Saturday, July 9, 2011
MLS: First XI choices coming Sunday
By Scott French
Major League Soccer will unveil the All-Star First XI at halftime of ESPN's coverage of Sunday afternoon's Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders game (1 p.m. kickoff), and we expect to hear a few names we know: Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and maybe Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin, too.
This isn't the starting lineup for the MLS side that will take on Manchester United on July 27 in Harrison, N.J., just the “First XI” as chosen in a fan vote. New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe can choose his lineup from any player on the roster, which he with help from Commissioner Don Garber will fill, to be announced July 18.
Here's who we'd have in our First XI:
Stefan Frei (Toronto FC): Montclair's Nick Rimando (with Real Salt Lake), Palos Verdes' Kevin Hartman (with FC Dallas) or Colombian Faryd Mondragon (with Philly) are likelier -- and deserving -- choices, but what Swissman Frei, 25, has done under nearly constant siege deserves reward.
Jan Gunnar Solli (New York Red Bulls): Norwegian newcomer is solid defensively, exceptional going forward. Solli, 30, has quickly become the league's premier right back.
Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake): Big Colombian center back was MLS's Defender of the Year last season, when we would have opted for his partner, Nat Borchers. Olave, 30, has been better even this year.
Heath Pearce (Chivas USA): Lots of options for the second center-back slot, although some pundits are picking Pearce, 26, at left back -- his natural position, but not one he's played for the Goats. Shifted inside as injuries devastated Chivas' backline, he's been a revelation.
Todd Dunivant (Galaxy): The best player not on the ballot, after MLS limited the list to six players from each team. Dunivant, 30, has been the Galaxy's most consistent performer, a classy left back equally adept attacking and defending.
Landon Donovan (Galaxy): The best right-sided midfielder in MLS, and it's not close. Donovan, 29, scored eight goals in 11 games before heading to the Gold Cup; he'd have a dozen if he'd stuck around.
Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution): The man in the middle from Grenada, 33, has overcome off-the-field troubles with a terrific first four months of the season, a rare glowing point from MLS's most disappointing club.
Juninho (Galaxy): David Beckham gets the hype -- and has lived up to it, for the most part, this season -- but it's the young Brazilian, 22, who provides the backbone for the MLS club with the most backbone. Don't forget to toss in three wonderful long-range goals.
Brek Shea (FC Dallas): The tall winger, 21, has taken over MLS the past month or so, once Schellas Hyndman got past his backline experiment, and his dynamic displays on the left flank -- and has eight goals, six in the last nine games, four in the past four.
Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls): The superstar Frenchman, 33, has been exceptional, scoring goals of great quality while drifting into midfield to play playmaker.
Eric Hassli (Vancouver Whitecaps): The big, skilled Frenchman, 30, has accomplished some of the stupidest deeds in MLS this year -- and many of the most brilliant. Also worthy: San Jose's Chris Wondolowski and New York's Luke Rodgers.