My Major League Soccer All-Star ballot revealed

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Chelsea is clearly top-shelf stuff, a blue blood team in a blue blood league.

So anyone who thinks that haphazardly rolling out a bunch of offensive crowd-pleasers for the upcoming MLS All-Star contest is the way to go – they might need to report to the nearest quiet place and give it a re-think.

Me? I’d want two strong center backs, a little bit in the midfield, just enough pressure from fullbacks up the wings, a smattering of creative influence and enough big-game know-how to settle the troops.

Selected media were asked to do two things for the upcoming All-Star contest in Philadelphia, where Ben Olsen will direct the All-Stars against Philadelphia: pick a deserving six from each MLS club, and then pick a team that we think could actually stay on the field (and maybe even win) against Chelsea.

We all know what happens lately when a good club faces a hodgepodge of inconsiderately (or inaccurately) chosen All-Stars: Splat! Ka-pow! Ugh! … that kind of thing.

Manchester United put the hammer on MLS All-Stars a couple of years ago in Houston, 5-2. And Sir Alex took out the Scottish whuppin’ stick one more time, last year in New York, this time 4-0.

So MLS clearly needs to regain some lost yardage on the credibility front.

Here’s how I would do it. (This is my o-fficial ballot, as submitted to the proper authorities. Explanations to follow …)

source:

I may have done it a little different today. But since this was submitted as required in late-May, well, I did the best I could.

Dan Kennedy in goal? Not an easy call, but not a bad one. Honestly, there’s not a clear standout in 2012, so the Chivas USA man is as good as three or four others.

Chance Myers may be a bit of a surprise at right back. But for me, he’s got pace and stamina, some crossing ability (not the best, but “some”), and he’s gradually added a real edge to his game. Olave and Cameron in the middle? Pretty solid, I would say, other than recent dips related to injury (Olave) and potential transfer-related distraction (Cameron).

Rosales in midfield is a sticky little wicket. He hasn’t been all he can be lately for Seattle, but that may be related to the team around him, too. Beckerman over Osvaldo Alonso as the holding man in midfield? It was a coin flip for me; when in doubt, I go with the U.S. international.

I know Donovan hasn’t been at full rev this year, although his work of late for the resurgent Galaxy has been outstanding stuff. There some “benefit of the doubt” attached to the pick, which he’s earned. Plus, I picked him for that experience and know-how factor; say what you will about Donovan, but the man typically shows up for big occasions.

De Rosario’s numbers aren’t outstanding this year, but anybody who has watched his larger body of work for D.C. United this year knows why I’d want him on the field. Besides, talk about a guy who loves the big occasion; that’s “De Ro.”

I know Wondolowski can be underwhelming at the highest (international) levels, but I don’t care. To not put the league’s leading scorer on the field (and leading scorer over the last three years by a long way) would be silly.

Henry? Yes … you go with Henry, no questions asked.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday