MLSsoccer.com's Armchair Analyst vs. SmorgasBorg: All-Star selections

Alhassan is on MLSsoccer.com's Armchair Analyst's XI. Who's on yours?

Kalif Alhassan, Timbers vs. Chicago Fire, 4.14.11

Photo Credit: 
(Getty Images)
 

One game. 90 minutes. That's all the MLS All-Stars have to show the world they can compete with — and beat — the best.

MLSsoccer.com's Matthew Doyle (Armchair Analyst) and Simon Borg (SmorgasBorg, ExtraTime Radio) assumed the role of All-Star coach and revealed their First XI selections for this summer's match against Manchester United at Red Bull Arena (July 27, 8:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2/TSN/Galavision). MLSsoccer.com didn't want them to pick their favorite players, or even the most popular. They wanted to see lineups that they think can beat the English Premier League Champions. They delivered.

But what do you think? Can you come up with a better team? If so, be sure to make your First XI selection today!

Matthew Doyle's MLS All-Star First XI Simon Borg's MLS All-Star First XI

GK: KEVIN HARTMAN

FC Dallas

You should expect to face a barrage of shots when you’re playing against Manchester United. Given that, I want the single best shot-stopper the US has ever produced – and yes, that’s Kevin Hartman.

GK: NICK RIMANDO

Real Salt Lake

The All-Stars will want personality and experience at goalkeeper. Rimando will command a makeshift back line playing together for the first time.

DF: ALAIN ROCHAT

Vancouver

Alain Rochat has been everything he was advertised as. He may not be able to run with Nani, but his positioning is flawless and his composure under pressure is excellent.

DF: SEAN FRANKLIN

LA Galaxy

Playing at right back, Franklin can match the work rate of a Ji-Sung Park should the Red Devils throw the Korean star on the left flank.

DF: TIM REAM

New York

“Composure under pressure” is the name of Ream’s game. He can still be overpowered physically – a concern when potentially facing the likes of Wayne Rooney – but the RBNY defender is the best in the league on the ball.

DF: JAMISON OLAVE

Real Salt Lake

The right center back can read the game well, and he has the speed and agility to recover when he just needs to react.

DF: GEORGE JOHN

FC Dallas

Many have a claim on this spot, but the way Dallas’ season took off when John got healthy gives him the inside track. He’s dominant in the air, slick on the ball and he’ll make the right decision 99 percent of the time.

DF: UGO IHEMELU

FC Dallas

Like Olave, Ihemelu has the recovery speed to make up for the dicey situations the All-Stars are likely to face against a well-oiled machine in Manchester United.

 

DF: SEAN FRANKLIN

LA Galaxy

Franklin gets more comfortable at right back with every match, reads the game well on both sides of the ball, runs like a deer and can hit a nasty, curling cross at full gallop.

DF: BREK SHEA

FC Dallas

Shea wins out the duel with Jair Benitez for this spot because Nani is a player he can run with all day. He'll also be a danger on set pieces in attack and has the speed and endurance to allow a shift to a three-man back if necessary.

MF: DANIEL HERNANDEZ

FC Dallas

The thing about friendlies is that, quite often, not everyone plays with full commitment. That won’t be the case with Daniel Hernandez as my pivot and captain, sweeping in front of the back two and playing with an intensity he’ll force his teammates to match.

MF: LANDON DONOVAN

FC Dallas

Though there is a temptation to play him at forward or center attacking mid, he'll play at left wing. This will keep him at the position he has settled into for both club and country. Teaming up with Shea on the left should lock down that flank.

MF: BRAD DAVIS

Houston

Davis doesn’t have blazing speed, he has “soccer speed.” Somehow he always seems to get around his man twice a game to swing a perfect cross into the box. He’ll get his chances against United’s fullbacks, who love to overlap and push into the attack themselves.

MF: JOEL LINDPERE

New York

Lindpere is a two-way central midfielder par excellence. There won't be a harder working midfield - on both sides of the ball - than the All-Stars'. This will prove a nightmare for a Manchester United side in full preseason.

MF: KALIF ALHASSAN

Portland

There may be nothing in MLS as exciting as watching Alhassan take defenders 1-v-1 on the dribble. The Ghanaian has perfect touch and balance, a nose for the ball and fearlessness pushing into the attack.

MF: OSVALDO ALONSO

Seattle

At holding midfielder, his mission is as simple as they come: Whisper sweet nothings into Wayne Rooney's ears for the entire match. That's how closely marked the English star will need to be.
 

MF: NICK LABROCCA

Chivas

Who? Just the most underrated player in the league. LaBrocca is solid on the ball, scores opportunistic goals and almost always sees the last pass. Oh, and he doesn’t half-ass it on the defensive side. He’ll create, but he’ll do the donkey work as well.

MF: SEBASTIEN LE TOUX

Philadelphia

Like Donovan on the other flank, the Frenchman will be asked to run all day on both sides of the ball. Together with Franklin they'll be able to cover all the ground necessary on the right.

FW: THIERRY HENRY

New York

Yeah, I’m going there. Henry may not have the burst he once did, but he’s still able to find space and create chances. When he's fully invested he’s a handful for anyone – and the chance to stick it to Wazza and Sir Alex one last time means he’ll be fully invested.

FW: TEAL BUNBURY

Sporting KC

The center forward is multi-dimensional with plenty of tools: speed, skill, daring and physical power. This will make him a match for Vidic, Ferdinand or Smalls.

FW: CHARLIE DAVIES

D.C. United

Nobody has more to prove than CD9, and nobody has more to gain from a great performance against one of the world’s truly great clubs. He’ll be up top stretching the defense and leading the counterattack.

FW: OMAR CUMMINGS

Colorado

At support forward, he will act as the speedy sidekick to Bunbury by getting behind the Manchester United fullbacks, who love to push up the field. His speed will keep them honest and allow the All-Stars to try the long ball tactic every now and then.
BENCH Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Geoff Cameron (Houston), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle), Emilio Renteria (Columbus) BENCH Donovan Ricketts (LA Galaxy), Marvell Wynne (Colorado), Geoff Cameron (Houston), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake), Davide Chiumiento (Vancouver), Thierry Henry (New York), Conor Casey (Colorado)