining the starters involved assigning 25 total points to each category for a possible total of 100 points. Therefore if a player received 50 percent of the votes in any category, he would earn 12.5 points for that category.
Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan received the highest voting points total, named on almost 40 percent of fan ballots, about 60 percent of the balloting of the league's players and coaches and general managers, and nearly 80 percent of media votes, which left him with a league-high 58.60 points of a possible 100 available. For example, Donovan received 9.70 points for online balloting, which is 38.82 (total percentage of online votes) percent of 25. The voting totals were as follows:
Fans Media Players Coach/GM Total Landon Donovan 9.70 18.31 14.73 15.85 58.60 Clint Dempsey 6.85 15.14 13.04 12.80 47.84 Ronnie O'Brien 3.81 12.32 11.47 17.68 45.29 Matt Reis 4.03 9.86 12.08 13.41 39.38 Carlos Ruiz 4.84 11.97 8.33 10.98 36.12 Greg Vanney 2.77 11.27 7.25 14.63 35.92 Eddie Pope 6.77 9.51 10.87 8.54 35.68 Amado Guevara 3.30 11.62 9.66 8.54 33.12 Eddie Johnson 5.47 7.75 8.57 10.37 32.16 Jimmy Conrad 1.68 6.34 6.76 8.54 23.32 Shalrie Joseph 2.00 3.52 7.13 7.32 19.96
THE COACH: FC Dallas head coach Colin Clarke earned the honor of coaching the MLS side by virtue of leading his team to the highest point total in the League through Week 14. The 41-year-old Clarke, named head coach in December 2003, has led FC Dallas to the best start in club history. With a record of 10-4-4 (34 points), FC Dallas already has as many wins as it did during the entire 2004 regular season campaign (10-14-6, 36 points).
FC Dallas secured a league-high 34 points through games played as of July 4, two more than the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution, joint leaders of the Eastern Conference. A victory on Independence Day by the New England Revolution would have given the spot to Steve Nicol and his staff but the Revolution instead came away with a 1-1 road tie against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
A Northern Ireland international who spent his entire 12-year career from 1981 to 1993 up and down the Football League, including time in the top flight with Southampton and QPR, with 146 goals in 361 games in his club career. The hard-nosed striker also represented his country in the 1986 World Cup, a goal against Mexico there among his 13 while winning 38 caps.
THE REPLACEMENTS: Four players making their MLS All-Star debuts - Chicago Fire midfielder Ivan Guerrero, San Jose Earthquakes winger Brad Davis, Colorado Rapids forward Jeff Cunningham and New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst - were selected by head coach Colin Clarke to the MLS All-Star team.
The four players replace three previously selected MLS All-Star starters - Eddie Johnson (FC Dallas), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake) and Amado Guevara (MetroStars), along with reserve Pat Noonan - who will not be able to participate due to injuries. With these selections, 11 MLS teams are represented at the midsummer showcase. Parkhurst was an addition to the team after Los Angeles Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall - originally chosen to replace Noonan - was injured in the final game before the All-Star break.
COMMISSIONER'S PICKS: After the reserves were selected, MLS Commissioner Don Garber chose the next two highest voted players: Taylor Twellman and Christian Gomez. Gomez was edged out of a starting spot by Shalrie Joseph by .09 points in the weighted voting totals, and Twellman followed teammate Pat Noonan among the forwards with 22.61 points;
BACK IN COLUMBUS: This is the second time the MLS All-Star Game has been played at Columbus Crew Stadium. In 2000, the East defeated the West 9-4 in the highest-scoring All-Star Game in league history. Tampa Bay Mutiny striker Mamadou Diallo scored a pair of goals and added an assist to win MVP honors, while Cobi Jones and Carlos Valderrama equaled an MLS All-Star Game record with four assists each.
Three players on display here today played in that game. Defender Greg Vanney started for the West and played the entire match, while for the East, forward Brian McBride was a halftime substitute (scoring a goal and adding two assists) and goalkeeper Scott Garlick also came on at the half, keeping a clean sheet over the final 45 minutes in his only previous All-Star appearance. Eddie Pope, selected as a starter this season but who will not play due to injury, was a starter for the East but just 32 minutes.
TODAY'S OFFICIALS: Ricardo Valenzuela will be the referee today, in his first All-Star Game. Valenzuela has refereed games in MLS since 1998. The assistant referees are George Gansner and Chris Strickland; for Strickland, this will be his second All-Star Game appearance, after running the line in 2003 game, while Gansler is making his first. The fourth official will be Ricardo Salazar.
SINGLE-TEAM DOMINANCE: On the three occasions that a single MLS All-Star team has been selected (2002, '03, '05), dominance from one team has been the rule. In 2002, the San Jose Earthquakes saw four players among the 18 chosen to play for head coach Frank Yallop on the MLS team (and with two more on the 18-man MLS squad, had a league-high six of the 36 players in the game). In 2003, the Los Angeles Galaxy had five players originally selected for Bob Bradley's team that took on Chivas, a figure that was matched by the Chicago Fire when Zach Thornton was a replacement for MetroStars 'keeper Tim Howard after his transfer to Manchester United.
The six players FC Dallas had chosen among the original 18 would have been a record for MLS All-Star Games under this format, though that number was reduced by one with the injury to Eddie Johnson. FC Dallas and the New England Revolution now have five players each on the 18-man roster, the same number as the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago Fire had included in the 19-man roster two seasons ago.
The six FC Dallas players tied their team record with the original selection, having also sent six players in the 1997 All-Star game. The Revs set a team record with five players selected, this after placing at least four players in each of the previous three All-Star games.
DEBUTANTS: Of the original All-Star selections, four were selected to the All-Star Game for the first time: New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis, D.C. United midfielder Christian Gomez and the FC Dallas pair of Eddie Johnson and Simo Valakari. With the addition of the four replacements (Jeff Cunningham, Brad Davis, Ivan Guerrero, Michael Parkhurst) and the loss of Johnson to injury, seven players will be making their All-Star bow this weekend.
POPE'S SELECTION: With his ninth All-Star game selection, Real Salt Lake's Eddie Pope tied the record for most career nominations, along with MetroStars defender Jeff Agoos. Pope has played in seven All-Star Games, also missing the 2001 game through injury, while Agoos did not play in the 2003 game. The only player to appear to in eight All-Star Games is Kansas City Wizards midfielder Preki, who appeared in each of the first eight midsummer classics before seeing his streak snapped a year ago.
INTERNATIONALS ON PARADE: Of the 18-man MLS All-Star team, 13 have represented their countries in international competition. Nine have won caps for the U.S. national team, and six (Dempsey, Hejduk, Donovan, Conrad, Vanney, Davis) were in the USA squad for the recently completed CONCACAF Gold Cup, the continental championship for North and Central America and the Caribbean. In addition, four other MLS All-Stars have played for their homelands: Joseph (Grenada), Ruiz (Guatemala), Guerrero (Honduras) and Valakari (Finland). All five players who were unable to play due to injury also have represented their countries - three for the U.S. (Johnson, Noonan, Pope) along with Honduras (Guevara) and Jamaica (Marshall).
For their opponents, Fulham has 12 full internationals in their squad on the tour representing nine countries, including a pair of U.S. internationals in McBride and Bocanegra. Showing the cosmopolitan makeup of Chris Coleman's team - himself a former Welsh international - there is only one player who has represented England at the senior level: defender Zat Knight, who won his first full cap when England visited the USA earlier this year.
GOALS AND MORE GOALS: The top three in the Budweiser Golden Boot - Colorado striker Jeff Cunningham, New England striker Taylor Twellman and D.C. United midfielder Christian Gomez - are all part of the MLS team. Injuries however robbed the game of seeing the two most prolific strike pairs in the league this season together to face Fulham. The original starting duo of Eddie Johnson and Carlos Ruiz (FC Dallas) have combined for 12 goals this season, second to the original reserve pair of Twellman and Pat Noonan from the Revolution. But Johnson and Noonan will miss the game through injury.
CREW BEAT FULHAM: On Wednesday, the Columbus Crew knocked off Fulham 3-2 in the opening game of the English club's U.S. tour. Dominic Mediate scored the game-winner four minutes from time after Fulham defender Zesh Rehman's clearance bounced straight to the rookie's feet after deflecting off 'keeper Jaroslav Drobny, and he made no mistake in punishing the error. Marcus Storey had given the Crew a 17th-minute lead when he tapped in a Danny Szetela cross at the back post, but Fulham pulled level two minutes before the halftime break when Chris Wingert turned a Luis Boa Morte cross into his own goal.
COLUMBUS CREW 2: Storey (Szetela, Vasquez) 17; Mediate (unassisted) 86
FULHAM FC 1: own goal (Wingert) 43
Fulham FC -- Jaroslav Drobny, Moritz Volz (Dean Leacock 46), Zat Knight (Sylvain Legwinski 78), Alain Goma (Carlos Bocanegra 46), Niclas Jensen, Luis Boa Morte (Michael Timlin 71), Claus Jensen, Zesh Rehman, Steed Malbranque (Ahmed Elrich 46), Heider Helguson (Brian McBride 46), Collins John (Tomasz Radzinski 61).
Columbus Crew -- Jonny Walker (Bill Gaudette 46), Chad Marshall, Chris Wingert, Robin Fraser (Mark Schulte 46), Danny Szetela, Simon Elliott (Mario Rodriguez 46), Eric Vasquez (Devin Barclay 64), Chris Henderson (Domenic Mediate 46), Kyle Martino (Jamal Sutton 46), Knox Cameron (John Wolyniec 59), Marcus Storey (Edson Buddle 59).
COMPLETING THE STARS: To round out the list of the 32 MLS All-Stars for 2005, the league announced the 10 players who will receive All-Star honors this year. These players were next in line for selection based on the total voting from fans, media, players and coaches and general managers (each vote counting for 25 percent of the final tally). Should any current roster player become injured or not able to play from now until Saturday, Clarke can also choose his replacement from this group. After the injury to Tyrone Marshall, Michael Parkhurst was selected to fill his place.
The 10 All-Stars to complete the list of 32 are: Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), Mike Petke (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Gaven (MetroStars), Kevin Hartman (Los Angeles Galaxy), Steve Ralston (New England Revolution), Parkhurst (New England Revolution), Chris Klein (Kansas City Wizards), Jaime Moreno (D.C. United) and Nate Jaqua (Chicago Fire).
HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT: Jive recording artists Bowling For Soup will be performing their hits "1985" and "Ohio". Hailing from the small town of Wichita Falls, Texas, Bowling For Soup's latest album A Hangover You Don't Deserve was recently certified gold and their single "1985" has become one of the fastest-selling digital tracks to date. Their lyrics often deal with relatable stories on relationships and the common trials and tribulations facing teens and 20-somethings. Known for their undeniably catchy pop hooks, their love of old-school metal, and comical interviews, the band scored a Grammy nomination in 2003 in the Best Performance Pop By a Duo or Group category for their power-pop sing-a-long "Girl All the Bad Guys Want."