MLS alternative All-Star team
The MLS All-Star Game is almost here. With the announcement last week of the 18-man roster that will face Chelsea, there was the usual grumbling over snubs, real and perceived.
The reality is that one can't quibble too much with the players selected. Even the picks of MLS commissioner Don Garber, which usually elicit howls of protest, contain a logic that is hard to go against. If that seems like scant consolation to those players standing on the outside of the All-Star festivities, there is one morsel of comfort that can be extracted. Per the league's collective bargaining agreement with the MLS Players Union, 14 additional players will be slapped with the All-Star tag the day after the match, based on the players' vote.
With that in mind, here is an alternate XI of players worthy of the label:
Goalkeeper: Andy Gruenebaum, Columbus Crew
Joe Cannon's late rush notwithstanding, Gruenebaum has enjoyed a standout season. Not only is he among the league leaders in nearly every category, but he is also one of the main reasons the Crew find themselves within sniffing distance of the playoffs. His performances on the road against San Jose and New England almost singlehandedly allowed Columbus to escape with points when none were deserved.
Defenders: Y.P. Lee, Vancouver Whitecaps; Victor Bernardez, San Jose Earthquakes; Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City; Jermaine Taylor, Houston Dynamo
Lee's experience and ability to get forward have contributed plenty to the turnaround in Vancouver. Bernardez has brought an imposing presence to the Quakes' backline. If he stays healthy, he will contend for defender of the year. Aurelien Collin has received most of the accolades in the back for SKC, but Besler's steady, understated play is deserving of mention. Taylor's versatility has come in handy for Dominic Kinnear's side, and his solid play in the middle will soften the blow -- at least a little -- of Geoff Cameron's expected departure to EPL side Stoke City.
Midfielders: Kei Kamara, Sporting Kansas City; Dax McCarty, New York Red Bulls; Oswaldo Minda, Chivas USA; Marvin Chavez, San Jose Earthquakes
Kamara's dynamic play out wide has resulted in seven goals and four assists, as his speed and high-energy play make him a nightmare to defend. McCarty's performance in a holding midfield role has been the glue holding New York together in the face of a ridiculous string of injuries to the back line. Minda has been an absolute beast in the center of Chivas' midfield, which has been critical for the Goats given their offensive struggles. A shoulder injury has sidelined the Ecuadoran, and his absence will cut deep. Chavez found the net for the first time this season with a sumptuous strike against Dallas on Wednesday, and his eight assists lead the league's best team. His speed enables San Jose to vary its attack when needed.
ESPN FC on Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the latest soccer coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
Forwards: Kenny Cooper, New York Red Bulls; Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake
There was more than just a temptation to choose Toronto FC striker Danny Koevermans, given that he sustained a season-ending knee injury against New England on July 14 that halted an otherwise impressive season. But Cooper's 13 goals as part of an impressive bounce-back season after years of struggle domestically and abroad are tough to ignore. Saborio tends to score goals in bunches -- his 11 goals have been spread out over just seven games -- but they have been a big reason RSL is hovering near the top of the standings. He is on pace to eclipse his MLS career high of 12 goals set in 2010.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN.com. He is the author of "Soccer's Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves and Fantastic Free-Kicks." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.