If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Count me among those just as intrigued by Round 2 of Major League Soccer vs. LIGA MX at the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target as I was by Round 1. Los Angeles was the ideal first host for the matchup, and while the Twin Cities isn’t quite as tuned in to the Mexico vs. United States/Canada narrative, there might not be a more underrated summer or soccer destination.
On the field, MLS has the opportunity to roll into Allianz Field as both the defending All-Star Game AND Concacaf Champions League winners, should the Sounders make history against Pumas in a couple weeks. It’ll be up to Adrian Heath to pick the best possible XI from the players available to lead that charge (and hopefully get the job done in regulation this time around).
I did my best to get inside the mind of the gaffer. Here’s my predicted XI, subject of course to health and All-Star roster selections. We can check back in August to see how many, if any, names I got right on the team sheet.
Matt Turner is hurt and will be gone anyway. In Turner’s absence – best of luck at Arsenal, fly the MLS flag high – there’s no doubt in my mind who should start this match. The Philadelphia Union man is the league’s best goalkeeper, and it’s likely the Union will be at the top of the Shield race (or close to it). This is a no-brainer.
This is, by far, my biggest stretch. It’s probably wishful thinking, but Tolkin has the talent and the personality to fit right in on an All-Star roster.
I’ll let noted New Jersey native and Tolkin enthusiast Tom Bogert take over to explain why a man with tiger hand tats should start the big game:
Vibes. Just vibes.
All-Star Games are for the fans. What’s more fun than watching that beautiful mullet waving in the wind as he’s flying up and down the left flank alongside some of the league’s best?
But in more seriousness, and not to belie his quality behind a bit about his rad hair, dude’s a legit option. He might not be an obvious ASG starter now, but he should be on the radar as we get closer. Been a starter for two years for the Red Bulls, and he’s only 19. He’s on the radar of RB Salzburg and other European clubs and has already proved he’s MLS quality.
All-Stars are the best players from the best teams. I don’t have any other NYCFC players in the XI – Sorry Taty, you aren’t displacing Chicharito against LIGA MX – and so the most underrated defender in the league gets the call. Callens doesn’t jump off the page quite as obviously as, say, Jamison Olave did back in the day, but his impact is just as massive on his team and the league.
“But so-and-so is having a better season!” Yeah, maybe, but Yedlin has been very good so far and 1) he’s a fun, recognizable player 2) he’s an attacking right back and 3) his inclusion lets MLS market the fact that a likely USMNT World Cupper plays in the league. That’s a potent All-Star Game mix.
Lace up the all-blacks and $#%@ LIGA MX up for a second year running, JP. Given the game is going to be open, we need a do-it-all midfielder to anchor the team. There’s no better man for the job at the moment and his inclusion ensures there is a Sounder on the team.
You’re rolling your eyes. You’re considering closing this tab. You’re out of your mind if you think Herrera (and Lorenzo Insigne, for that matter) isn’t a likely All-Star despite arriving in MLS right before the game. Consider it the Steven Gerrard precedent. If you have an All-Star Game against LIGA MX and don’t include HH, you aren’t giving the people (on both sides of the border) what they want from an entertainment product.
You can’t keep the MVP frontrunner out. Djordje has some work to do to stay there, but all signs point to more magic to come in Montréal. How’s this for a broadcast story? Top/only American No. 10 in MLS. Homegrown. Potential World Cup roster bubble. Target to be sold for many millions of dollars to a top-five European league. That’s a story I’d want to tell to a national and international audience, and Mihailovic will deserve every bit of praise and recognition to boot.
I mean, duh.