For the second time in three seasons, Kaká will be Orlando City’s only representative in the MLS All-Star Game. If Cyle Larin, who was part of last year’s match, missed the cut, some other Lions could have had a shot at competing against Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid in Chicago on Aug. 2.
One of them is arguably center back Jonathan Spector. Signed by the Lions after 14 years in England, the 31-year-old defender quickly became a key player for Orlando City, leading the team’s back line. Spector helped the Lions defense record six clean sheets so far and averages 1.2 tackles, 2.2 interceptions, 5.8 clearances and 0.7 blocks per game according to WhoScored.com.
Are these numbers good enough to earn him a place among the league’s stars? Let’s see how they stand against the center backs who were selected by MLS All-Star Head Coach Veljko Paunovic:
Matt Hedges: Hedges did better than Spector on tackles (2.2) and interceptions (2.6), had the same average in blocks (0.7) and was less efficient on clearances (4.9). He’s playing very consistent soccer, though, and has been recently called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team because of that. Also, he leads the second-best defense in the league with FC Dallas, helping the team record five clean sheets.
Jelle Van Damme: Van Damme is part of LA Galaxy’s shaky back line, which is the third worst in MLS, even though he made it to the All-Star Game. His selection has obviously a lot to do with his high profile as World Cup veteran and the captain of one of the most popular teams of the league. He was beaten by Spector on interceptions (2) and clearances (5.4), had the same rating on blocks (0.7) and was better on tackles (1.7).
Johan Kappelhof: Kappelhof, who plays under Paunovic at the Chicago Fire, was one of the biggest surprises of the list. He plays a big role on the team’s defense, which is the third best in MLS, and helped the team record eight clean sheets. Averaging 2.3 tackles, 2.9 interceptions, 4.5 clearances and 0.3 blocks, he did better than Spector on the first two and worse than Orlando’s player in the other two.
Michael Parkhurst: A former U.S. National Team player, Parkhurst is part of Atlanta United’s average back line, which ranks ninth in the league. His numbers were nothing to write home about — 1.4 tackles, 1.6 interceptions, 4.6 clearances and 0.7 blocks — and he only did better than Spector on the first item. With him on the field, the expansion franchise has had four clean sheets.
Considering his numbers and his performances, Spector clearly did enough to earn an All-Star selection in 2017. However, as we all know, the calls are made by the MLS team’s head coach and they can be extremely subjective.