The MLS All-Star Fan XI presented by Target dropped on Friday, a lineup packed with stars and legends for the 2017 MLS All-Star Game against Real Madrid.
But as dazzling as that group is, there’s inevitably an unfinished air about the squad.
All-Stars coach Veljko Paunovic is going to need a deep, balanced roster for the battle with the European champions at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Aug. 2 (9 pm ET | FS1, UniMás in US; TSN, TVA Sports in Canada). So we’ve taken the liberty of offering up a few suggestions – players who are deserving of inclusion, provide needed tools for this task, or are just plain fun.
Andre Blake - Philadelphia Union
The 2016 MLS Goalkeeper, of the year has already recorded seven clean sheets this season, one more than he had in all of last campaign. Improvements around him are a part of that, but Andre Blake still faces more pressure than many MLS ‘keepers on a Union team that loves to counterattack.
Jelle Van Damme - LA Galaxy
If you really need convincing, take a look at what happened when LA didn’t have Jelle Van Damme's services on the 4th of July, a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of a Real Salt Lake club that entered the night in last place.
Matt Hedges - FC Dallas
The reigning MLS Defender of the Year is showing has picked up where he left off last season while working his way into new US national team manager Bruce Arena’s plans. Sometimes Matt Hedges goes overshadowed by Oscar Pareja’s array of shiny attacking toys. But that’s generally a good sign for a defender.
Ike Opara - Sporting KC
Not generally ranked among the league’s elite center backs, but Ike Opara is having a career year for a backline that has allowed the fewest goals in MLS. And oh yeah, he’s a threat to score on a streaking overhead kick as well.
Dax McCarty - Chicago Fire
Schweinsteiger got the Fan XI nod, but the Ginger Ninja has done just as much to transform the Men in Red from basement dwellers into Supporters’ Shield contenders. The clean-passing defensive mid is presently proving Dax McCarty has got what it takes for the USMNT, too.
Osvaldo Alonso - Seattle Sounders
“The Honey Badger” isn’t widely celebrated outside his corner of Cascadia. But Osvaldo Alonso just keeps doing what he’s been doing for the better part of a decade: Dispossessing opponents and starting his team’s attack with metronome passing. He won’t flinch at the sight of Real Madrid.
Victor Vazquez - Toronto FC
Looking to upset the mighty Merengues? Then plug in a slick product of their blood rival’s famed academy. The ex-FC Barcelona man, Victor Vazquez, has taken TFC to another level with his vision and technique this season, and can do the same for the All-Stars.
David Accam - Chicago
After producing respectably for two years without much offensive help, David Accam has been arguably the biggest benefactor – aside from the Toyota Park fans – of the Fire’s talent influx. With 10 goals and 7 assists just past the season’s midway point, the speedy Ghanaian is thriving and will love the ASG spotlight.
Romain Alessandrini - Galaxy
It’s been a strange campaign out in Carson, but Romain Alessandrini has consistently packed a punch for LA. The former Marseille man can both drop dimes and finish himself, and has a nose for big moments.
Josef Martinez - Atlanta United
Injury issues have kept the Venezuelan from making a consistent imprint, but Josef Martinez's strike rate so far is otherworldly, and it doesn’t seem to matter if he’s starting or coming off the subs bench. On a team where playing time could be at a premium, that’s an exceptional intersection of traits to have.
Maxi Urruti - Dallas
With five goals and two assists in his last six league matches, the pugnacious Argentine is as hot as anyone in MLS not named Nemanja Nikolic. Plus Maxi Urruti plays in Dallas, so he quite literally is guaranteed to remain hot for the next few months.