Voices: Andrew Wiebe

MLS All-Star: What does a "Maximum Entertainment XI" look like?


An old friend from the MLSsoccer.com content mines, Bobby Warshaw, used to remark/complain that Best XI columns were the lazy man’s way out. This was, of course, in response to my shameless tendency to shoehorn any topic I could into a Best XI.

Well, no need to shoehorn today! MLS All-Star voting quite literally begs for/demands the format. Thus, here we are with my “Let’s get wild (but also realistic)” All-Star XI to consider before, during or even after you’ve dutifully filled out your ballot. Oh, and I’ve included a Bonus XI, just for you.

Cheers, Bobby!

No, seriously… let’s start this XI
Formation: 3-4-2-1

No rules. No positional requirements, other than to jam as many must-see attackers on the field as possible. Maximum entertainment is the only consideration here. It’s the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, after all.

I am also including a “first sub” for each player. Sometimes a “second sub” just for funsies. Nobody is playing 90, so we need to know who’s coming in after a half hour (or whatever rotational pattern head coach Wilfried Nancy decides on).

FWD: Chicho Arango (RSL)

  • 1st sub: Luis Suárez (MIA)
  • 2nd sub: Christian Benteke (DC)

Chicho is your starter. How can he not be? I’m actually excited to see Suárez on the field WITHOUT Lionel Messi. We already know those guys have otherworldly chemistry.

CAM: Lionel Messi (MIA)

  • 1st sub: Riqui Puig (LA)

La Masia por siempre! Mes que un partido de las estrellas!

CAM: Lucho Acosta (CIN)

  • 1st sub: Santi Rodríguez (NYC)

Lucho … the name that’s not often talked about in the MVP race, but ought to be.

CM: Evander (POR)

  • 1st sub: Robin Lod (MIN)

Hate me, Loons fans, but know Robin Lod is still in the team. I am forcing Evander into the XI back a line because I know he can play here based on his time in Denmark. Rest assured, we’re not asking much of him defensively. Go forward, with typical sanguinity!

CM: Sergio Busquets

  • 1st sub: Emeka Eneli (RSL)

I can’t help but be giddy at the prospect of my guy Emeka subbing in for Sergio. It will be the most MLS moment of the entire match!

LWB: Denis Bouanga

  • 1st sub: Lewis Morgan (RBNY)

Genuine apologies to all the true wingbacks/fullbacks in MLS. Then again, if we’re being honest, I think we’d all prefer to watch Bouanga and Morgan burning up the sideline in an All-Star Game.

CB: Adilson Malanda (CLT)
CB: Miles Robinson (CIN)
CB: Aaron Long (LAFC)

Fair warning to my center backs: you’re going to be isolated in space. A lot. Always? We need 1v1 defending. Do your very best, then give the ball to Sergio.

RWB: Federico Bernardeschi (TOR)

  • 1st sub: Cristian Espinoza (SJ)

I know, Espinoza isn’t a wingback. But if Fede can be one AND Toronto FC’s best player, then the Quakes' menace can fill the role ably too!

GK: Roman Bürki (STL)

  • 1st sub: Hugo Lloris (LAFC)

There are ’keepers who deserve it more – and I hope they make it – but c’mon, World Cup winner/legend vs. Liga MX.

Bonus Vote! Domestic XI
Formation: 3-4-2-1

Only Americans and Canadians need apply! FWIW, the snubs, especially in midfield, absolutely killed me.

FWD: Tani Oluwaseyi (MIN)

Only Lionel Messi has a better goal contributions (goals plus assists) per 90 number!

CAM: Diego Luna (RSL)
CAM: Timothy Tillman (LAFC)

  • Snubs: Djordje Mihailovic (COL), Julian Gressel (MIA), Jared Stroud (DC)

1) Mihailovic is steadily finding the form that earned him a massive transfer to AZ Alkmaar. Now, if the Rapids could stop shipping goals…

2) Gressel doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being Tata and Miami’s midfield security blanket. Without his steady presence, where would the Supporters’ Shield leaders be?

3) Stroud (and Lucas Bartlett, plus $300k GAM) to D.C. United for Chris Durkin might be one of the most underappreciated trades of the offseason. The 27-year-old picked up the game model immediately and his service to Christian Benteke has been superb.

CM: Emeka Eneli (RSL)
CM: Aidan Morris (CLB)

  • Snubs: James Sands (NYC), Cole Bassett (COL), Frankie Amaya (RBNY)

How about an alternative double pivot of Sands and Bassett? I could absolutely get down with that.

LWB: Caleb Wiley (ATL)

Wiley was born to run up and down the left wing.

CB: Andrew Privett (CLT)

One of the best SuperDraft stories (drafted 69th overall in the 2023 edition) in recent memory! Midfielder turned legit All-Star. Self-imposed domestic limit or not, Privett is at the very least in the discussion for the big team.

CB: Miles Robinson/Matt Miazga (CIN)

We’re taking one of the two Cincinnati backline stalwarts here. You choose. I can’t.

CB: Aaron Long (LAFC)

That LAFC defense is becoming a top-tier group. Long is a major reason why.

RWB: Aaron Herrera (DC)

Quietly elite at the position for a long time now.

GK: Matt Freese (NYC)

Freese, stuck behind Andre Blake in Philly for so many years, is getting his chance to shine at NYCFC.