A few thoughts on the MLS All-Star First XI

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Major League Soccer unveiled its All-Star First XI as selected by fan voting (via text, Twitter and on-line voting elements).

All-Star coach Ben Olsen isn’t beholden to this lineup, although previous managers have attempted to remain as faithful as possible to the fan picks. He is free to choose players he likes based on availability, recent performance, tactical concerns, etc.

Data first, then a few comments:

2012 MLS All-Star First XI announced Sunday:

Goalkeeper: Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City)

Defenders: Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Heath Pearce (New York Red Bulls)

Midfielders: David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Olsen will probably be OK with that back line, although Sporting Kansas City’s Collin will need to be reminded it’s a friendly, and as such he may need to crank down the agitation factor a smidge. The man does like to get under the skin of any nearby forward.

I really like Heath Pearce will be a left back rather than a center back as he’s been for Chivas USA and New York this year; he’s a quality MLS center back, but left back is clearly his best spot.

Olsen is almost sure to juggle that midfield just a little. Otherwise, who will play defense among that foursome? David Beckham, presumably, since he plays a fairly deep role in the Galaxy’s 4-4-2. But how do you suppose that will work out once a fluid Chelsea passing machine starts humming? Because with De Rosario, Donovan and Zusi around him, I don’t see nearly enough tackling and tracking in that midfield. I suspect that Kyle Beckerman or Osvaldo Alonso will find a way into foursome, creating a far sturdier balance.

Hard to find much fault with that forward pairing. Wondolowski scores goals, although Chelsea center backs will be better than what he generally opposes in MLS. Henry will drop closer to the midfield as he does with New York – assuming he’s healthy, and that’s anything but assured based on his in-and-out availability this year.

I’ll have thoughts later on which players I’d like to see filling out Olsen’s lineup for the July 25 date at PPL Park against Chelsea.

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy 2-0 Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.