Major League Soccer’s agreement with their players’ association requires the league to name 32 total All-Stars, which seems weird on the surface. After all, only 20 are going to dress tonight against AS Roma.
Yet that’s the way the league can have the current All-Star game format while still recognizing enough players. Implicitly, the players want enough all-stars named to populate a typical two-squad format, be that format East vs. West, North America vs. the World, or Odd Numbered Birthdays vs. Even. It’s all about bonuses, it’s all about collective bargaining, and it’s also not that big a deal.
It is interesting, though, to see which players were named to the non-active squad. Picked by their peers, some of the selections look like legacy votes. Others seem like recognition for long-serving soldiers. Others seem like the ballots were cast last year. Regardless, they’re a sign of recognition from a players’ peers – a small indication of someone’s regard within the MLS fraternity.
That’s the context for today’s announcement, with MLS naming these 10 players to tonight’s non-active squad:
G: Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo
G: Donovan Ricketts, Portland Timbers
D: George John, FC Dallas
D: Jamison Olave, New York Red Bulls (pictured)
M: Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders
M: Juninho, LA Galaxy
M: Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake
M/F: Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers
W: Justin Mapp: Montreal Impact
W: Rodney Wallace, Portland Timbers
Of course, the conversation around these selections is less about who made it than who didn’t. Among goalkeepers not on the active and non-active roster are Sporting KC’s Jimmy Nielsen and Seattle’s Michael Gspurning, last year’s two top keepers. Jose Goncalves, slowly becoming a favorite for defender of the year, is not among either team. Neither Michel nor Nigel Reo-Coker did enough in their half-season to sufficiently raise their profiles among their peers, and Marcelo Sarvas’s performance couldn’t draw enough votes away from teammate Juninho. Sporting Kansas City’s Claudio Bieler? Perhaps suffering from the same as Michel and Reo-Coker.
There is another aspect to the debate: doubting some of the selections. Osvaldo Alonso has missed a huge chunk of time, and Juninho hasn’t been the best midfielder on his own team. Rodney Wallace has been a great story, but it’s unlikely any Timber would take him over Darlington Nagbe (though Wallace may have made it as a defender). Diego Valeri is undoubtedly skilled and has impressed his opposition, but to what extent has that produced results (relative to other candidates)?
Then there’s Justin Mapp. In his 14th year in the league, the Impact veteran is having one of his most productive seasons. Is he more deserving than some of the other players we’ve mentioned here? I honestly don’t care that much. If part of players voting is the periodic recognition of a Mapp-like player — long serving, playing well, perhaps getting the benefit of sentiment — that’s fine by me.
After all, it’s not like he’s getting to play at somebody’s expense.