I am a MLS fan, I am a RSL fan, but blogging opens up a new world where that being a fan meets being a part of the media as well. Fans don't get to go into the press conferences, or on the sidelines of matches, so for me there is a balance that I try to maintain, but it gets exposed at times, and one of those times is the MLS All Star Match.
First there is the issue of do I try to take 3 days of vacation to go to Houston to cover the big matchup against Man U? Oh, how I want to but the reality of the match being midweek instead of on a weekend really makes that a tough choice and one I still haven't made my mind up on.
Then there is the bigger issue of how to vote for All Stars, I see RSL play all the time and so I know what they are capable of and I also know were it not for a couple bad calls early on this season they could easily be 9-1-4. I also watch as many MLS matches as I can both because I am a fan and because I offer opinions on other teams as a "media" member. Thankfully there is a fairly easy solution for me, vote as a fan and as a media member.
So when I vote as a fan, I have to be fair and I don't just vote for every RSL player. Sorry I just don't think everyone on the team is the best in the league at their position, that is the influence of that "media" part of my life. I do however see players who might not catch the attention of the mainstream fans around the league, but are as good as any other in the league at their position.
We will start with one of those players, Nick Rimando: I see Nick play all the time and I know what he is capable of, but on paper the best keeper is Donovan Ricketts. When I vote as a fan I vote for Nick, because he is exciting to watch and always seems to be capable of doing the impossible, while making it look simple. So for me the All Star voting for keeper is a split ballot:
Fan = Nick Rimando
Media = Donovan Ricketts
the rest of my ballot after the jump:
OK, I laugh that they only allow you to vote for 3 defenders, how many teams play with just 3 at the back in MLS? What is the likelihood that Bruce (or whoever actually shows up to coach the AS team will use 3 defenders)? So RSL has allowed the second fewest goals in MLS so far this year, and a big part of that is the backline. Well it is a no brainer that I believe that Olave is one of the very best defenders in the league, but part of what makes him so good is his relationship with Nat Borchers. So as a fan it is easy to vote for both of them, but then you have to look at the fact that LA is only allowing 1 goal to be scored against them every 3 matches, clearly their defenders are also at the top of the MLS. Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant have played every minute for LA and been rock solid all year long, Gregg Berhalter may be the heart and soul of the LA defense. Then of course you have guys that RSL fans may not pay much attention to but have been very solid this season Eric Brunner in Columbus has been solid, and Chad Marshall is great when healthy, Marvell Wynne has been a huge part of the Rapids run so far this year, but maybe nobody has been more impressive than New York's Rookie Tim Ream? There are so many quality choices that this one is tough:
Fan = Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Marvell Wynne
Media = Jamison Olave, Gregg Berhalter, Tim Ream
As you can see this isn't easy and in the midfield the choices get tougher, as a fan I want to vote for Kyle but I know that even if he come back to action in the next week or so that risking another injury by playing in the AS match would be unwise. I see how great Andy has been filling in and that Will Johnson and Ned Grabavoy have been willing to do whatever it takes for the team. Then there is the no brainer of Javier Morales with 4 goals and 6 assists, and MLS makes this one a bit tougher by allowing me to pick 5 players. Of course I want to pick Landon Donovan, yes landycakes but he isn't listed as a midfield player, so that makes it tough. I think Bobby Convey is one of the reasons that San Jose doesn't suck this year, actually he is the main reason. Of course GBS is a force in the midfield and leads Columbus with 5 goals and 4 assists, then there are guys that others don't think of like David Ferreria down in Dallas (did you know that Dallas has only lost two matches so far this year?) who has 3 goals and 4 assists and has been a real difference maker for FCD. Of course there is TFC's De Ro, 8 goals and 3 assists, how could anyone not vote for Dwayne? MLS has also listed Sebastien Le Toux as a midfielder, so one has to vote for him as his 6 goals and 6 assists account for almost half the offense of the Union and he has missed a couple matches with injuries. Oh the choices are tough on this one:
Fan = Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Andy Williams, Dwayne De Rosario, Sebastien Le Toux
Media = Javier Morales, Bobby Convey, Dwayne De Rosario, Sebastien Le Toux, Marco Pappa
Do you see how hard this is, as a fan it is even harder because you have to make tough choices on which of your players are really the best, and are in the top of the leagues list of talent. At forward as a fan this one is even tough, I have to vote for Alvaro Saborio, his 7 goals and 4 assists make him a real threat for the Golden Boot. Then there is Robbie Findley, the guy who lead RSL in goals last year, who has struggled with an injury and missed time playing in the World Cup, how can you not vote for a guy on your team who played in the World Cup, and not on the bench like some guy from LA but in the starting lineup? Then you see the 10 goals of Edson Buddle, or the fact that Landon is listed as a forward for All Star voting, of course there is also Juan Pablo Angel, who has 9 goals and New York out of the cellar of MLS. So once again the choices are tough:
Fan = Alvaro Saborio, Edson Buddle
Media = Alvaro Saborio, Edson Buddle
So as a fan I love All Star matches, I love the MLS format of playing a team from one of the big international leauges, I of course wish it wasn't midweek, which makes it hard for many fans to enjoy the whole experience. Then kicks in the media portion of my brain and it thinks:
What is the point of this I mean if I can't vote for players like Juan Pablo Angel, GBS, Landon Donovan, and others is this really an All Star team? Now the league will take more than 11 players and I would expect that all 3 of those players will get chosen. Bruce Arena is the coach of the All Star match, but he won't be there for most of the prep and maybe not even the match as the Galaxy have a CCL play in match the night before, they will probably not be any players from the Sounders who actually play that night (July 28th) in the home leg of their CCL play in match.
As I said I really wonder about the scheduling of this match, as all 16 teams will be back in league action on the weekend. I think if you can't find an open weekend to play an All Star match without causing such damage and harm to rosters and the league's schedule than don't do it. Heck they could easily have scheduled it for the middle of the World Cup break, while it wouldn't have been ManU, at least then it wouldn't have had the potential to do more damage than good.
Sorry I love the idea of a weekend All Star match, one that could focus attention on the league. Have a Friday fan fest, with activities for kids and families, then on Saturday have a skills competition and maybe a rookies vs. coaches match or rookies vs. opposing team reserve squad, and then on Sunday afternoon play the All Star match. Until MLS learns to use events like this as PR for more than a day, and use them to grow the sport in the local markets, well they will continue to be matches that few pay attention to and even less is accomplished by having.
Don't forget to cast your vote: http://www.mlssoccer.com/content/mls-all-star-ballot
OFF MY SOAPBOX