The MLS All-Star Game kickoffs tonight at Providence Park in Portland. The Sounders will be well represented (though down the injured Chad Marshall), but hopefully All-Star coach (and royal tool) Caleb Porter doesn’t play Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, DeAndre Yedlin or Ozzie Alonso too much. Seattle needs to stay fresh for their key upcoming stretch of games and the MLS All-Star game is tired.
I am not expecting too much from tonight’s game. MLS, of all North American sports, has one of the lamest All-Star formats. Forcing a squad of your league’s brightest to suit up against an international powerhouse hinders the self-esteem of the league and is very MLS 1.0. When we send our very best against a team playing in Bermuda shorts, we are admitting that our league isn’t very good. I am not such an MLS chauvinist to think we should beat arguably the world’s best club team (sorry Real Madrid); in fact, Bayern Munich didn’t travel their entire roster and still should win with ease.
MLS should abandon these “Us vs Europe” types of matchups. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy” and the MLS All-Star game trucks mightily in comparison. It begs the fan to ask, “How does MLS compare to the Bundesliga, or the EPL, or Serie A.” I realize this structure is marketed to the American fan of European soccer, but these questions are suited more for bars and living rooms than stadiums. For MLS to institutionalize such trivial comparison is embarrassing.
The difference lies semantically between comparison and competition. MLS can’t even consistently compete against Liga MX teams, so we need to stop eyeing Europe. If an MLS side could win the CONCACAF Champions League and perform well at the Club World Cup, then we’d see actual competition. And only competition proves quality. Less European fans and prognosticators have to bend themselves into paroxysms of analysis when comparing La Liga to the Bundelsiga. Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich both competed and lost to Spanish teams in the EUFA Champions League, enough said. The MLS-Star Game is currently neither a competition or very compelling.
MLS should heavily consider an East vs. West format for future All-Star games. Such a structure would allow a larger All-Star players pool and not stunt the growth of the league. Much rumbling already exists in the disparity between the two conferences, and an East vs. West game could allow either the West to prove their dominance or the East vindication. Who wouldn’t love to see Clint Dempsey linking up with Robbie Keane to beat Bill Hamid? To further explore this fantasy, I present my Western Conference All-Star roster (admittedly Sounders-centric).
GK (2) – Nick Rimando (RSL), Jaime Penedo (LAG)
Defenders (7) – Chad Marshall (SEA), Omar Gonzalez (LAG), Nat Borchers (RSL), DeAndre Yedlin (SEA), Dan Gargan (LAG), Drew Moore (COL), Chris Wingert (RSL),
Midfielders (8) – Diego Valeri (POR), Pedro Morales (VAN), Ozzie Alonso (SEA), Marco Pappa (SEA), Kyle Beckerman (RSL), Dillon Powers (COL), Landon Donovan (LAG), Javier Morales (RSL)
Forwards (6) – Clint Dempsey (SEA), Obafemi Martins (SEA), Erick Torres (CHV), Joao Plata (RSL), Robbie Keane (LAG), Maxi Urruti (POR)
What do you think?