Voices: Andrew Wiebe

Breaking down the 2021 MLS All-Star Team roster

Alright, we’ve got a squad.

If you haven’t already, fire up another tab and get familiar with the 28 names assembled from fan, player and media voting, as well as the discerning eyes of LAFC manager Bob Bradley and MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

I want you to keep one thing in mind every time you think or talk about the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target: This is supposed to be fun. Just enjoy it. All of it, from the media circus to the game itself. It’s bonus soccer, straight out of a “What if…” bar conversation.

We obsess over USMNT (and now CanMNT?) vs. Mexico, clearly are gluttons for punishment in the Concacaf Champions League (don’t sleep on Leagues Cup, starting next Tuesday) and we’ve all imagined what it might be like to see MLS’ best take on their peers from Liga MX. Forget a FIFA simulation, we’re going to do it in real life. We’ve got three weeks to dream before the dream becomes reality on Aug. 25 at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.

Let’s take a closer look at the group that will represent MLS.

By the numbers
  • Average age of the squad is 26.39, with a range of 17 years. Cade Cowell (17) is half Nani’s age (34). There are three teenagers and five players eligible for the Young Player of the Year Award (22 and under).
  • There are 10 Designated Players in the squad, six SuperDraft picks and five Homegrowns* among the 28 players chosen. The remainder are international signings, the majority signed either via Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) or re-signed to TAM contracts.
  • The 28 players hail from 15 clubs. There are no representatives from Austin FC, Chicago Fire, FC Cincinnati, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo FC, Inter Miami CF, CF Montréal, New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers, Toronto FC or Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
  • Five clubs have multiple All-Stars, led by the Seattle Sounders with six (five via the voting process). Both LAFC and New England have four each. The LA Galaxy and Orlando City SC are sending two players each.

*The LA Galaxy waived Julian Araujo's Homegrown rights to sign him early in 2019. So while he's not technically a Homegrown ... he's also a Homegrown. Four is still a record, based on my research.

Sounders stuff the ballot box

I understand this sentiment, especially since 12 teams don’t have a single All-Star. Six seems excessive, even if the case for all six is pretty sound.

Here’s the context behind the big number … Five of the six Sounders reps got in via the vote.

Carter is right, the shine on the Sounders isn’t quite as bright as it was when they were the “Invincibles,” but we’re also not voting on it today. Voting ended on Wednesday, July 21 at 11:59 pm PT. Seattle’s first loss of the season was on July 18 in Minnesota, and they lost the Supporters' Shield lead that Wednesday when the Revs went to Inter Miami and won 5-0. They were doing it without multiple Best XI players, ravaged by injuries and absences. They were the soccer story of the season.

The only Sounder selected by Bob Bradley was Cristian Roldan. I find it hard to argue against his inclusion. I also know there are 12 clubs and countless snubs wondering why they aren’t going to Los Angeles.

Three biggest snubs

I am sure you could name many more. Get at me on Twitter (@andrew_wiebe) with your snubs.

GK – Brad Stuver (ATX)

As my current Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year choice, I’d push him in for Pedro Gallese, but you gotta respect the vote. The underlying numbers – the same ones that say Matt Turner is the best goalkeeper in MLS since 2018 – are absurd. American Soccer Analysis’ goalkeeper modeling has him allowing a league-best five fewer goals than expected goals (xG).

If you watch Austin FC play, you know two things: 1) they need to be more goal dangerous, thus the summer transfers, and 2) Stuver absolutely keeps them in games, all by himself at times.

CB – Andreu Fontas (SKC), Jonathan Mensah (CLB), Antonio Carlos (ORL)

I cheated. Three for the price of one. All three of these guys are foundational to their team’s success. Forget the All-Star Game, they have legit Best XI cases. There is some bad news-good news here. Given Walker Zimmerman’s injury in the Gold Cup (bad news), there’s the possibility for one to go to LA as a replacement (good news). Take your pick.

The Colorado Rapids

I cheated again. They’re fourth in the Western Conference (third in PPG on 1.8). I know there’s a big “by committee” element in Colorado, but not a single player? Kellyn Acosta feels like the obvious one (and perhaps a positional need). How about Cole Bassett? Keep him in the shop window!

My All-Star XI

Fair warning, this is a combination of most deserving, straight-up entertainment value and the inevitable. What’s inevitable? Chicharito and Vela starting, if they’re healthy. Since I know you’ll have questions, I’m going to try to preempt some of them now.

  • At center back, I decided I’d rather have familiarity than simply pick the two most deserving. That means we’re running back the Gold Cup-winning duo from the jump.
  • I have Nouhou playing left back, though he’s mostly played central defense, because I want his 1-v-1 defending in a team that’s going to give complete freedom to the front five.
  • Julian Araujo is in the team over Alex Roldan simply because he is a Homegrown. I wanted a minimum of two in the team, and Araujo has been stellar for the Galaxy.
  • My biggest regret is not having starting spots for Daniel Salloi and Raul Ruidiaz. The big names got the start – it’s an All-Star Game, after all – but there’s some serious firepower waiting on the bench.
Wiebe's All-Star XI