the superstars of the food-stuff world -- can do their thing.
Now, I don't want to suggest that Dema Kovalenko and Joe Cannon are pigs, but, well, if the snout fits ...
The reason I say that is because the two of them do the dirty work and get the results so that the bigger names on their respective teams -- the Bobby Conveys, Pablo Mastroenis and other big names who are blatantly underachieving this year -- can get the glory. They get no love, and in Dema's case get picked on by bullies like my MLSnet.com colleague Tino Palace. So, if I were commissioner for a day, I would've picked these two as my "Commissioner's Picks" for the 2004 Sierra Mist All-Star Game.
Don't get me wrong. I know why the Don Garber picked Jason Kreis and Freddy Adu. He had to select the league's all-time leading goal-scorer and the biggest headline-grabbing American soccer player since Joe Gaetjens. (Look it up, people.) In fact, if the Don hadn't selected these two, I might think he's suffering from altitude sickness while worrying about a color scheme for the all new Salt Lake City Something-or-Others. (Don't get me started on Sigi Schmid's picking his boy Jovan Kirovski over K.C.'s Davy Arnaud. An absolute travesty.)
But for my money, in the east, I'd go with Dema Kovalenko. Hands down. Studs up. Seriously, how can coach Peter Nowak skip his own favorite player? Who's going to kick Landon Donovan during the All-Star Game? DaMarcus Beasley? Puh-leeze, as they say in YM Magazine. Not that I read YM on a regular basis or anything.
Every team, even an All-Star team, needs a Dema. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Dema is the Bill Laimbeer of MLS. Or, if basketball's not your analogical thing, think of Dema as MLS's very own Ray Lewis or Axl Rose or James Carville. You hate these guys, but if you had any of them on your side, you'd love him. And they've all won the big one. Because they're all-out, pedal-to-the-floor, take-no-prisoners, leave-your-heart-and-your-cojones-on-the-field-every-game-every-play-every-chance kind of guys.
This year, Dema is in the top 20 in points with two goals and five assists, and, most impressive, he's received only one red card.
But Dema's not about the stats. He's one of the few guys out there who plays with all the passion, all the professionalism, and all the joy that this game is about. He works hard. He smiles when the work pays off. He's genuinely excited about scoring goals. He curses his opponent's mother when he loses. That's the kind of guy I want on my team. (He's the diametrical opposite of his United teammate Convey, who somehow made the All-Star team even though, for my money, he has played himself off the national team.) In the west, give me Cannon over Kevin Hartman or Pat Onstad any day of the week. Not only because he has single-handedly kept Colorado afloat while they drifted around in the flotsam and jetsam that seems to follow the Rapids regularly these days, but also because he's one of the funniest guys in the league. His acceptance speech at the 2002 awards banquet after he won the Goalkeeper of the Year award was one of the funniest, most heartwarming speeches I've ever heard. He laughed, he teased, he cried. We all did. It was brilliant. If he hadn't had brought his girlfriend (whom he thanked profusely and unabashedly wept about), he would've cleaned up at the after-party.
Then he survived France and last year's absolutely hilarious Scott Garlick brouhaha ("My name-calling is wittier than yours!"), and like Nietzsche's Uberman, he emerged stronger. He's playing great, boasting the lowest GAA in the league, and his 'Pids have quietly resurrected their season.
Dema Kovalenko and Joe Cannon, may not be stars, they may not "personify the theme of the 2004 Sierra Mist All-Star Game," but they sure represent everything that we Cheap Seaters want in a player.
Mortal Lock: Hmmm ... an All-Star-related column runs two days before the two All-Star coaches face off. Coincidence? I think not. I'll take Dema United over L.A.
Greg Lalas played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New England Revolution in 1996 and 1997. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.