The MLS All-Stars play Manchester United at Houston's Reliant Stadium on July 28, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and TeleFutura.
Major League Soccer unveiled its All-Star First XI on Tuesday, but they won't necessarily be Bruce Arena's starters against fabled Manchester United in Houston.
Arena has latitude to adjust the group based on injuries and tactical considerations. After all, no one around MLS wants to see the league's brightest lights torn apart by the talented men of Man U -- which is exactly what would happen if a team overly stacked with attackers is thrown out there willy-nilly.
The First XI was selected in voting by fans, league coaches and general managers, players and media. Arena will make the rest of the selections along with two commissioner's picks to fill out the 23-man roster. (Surely, MLS commissioner Don Garber will make Thierry Henry, set to be announced on Wednesday as the New York Red Bulls' newest marquee player, one of his selections. Even if Henry has been a Red Bull only for two weeks at that point, it would seem silly to have an All-Star game with a talent like that not involved.)
The rest of the roster will be announced Monday. Here's who we'd like to see in addition to the 11 "starters" named Tuesday:
Two goalkeepers generally are put to work at these contests, so starter Donovan Ricketts is likely to stand guard for just a half. (Last year fans were treated to the curious site of seeing All-Star Kasey Keller pull two separate shifts against Everton; he started, left at halftime and then came back in with Everton's blessing when Zach Thornton was injured.)
Toronto's Stefan Frei is having a solid sophomore season and Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando is at the top of his game. But the best goalkeeper beyond Ricketts this year has been Kansas City's besieged Jimmy Nielsen. Several times already in 2010 only Nielsen has stood between his defensively challenged Wizards and a three- or four-goal beatdown.
The All-Star starting defenders (Chad Marshall, Omar Gonzalez and Jamison Olave) are all central players, which means Arena requires some outside help. Chivas USA's Jonathan Bornstein, fresh off two World Cup starts, and New England's emerging right back, Kevin Alston, should get the call. Alston gets forward as well as any right back in the league now, and his work in defense is solid, too.
Kyle Beckerman was chosen as a midfield starter but seems unlikely to recover from injury in time. Short on holding types otherwise among the starting selections, perennial All-Star Shalrie Joseph should get a seventh call into the contest. In addition, New York's Joel Lindpere isn't a holding midfielder per se, but he's a terrific two-way workhorse and a major part of the 2010 Red Bull Arena revival.
Will Johnson may not be a name that stirs a lot of excitement around MLS beyond Rio Tinto Stadium. But his inexhaustible supply of energy and good work around the park is a big part of Real Salt Lake's success. The Canadian international usually lines up left for Jason Kreis' side, but he can play as a holding midfielder or even as a left-sided defender. With plenty of offensive minds available at Reliant that night, an industrious and versatile fellow like Johnson can help balance the side.
Elsewhere in the midfield Brad Davis should get an invite, not only as a hometown man but also because he having another effective year for Dominic Kinnear, with three goals and six assists. He could be Garber's second "commissioner's pick" as the Houston Dynamo representative.
Another Texan, FC Dallas' David Ferreira, is toting a big portion of the offensive load at Pizza Hut Park. He has four goals and four assists and has been especially effective during the side's five-game unbeaten run. He might be the league's top creator at the moment, and his fantastic late equalizer against Seattle on Sunday should close the case for his appearance in Houston.
Philadelphia Union revelation Sebastien Le Toux should find his way into this match, and what a story this guy is. Le Toux was in Seattle two years ago in the Sounders' final year in domestic soccer's second-tier (the club moved into MLS for the 2009 season). He was a part-time starter for the Sounders in 2009 and then left unprotected in the winter expansion draft. (And wouldn't the Sounders like a do-over on that one, especially now as talk swirls of Freddie Ljungberg's possible departure?)
Union coach Peter Nowak was happy to get Le Toux, and now the Frenchman is driving Philly's attack. He leads the team in goals and assists with six each, and his work rate is nothing short of phenomenal. His versatility could also be useful against Manchester United since he can play wide in the midfield or as a striker.
Alvaro Saborio is another reason RSL is seriously nipping at L.A.'s backside in the Western Conference standings. Saborio is the target forward Kreis has been looking for since he took over as manager in 2007. Saborio's team-leading seven goals are important, obviously. But so is his steady ability to hold up play and help RSL maintain possession.
Arena could use a player like that, especially as starters Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan will be coming off a CONCACAF Champions League match the previous night in Los Angeles. (Nice timing, eh?) That means limited minutes for both players against Man U, unfortunately. Otherwise, New York's Juan Pablo Angel would do nicely as another target presence, working off his new teammate, Henry.
Our picks to fill out the 23-man MLS All-Star roster:
GK Jimmy Nielsen, Kansas CityDF Jonathan Bornstein, Chivas USADF Kevin Alston, New EnglandMF Shalrie Joseph, New EnglandMF Joel Lindpere, New YorkMF Will Johnson, Real Salt LakeMF Brad Davis, HoustonMF David Ferreira, FC DallasMF/FW Sebastien Le Toux, PhiladelphiaFW Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt LakeFW Juan Pablo Angel, New YorkFW Thierry Henry, New York