CHIVAS USA: LaBrocca, Pearce wait, hope
Their supporters believe Nick LaBrocca and Heath Pearce, the chief on-field figures in Chivas USA's renaissance, belong on the team that will take on Manchester United in Major League Soccer's July 27 All-Star Game.
Both would like to be in Harrison, N.J., for the game, and we'll know if they're going by late Monday morning, when New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe unveils the final six to nine names for the league's 20-man game-day roster.
There are plenty of deserving players for those few slots, so it's a long shot either of the Goats' standouts will receive an invitation, and if they don't, well, that's OK, too.
“If it happens, I'll be very honored,” said LaBrocca, 26, who plays atop Chivas' midfield diamond and has scored six goals after netting just five in four seasons with Colorado and Toronto FC. “But right now, it's all business. We have to pick up points, and that's really the only thing that's on my mind.”
Pearce, 26, a U.S. national team veteran at left back who started the campaign at right back and then moved into the middle after injuries sapped the Goats' backline depth, has been the pivotal defensive figure for Chivas, which has flustered foes with an organized defensive scheme that plays into its possession game.
“I'm hoping, but, you know, I don't [choose] the All-Star team,” Pearce said. “I'm just trying to focus right now on getting results for the team.”
Both players were picked up in preseason trades, with LaBrocca arriving from Toronto and Pearce from FC Dallas.
Fourteen players already are on the All-Star roster, including Galaxy midfielders David Beckham and Landon Donovan and defenders Sean Franklin and Omar Gonzalez, but Backe will have additional picks because not everyone from the fan-chosen First XI will be available.
Backe already has ruled out Rafa Marquez, the Red Bulls' star Mexican defender, who has been sidelined with a hamstring strain since the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller and FC Dallas winger Brek Shea have conflicts with CONCACAF Champions League preliminary-round matches.
Monday's selections will be made in mind with building a team that can challenge Manchester United, the reigning English Premier League champion and UEFA Champions League runner-up, rather than rewarding outstanding performances over the season's first four months.
Another dozen players will be added to the All-Star list on July 25, but none will be eligible to play. The collective bargaining agreement mandates that the league have 32 All-Stars, made up as four goalkeepers, eight defenders, 13 midfielders and seven forwards. LaBrocca or Pearce would seem likelier for this group.
A game selection would be particularly special for LaBrocca, who is from Howell, N.J., about halfway from New York to Philadelphia. But he's not touting himself, by any means.
“I mean, it's not in my hands, you know? It's really not,” he said after Chivas' 0-0 draw Saturday night against the Red Bulls. “There's no point even thinking about it, because if we could all pick individually who should be there, I think everybody would pick themselves. There are other great players in this league, and if my name is called, I'll be extremely honored, especially since it is back home for me.”
Pearce said LaBrocca deserves to go -- and he's hoping for goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, too.
“Dan has been huge for us ... stepped in and proven himself time and again ...,” Pearce said. “[LaBrocca] is definitely an All-Star-caliber player. He's a guy that's being brought up multiple times in other teams' meetings as an X factor. When I think, to be honest, in our attack, I don't know if a lot of teams were talking about X factors prior to this.
“We're a good team, we score goals, we create chances, but now I feel like Nick's stirred things up with other teams that they say you have to watch out for this guy because he can create something out of nothing, which is something that we've needed for awhile.”
WORTH NOTING: Forward Alejandro Moreno will be gone for another week or so after Venezuela's 2-1 stunner over Chile in the Copa America quarterfinals. The Vinotinto, until recent years the least of South America's national sides, will face Paraguay in the semifinals Wednesday in Mendoza, Argentina, and then the third-place game Saturday in La Plata or the final next Sunday in Buenos Aires. Uruguay meets Peru in Tuesday's semifinal. ... Midfielder Gerson Mayen (Los Angeles/Manual Arts HS) has been loaned through mid-September to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the second-division North American Soccer League. Mayen, 22, earlier this month was approved to change affiliation to El Salvador's national team after playing for the U.S. in the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup. ... The Strikers are 3-9-4 and in sixth place in the eight-team NASL.