The 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game features a rematch for the first time, as the MLS All-Stars take on Manchester United FC for a second consecutive year. The theme of the MLS All-Star Game is “MLS Takes on the World,” and the league’s All-Stars will take on the English Premier League champions. Last year, Manchester United became the first international club to defeat the MLS All-Stars, a 5-2 victory at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
TV: 8:30 pm ET on ESPN2, TSN and TeleFutura
THE OPPOSITION: Founded in 1878, Manchester United won the Barclays Premier League championship in 2010, their 19th overall league title, while also reaching the final of the UEFA Champions League at Wembley Stadium, where they took on FC Barcelona. Manchester United was the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968 and has since won the UEFA Champions League two additional times. The Red Devils were also crowned the FIFA Club World Cup champions in 2008.
UNITED LAST SEASON: Manchester United won the Barclays Premier League with 80 points from 38 matches, nine points clear of joint second-place finishers Chelsea and Manchester City. The Red Devils reached the final of the UEFA Champions League, falling 3-1 to Spain’s FC Barcelona at Wembley Stadium. Manchester United were dumped out of the FA Cup in the semifinals in a 1-0 loss to crosstown rivals Manchester City; they reached the fifth round of the Football League Cup before falling 4-0 to West Ham United FC.
THE FORMAT: This is the eighth time the MLS All-Stars have taken on international competition in the All-Star Game. The MLS teams hold a 6-1-1 record; they have outscored their opponents 16-10.
Last year, Manchester United became the first foreign club to defeat the MLS All-Stars, a 5-2 victory at Reliant Stadium in Houston. All-Star Game MVP Federico Macheda scored twice in the opening 13 minutes – the first goal after 22 seconds. Brian Ching pulled a goal back for MLS (64), but goals from Darron Gibson (70), Tom Cleverley (73) and Javier Hernandez (83) put the match away. Dwayne De Rosario scored late for MLS.
In 2009, English Premier League side Everton FC ended the five-game winning streak by the MLS All-Stars in a penalty kick shootout after a 1-1 draw over 90 minutes. Everton FC goalkeeper Tim Howard – who of course played in MLS – received the game’s Most Valuable Player award after making three saves in the penalty decider.
In 2008, the MLS All-Stars defeated English Premier League side West Ham United 3-2 on goals from Chicago’s Cuauhtemoc Blanco, D.C. United’s Christian Gomez and Toronto FC’s Dwayne De Rosario, in front of his hometown fans. In 2007, the MLS All-Stars defeated Scottish Premier League power Celtic FC 2-0 behind goals from New York Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel and former FC Dallas midfielder Juan Toja. In 2006, the MLS All-Stars defeated former Premier League champions Chelsea FC 1-0 on a goal by De Rosario. The 2005 event saw the MLS All-Stars defeat English Premier League club Fulham FC 4-1 at Columbus Crew Stadium and in 2003, the MLS All-Stars downed Mexican club CD Guadalajara 3-1 at The Home Depot Center with Carlos Ruiz capturing MVP honors.
The 2003 contest was the second consecutive year a single team of MLS All-Stars was selected for the midseason classic, as the year before the MLS All-Stars took on a U.S. national team selection following the USA’s historic quarterfinal performance at FIFA World Cup 2002 Korea/Japan. All 18 of the players selected by Bruce Arena for the match plied their trade in MLS. In 1998, an international theme was also used in the MLS All- Star Game as a team of U.S. MLS stars took on a squad comprised of international MLS stars. Each of the other seven All-Star Games has featured an East vs. West format.
RULES OF COMPETITION: All players in the squad for both teams are eligible to play. At the end of 90 minutes, if the teams are tied, no extra time will be played and the game will be decided by kicks from the penalty mark.
AGAINST THE PREMIERSHIP: It’s the sixth time in seven years an English Premier League club will provide the opposition. In 2009, Everton FC ended the MLS All-Stars perfect record against their international opponents with a victory on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. The best of MLS have also taken on Fulham FC (4-1; 2005), Chelsea FC (1-0; 2006) and West Ham United FC (3-2, 2008). The series began six years ago when the MLS side defeated CD Guadalajara of Mexico; the All-Stars have also defeated Scotland’s Celtic FC.
THE REFEREES: Jair Marrufo will be the referee for the 2011 MLS All-Star Game. In his 10th season as a Major League Soccer referee, this is his first All-Star Game as the center referee. The senior assistant referee is C.J. Morgante; the junior assistant referee is Corey Rockwell. For both, it is their first MLS All-Star Game. The fourth official is Jorge Gonzalez, the referee for the 2011 MLS All-Star Game.
TEAM SELECTION: For the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, the MLS team was selected with a different format than in years past. In all, 32 players are named MLS All-Stars.
Ballot creation: A select media panel determined the field of players – six players per team – who were most deserving of consideration for this year’s All-Star Game. Those 108 players were eligible for fan voting.
Fans then selected the “First XI” All-Stars through three digital platforms – at MLSsoccer.com, via text message (SMS) and on Twitter. In addition, the player who received the most text votes was selected as an All-Star.
Coach & Commissioner selections: The MLS All-Star head coach, Hans Backe of the New York Red Bulls, selected the gameday roster. Players named to the First XI were eligible for selection to the gameday roster. MLS Commissioner Don Garber selected two All-Stars; the coach decided if those two are selected for the gameday roster.
Player selections: Once the final gameday roster was announced, voting by MLS players determined the remainder of the 32 All-Stars named annually per the collective bargaining agreement (known as the “inactive roster”).
HEAD COACH: The MLS All-Stars will be coached by New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. Major League Soccer selected Backe for competitive considerations -- he does not have to travel to and from this summer’s showcase event, he is familiar with the facilities, and his team plays at home on July 23. These factors provide advantages to the MLS All-Stars as they prepare for the match and prevent other MLS coaches from missing any training sessions with their clubs.
Backe was a finalist for the 2010 MLS Coach of the Year award after the Red Bulls matched the best season-to- season improvement in MLS history, going from last place in 2009 to first in the Eastern Conference in 2010. Backe, 59, has almost 30 years of professional coaching experience.
THE FIRST XI: The MLS All-Star First XI received the most votes at their respective positions from combined fan voting on three platforms – online at MLSsoccer.com, via text message, and via Twitter.
A 4-3-3 formation was selected for this year’s First XI because the third-ranked forward received more than twice as many votes as the fourth-place midfielder.
In addition, a 12th MLS All-Star, the winner of the AT&T Text Voting, was named to the group.
The First XI is not necessarily the starting lineup. The MLS All-Star starters will be selected by head coach Hnas Backe based on player availability and tactical considerations.
Goalkeeper: Kasey Keller (Seattle Sounder FC) Defenders: Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Rafa Marquez (New York Red Bulls), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls). Midfielders: David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers), Brek Shea (FC Dallas) Forwards: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) AT&T Text Voting Winner: Defender Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
The MLS All-Star First XI includes the league’s top three goal scorers– Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan and Brek Shea, who combined have netted 28 goals in the first half of the season.
Players who were close to the leading vote-getters at their positions, but finished outside the First XI included, in alphabetical order by last name: Danny Califf (PHI), Charlie Davies (DC), Dwayne De Rosario (DC), Justin Mapp (PHI), Donovan Ricketts (LA), and Nick Rimando (RSL).
Fan participation in All-Star voting increased by 53 percent this year compared to 2010. Besler received an astounding 30 percent of all text votes submitted between June 8 and July 5 and he received nearly three times as many text votes as the next closest player.
THE REST: The MLS All-Star Game gameday roster, as selected by head coach Hans Backe, includes 23 players. Three members of the First XI – defenders Rafa Marquez and Omar Gonzalez, and attacker Landon Donovan – are injured and unavailable to play. As well, First XI selection Brek Shea was forced out as his FC Dallas team has a match in the in the CONCACAF Champions League the week of the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game.
The players selected by MLS Commissioner Don Garber – forward Juan Agudelo of the New York Red Bulls, and forward Omar Bravo of Sporting Kansas City – are both part of the gameday squad.
Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Faryd Mondragón (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy), Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)
Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
INTERNATIONALS ON PARADE: Fifteen members of the MLS All-Star team have represented their countries at senior level. Nine MLS All-Stars have been a part of the U.S. national team, including four who were included in the squad for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup – Landon Donovan, Tim Ream, Juan Agudelo and Chris Wondolowski. As well, Heath Pearce, Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Bobby Convey and Kasey Keller have been capped by the USA.
The MLS All-Star squad also features a FIFA World Cup winner in Thierry Henry, England’s all-time appearance leader for a field player in David Beckham, CONCACAF rivals Omar Bravo (Mexico), Omar Cummings (Jamaica) and Shalrie Joseph (Grenada), and Faryd Mondragón from Colombia.
EXPERIENCE: Ten players named to the MLS All-Star gameday roster have previously participated in the All- Star game.
U.S. national team star Landon Donovan has been selected as an All-Star in each of his 11 seasons in MLS; his 11 selections have now tied Eddie Pope for the most all-time in MLS All-Star history.
Five players who were named also saw action in the 2010 MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United: Shalrie Joseph (his seventh selection overall and fifth All-Star Game appearance); Bobby Convey (his fourth selection and first time playing in the game); Brad Davis (his third selection and appearance in the All-Star Game), and All- Star debutants Heath Pearce and Jamison Olave. Kyle Beckerman was also named to the First XI last year, his fourth All-Star nod, but unable to participate due to injury.
David Beckham last appeared in an MLS All-Star Game in 2008, in Toronto vs. West Ham United FC, while Geoff Cameron has also appeared once, in 2009 in Sandy, Utah vs. Everton FC. Kasey Keller also played in the 2009 contest; he was an additional selection a year ago.
DEBUTANTS: Thirteen players will be making their first appearances in an MLS All-Star Game. Both goalkeepers – Tally Hall and Faryd Mondragón – have been selected for the first time, as have defenders Corey Ashe, Matt Besler, Sean Franklin and Tim Ream; midfielders Jack Jewsbury and Nick LaBrocca, and forwards Thierry Henry, Chris Wondolowski, Juan Agudelo, Omar Bravo and Omar Cummings.
In 2009, there were 14 All-Star debutants – the most for any single MLS team in the current format.
RETURNEES: Just as last year, five players who are part of the MLS All-Star gameday squad were a member of the MLS team last year.
Just two players who played in the 2008 MLS All-Star Game – Landon Donovan and Cuauhtémoc Blanco – were part of the gameday squad for the 2009 contest. That was the fewest number of returning players from one year to the next in the MLS vs. the World format.
In 2008, 10 players who appeared in the 2007 All-Star Game saw action against West Ham United. In 2007, six players who played against Chelsea FC returned to take on Celtic. In 2006, four players who had been in the team to face Fulham were in the group that opposed Chelsea.
BY TEAM: The Houston Dynamo lead the way with four selections to the MLS All-Star gameday squad (Tally Hall, Corey Ashe, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis). The host New York Red Bulls had three players selected (Tim Ream, Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo) in addition to head coach Hans Backe, while the LA Galaxy also have three (David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Sean Franklin). Four teams – Real Salt Lake (Kyle Beckerman, Jamison Olave), Sporting Kansas City (Omar Bravo, Matt Besler), Chivas USA (Nick LaBrocca, Heath Pearce) and the San Jose Earthquakes (Bobby Convey, Chris Wondolowski) – had two players selected. In all, 12 of Major League Soccer’s 18 clubs saw someone selected.
TOPS ON THE CHARTS: The top three in the race for the Budweiser MLS Golden Boot and two of the top three in assists were all named to the MLS All-Star squad. Thierry Henry leads the league with 11 goals; he’s followed by Landon Donovan of the LA Galaxy and Brek Shea of FC Dallas (both 9). Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo leads MLS with nine assists; he’s followed by All-Star David Beckham of the LA Galaxy, who’s tied with Davide Chiumiento of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC with eight.
INACTIVE ROSTER: Six players were named as MLS All-Stars on Monday, completing the squad of 32 selected for this year: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders FC), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Eric Hassli (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Juninho (LA Galaxy), Joel Lindpere (New York Red Bulls), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
The six players were decided in voting by MLS players. Known as the “inactive roster”, 32 players are named annually per the League’s collective bargaining agreement.