First, a couple of quick ground rules regarding the selection process. We did not include anyone on the long-term injury shelf, which is why guys like Anton Tinnerholm (ordinarily the obvious right back pick in this exercise), Keaton Parks and Eryk Williamson weren't considered. Others who, for instance, have recently played and are currently available to dress are eligible to make the cut (this is called foreshadowing).
More importantly, this is no collection of the top 11 players on offer regardless of position. We want a workable formation properly manned, as if plotting for the title match itself. That's the current situation, so let's play the game accordingly.
There were some very difficult picks to make and there were some rather simple choices, and you can probably guess which positions were which. And I guess you could say there's a wild hair pick in there, as well, before the Providence Park showdown (3 pm ET | ABC, UniMas, TUDN).
This was all but a coin flip, and the toughest of the bunch. Portland's Steve Clark has the shot-stopping edge, while Johnson has small advantages with area command and play on the ball as a cog of the club system. I could take either and be content, but a call has to be made. Thanks to another slight edge when facing spot-kicks, we'll go with the NYCFC man. Spoiler alert: This choice was actually the final choice made, and it gave the Bronx bunch a 6-5 edge in player representation.
This was also a back-and-forth decision. Though the NYCFC youngster is a little less consistent at the defensive end and certainly greener, we'll give him the nod due to his greater ability to make a play moving forward into attack.
It surely seems wise to take an established pair for this exercise, but don't give me too much credit. Chanot and Callens would have edged out the top two spots in central defense even if they didn't have loads of established chemistry. Those two vets each have the right blend of shrewd mobility, solidity and a dash of horseradish when needed to lead an MLS Cup triumph from the back.
Another tough decision, imagine that. The ground-covering Timbers defender will end his first MLS season playing for the title. Because his hard-nosed two-way flank work is a little more steady and a lot more buzzy, let's tab him.
For my taste, the NYCFC maestro has too often been considered as being a tier below MLS' top playmakers. Perhaps winning a championship with my crew – or, ya know, the glory-starved Cityzens – can rectify that viewpoint.
Did I really just choose to start the 21-year-old kid with fewer than 500 minutes of MLS experience based on the first game I saw him work 90 minutes? Yup. I certainly did because that showing against Real Salt Lake was so impressive, and in so many ways, it was irresistible. I can't resist. Moreno gets the nod.
It's tough to leave Felipe Mora out, but there's no way to get around picking the Golden Boot presented by Audi winner. Castellanos disorients defenses like few other forwards in the league, and he can hurt you in many ways. Even though he will likely spurn some chances, the NYCFC hit man never stops knocking on the door.
Duh. While it's possible that Blanco isn't really fit (hamstring injury) to see action in MLS Cup, apparently this guy fits the requirements for consideration. I totally checked the rules mentioned in the intro. We get him in the lineup and good luck to the opposing defense. You're going to need some.