MLS Commissioner Don Garber will announce his two AT&T All-Star selections on this Saturday on FOX Soccer at halftime of the 4 p.m. ET game between Seattle Sounders FC and the Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
Though there's no guarantee his picks will see action vs. Manchester United on July 27 — All-Star coach Hans Backe will announce his game-day roster on Monday — we've been asking ourselves: If we were Commissioner for the day, who would we pick? And why? Be sure to let us know your thoughts, too.
Greg Lalas (Editor-in-Chief)
The Commissioner's picks often play at the heartstrings. But this year I would go with my competitive gut, because, dammit, I want to help Hans Backe and the boys win this one! Therefore, my picks would be Conor Casey and Daniel Hernandez. Casey, the most consistent striker in MLS of the past four years, provides the size and strength to battle Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, plus the scoring touch to put away any chances that come his way. Hernandez is one of the best leaders in MLS, a veteran who is never intimidated by the opponents—exactly what the MLS side will need to get a result.
Jonah Freedman (Managing Editor)
Call me the old sentimentalist (which I am), but I prefer to see the milestone achievers rewarded one last time — you’ll never know when they’ll hang ‘em up for good. It’s only a matter of time until 34-year-old Jeff Cunningham gets that one last goal to become the all-time leading scorer in MLS history, and there’s no one more deserving for all the hard work he’s put in. Similarly, ageless Kevin Hartman is dazzling again for FC Dallas at 37. The all-time leader in shutouts (102) is crushing it with nine already this season. Give the 30-somethings their due, Commish.
Simon Borg (Content Producer)
The Commissioner’s picks should not necessarily be about tactics or strategy to beat Manchester United. With the freedom to select anyone in the league, why not recognize deserving players who would never make it on the list of 32 in any other manner? Chivas USA’s Nick LaBrocca and Seattle’s Mauro Rosales likely won’t receive an All-Star nod by popular fan or player demand. And they probably won’t be the hand-picked choices by Hans Backe. Although they may not carry high profiles in MLS circles, they deserve to be recognized for stellar seasons thus far, whether they’re on the final game-day roster on July 27 or not.
Nick Firchau (New Media Editor)
The Rapids' Conor Casey has played in big games with the US national team, and he brings what no other player in MLS can against Manchester United: the combination of size and touch. He’s almost single-handedly carrying Colorado through the dog days of summer, but too many fans are more keen to adore flashy finishers or teen phenoms than a guy who simply gets it done. This is a no-brainer. The MLS All-Stars also have some goalkeeping issues, no doubt about it. With Kasey Keller, Kevin Hartman and Stefan Frei all out because of CONCACAF Champions League duties (and Donovan Ricketts nursing a broken arm), who better than Philadelphia stalwart Faryd Mondragón to try and keep the Red Devils at bay? Mondragón is one of only a few All-Star candidates who has really honed his craft against Europe’s best. He’s the man to lean on.
Matthew Doyle (New Media Editor)
There’s rarely room for sentiment in professional sports, but we can make an exception for the All-Star Game. Jeff Cunningham has performed below expectations – his, the Crew’s and really everyone’s – this season after being a double-digit scorer each of the last two seasons in Dallas. But we can make an exception for the league’s joint-All-time leading scorer, especially since he’s never really gotten his due from fans or media. Let’s use this game in part as a platform to give it up for Jeffro. At the opposite end of the “gets his due” spectrum is DC’s Charlie Davies. He may have squandered much of his good will by tripping over phantoms in the box, but the fact that he’s playing top-flight soccer again is really a medical miracle. Let’s put him out there and give him the applause he deserves. And hey, maybe he’ll even draw a PK.
Kristel Valencia (FutbolMLS.com)
Recently, Fabián Espíndola has taken leadership in RSL’s attacking line. In the wake of Javi Morales' injury, and with Álvaro Saborío and Arturo Alvarez's absences due to international duty during the month of June, the Argentine forward became the driving force of Jason Kreis’ squad. In 12 games played with RSL this season, 10 of them as starter, Espíndola has nailed six goals to become RSL's top scorer. I believe he is a good alternative for Hans Backe’s team who could refresh the MLS All-Star team's offensive side. One of the weak parts of the MLS All-Star in 2010 was the defense. With Sean Franklin, Tim Ream, Rafa Márquez (who won't play) and Omar Gonzalez already selected, and waiting for Backe’s picks, I believe that Philadelphia Union defender Carlos Valdés would be a great option to bolster the back line. The Colombian is part of a defense that has allowed only 16 goals in 18 games played. His strength, speed and physical skills could help to control Manchester United’s explosive attacking side with Wayne Rooney, Nani, Dimitar Berbatov and Ashley Young.
Jason Saghini (Director of Video Content)
My two Commissioner's picks would be Juan Agudelo and Fabián Castillo, picks that represent the growing number of talented young players in the league right now and the different ways that they are being acquired. Agudelo, most importantly, was developed from within the organization, which will remain key as MLS continues to grow in prominence toward much more established international Leagues. Castillo represents something different: MLS teams are now willing to go out an acquire young talent that will improve their squad, even if they aren't well-known commodities. Similar to Fredy Montero in Seattle, Castillo represents a new way of thinking for MLS clubs. (Unfortunately, though, Castillo would not be able to play in the All-Star game as Dallas have a CCL play-in match that conflicts.)
Fidencio Enriquez (New Media Editor)
If I could wield the commissioner’s power and select two players, I’d have to go with Houston’s Brad Davis and New York’s Joel Lindpere. With a league-leading nine assists already this season, Davis is just three shy of tying his career best marks of 12 he set in 2009 and ’10. The man is gifted with a magical left foot and it seems like he can place the ball wherever he wants in the box. As for Lindpere, I need just one word: clutch. The Red Bulls midfielder has shown since last season that he can step up with a goal or assist when needed. He’s already surpassed his goal total of last season and is just one shy of matching his assist number from 2010.
Ryan Krasnoo (MLSsoccer.com)
Chivas USA's Nick LaBrocca is a New Jersey native and is having a breakout season in his fifth year in MLS. He leads Chivas with six goals, including three in his last three games, and has been a staple in the midfield, starting every game for the Rojiblancos. Philadelphia's Sheanon Williams, meanwhile, is in only his second year in MLS, but the dependable fullback anchors the right side of one of the league’s best defenses. He has started every game but one for the Union, and will be counted upon for a potential deep run in the playoffs.