Columnist: Jonathan Sigal

MLS All-Star Game ballot: Who I voted for to face Arsenal

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Voting for the 2023 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target is now open!

There are a few approaches to take when selecting your fan XI ballot. Maybe you're all about big-name draws and star power. Perhaps you like the stats deep-cuts and the analytics darlings. The good ol' eye test works, too.

In the spirit of voting, here's who I submitted to represent the MLS All-Stars when English Premier League powerhouse Arsenal come to D.C. United's Audi Field on July 19. It mimics the formation and positions ballots can be submitted through – goalkeeper, right back, center back, left back, defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder and forward/winger.

Who will make the cut?

That skepticism about St. Louis spending big on Bürki, their inaugural captain? Yeah, we'll admit we were off the mark there.

The former Swiss international and Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper has been immense for the MLS newcomers, on the same level as CITY SC midfielder Eduard Löwen (who was one of the last cuts from my ballot).

Full transparency: I went back and forth about 20 times while trying to pick a left back. DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution) or John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls) as first-time MLS All-Stars? Kai Wagner (Philadelphia Union) or Diego Palacios (LAFC) repeating after nods in 2022? There's no shortage of quality at the position in MLS.

Ultimately, I went with my first instinct in Barreal. The Argentine U22 initiative signing has brilliantly transitioned into a wingback in FC Cincinnati's 3-4-2-1 formation, contributing 1g/4a in 14 games for the Supporters' Shield leaders. He's wholly deserving of a spot this summer.

Zimmerman is in line for a third consecutive MLS All-Star roster spot. I also wouldn't be surprised if Nashville SC's captain wins a third MLS Defender of the Year award in four years by season's end.

Robinson hasn't missed a beat after recovering from an Achilles injury that prevented him from representing the US at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It's TBD if Robinson sticks with Atlanta United beyond this season, but he's unquestionably a top-end center back in MLS.

Laryea's the best right back in MLS by quite some margin, in my opinion. The only question is if the Canadian international remains with Toronto for the year. His loan from English Premier League side Nottingham Forest reportedly only lasts through June.

João Paulo
Defensive midfielder · Seattle Sounders FC

João Paulo is one of the most complete two-way midfielders in MLS, making him an easy pick for the defensive midfielder spot. Plus, the No. 6 role in All-Star Games has more to do with moving the ball forward than putting fires out.

We should also note: The Brazilian is back to his top-end self after missing most of the Seattle Sounders' 2022 season with a torn ACL.

Thiago Almada
Attacking midfielder · Atlanta United

Is the All-Star Game potentially one of Almada's last acts in MLS? The Argentine World Cup winner could set an MLS outbound transfer record this summer, surpassing the $27 million Atlanta reportedly received for Miguel Almiron in early 2019 when he moved to Newcastle United.

Almada, with 6g/8a in 13 league games, has been phenomenal in his second MLS season after joining the Five Stripes last year for a reported league-record $16 million transfer fee from Vélez Sarsfield.

Hany Mukhtar
Attacking midfielder · Nashville SC

I mean, this one's a no-brainer. Mukhtar leads MLS in goal contributions (16) behind 9g/7a in 15 games. He's the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP for a reason.

I pity any defender who has Bouanga charging at them in the open field or sizing up a 1-on-1 situation. That must be terrifying.

The DP forward has a league-leading 10 goals for the Golden Boot presented by Audi mantle, plus is the difference-maker behind LAFC's run to the Concacaf Champions League final.

There's nobody better in the air in MLS, full stop. Benteke has 7g/1a in 14 games this year, and it'd be fitting if the Premier League veteran is leading the line when Arsenal come to Audi Field, home of his D.C. United.

Espinoza, the driving force behind San Jose's strong start to the 2023 season, is a legit MVP candidate. The Argentine winger's got 8g/3a in 14 games, finally gaining some national traction for his consistency and game-changing presence with the Earthquakes.

ASG ballot column - XI - Sigal