SAN JOSE, Calif. -- There are World Cup titlists and winners of the UEFA Champions League among the luminaries on coach Dominic Kinnear’s roster. But the ability of the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star team to hold off English giants Arsenal in their Thursday match (7:30 pm ET, ESPN, UniMás, TSN, RDS) might hinge on two outside backs who are barely eight months removed from their collegiate careers.
Rookies Keegan Rosenberry of Georgetown and Brandon Vincent of Stanford went back-to-back, Nos. 3 and 4, in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. Both immediately stepped into the starting lineups for their respective teams -- Rosenberry in Philadelphia, Vincent in Chicago. And now both could be starting against the perennial English powerhouse.
“I’m at a loss for words sometimes, honestly,” Vincent told reporters Tuesday after the MLS All-Stars’ open training session at Avaya Stadium. “You dream of the big lights, being in the spotlight, and then all of a sudden you walk into it and it’s kind of shocking and amazing, all at the same time.”
A Rosenberry/Vincent pairing is no certainty, especially with New England’s Andrew Farrell having returned to his original pro position of right back in recent weeks. And late addition Kellyn Acosta, normally a defensive midfielder with FC Dallas, has seen time at left back for club and country.
Yet Rosenberry and Vincent were not simply scarcity selections. Both earned their spots with solid play this year. Vincent has started 11 matches for the Fire while Rosenberry has played every regular-season minute -- 1,890 so far -- for the Union.
“I think I’d be lying if I said [being an All-Star] crossed my mind as I started the year,” Rosenberry said. “I was just blessed to have the opportunity to play coming in. Like I’ve said before, other rookies have come into the league with just as much talent or as much work ethic as I have, and they’ve got either a 10-year starter or a captain in their position, and they don’t get a chance. I’m just thankful to get a chance to play and do my best to take advantage of that.”
Regardless of how much they play Thursday against the Gunners, this week provides another learning opportunity for the rookies, who have been keenly watching the likes of Didier Drogba, Sebastian Giovinco and Kaká.
“Just interacting with these guys and seeing how they carry themselves -- not only on the field, but just at dinner, in the hallways, with media and stuff -- I can learn a lot,” Rosenberry said. “They’ve been around the world and in the highest leagues in the world. I’m just soaking it all in.”
One potential side benefit would be a boost to both players’ national-team hopes. Rosenberry has yet to hear anything from US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, while Vincent received his first cap against Canada on February 5.
“I got a taste of it early in the year, and I think my biggest goal has been to keep working hard and stay on their radar,” Vincent said. “Hopefully, this helps my chances with that, and keeps them keeping an eye on me.”