There’s an oft-expressed view that having players selected for the MLS All-Star Game is a bad thing. It’s an utterly meaningless friendly that takes key players away from their teams in the middle of the season, adds excessive travel to an individual’s schedule and has the constant looming danger of injury, especially if the game is played on turf.
LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimović was struck down with a mysterious case of turf flu last year, skipping the All-Star team’s date with Juventus in Atlanta, having cited “fatigue.” However, MLS rules stated that being selected but opting out of the event would mean he would have to sit out the Galaxy’s next MLS fixture. David Villa also suffered the same fate, having failed to recover from an injury that had kept him out for several weeks prior to the event. So with the biggest names in the game swerving the event, should we put our own players on the team?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, especially this year. 2019 feels different. On July 31, Atlético Madrid will ride into Orlando, which means no travel and no turf. Plus, by virtue of being the host, Orlando City staff will also take on coaching duties. James O’Connor has already been very careful to manage the minutes of his players in competitive games, so in the purely showpiece event where players rarely play for more than a half anyway, the Irishman isn’t likely to push any of his Lions who make the 30-player roster very far at all. Don’t let the “I’m doing them a favor by not voting for them” crowd diminish the recognition, respect, and confidence boost our Lions would gain from an All-Star place.
For many players, being highlighted as one of the best to represent the league is a huge honor. Being able to do so in your own home stadium, in front of your own fans, is an even more tantalizing prospect. The team has previously seen Kaká, Cyle Larin, Dom Dwyer, and Yoshimar Yotún all pull on the All-Star colors, with Kaká being named MVP after scoring against Tottenham Hotspur in 2015 and Dwyer scoring against Real Madrid in 2017. Last year, Yotún described his gratiude towards his selection: “I honestly just wanted to play soccer growing up. Now, soccer has taken me to where I am. I look at myself right now, and I’m in the All-Star Game and I’m so happy to be here.”
This year, Orlando City has eight players nominated for the public vote: Brian Rowe, Ruan, João Moutinho, Sebas Méndez, Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller, Nani, and Dom Dwyer. Votes are cast here and are subject to a 3-4-3 formation. You can vote once every day until 11:59 p.m. on June 13. Ten players will be chosen via the public vote with an 11th determined by the FIFA 19 “More Than a Vote” challenge. The rest of the roster will either be coach or commissioner decisions.
I’ve historically tended to show very little in the way of bias in previous years, voting purely based on who I think deserves the accolade but this year more than any other, I admit I’ve been swayed by the prospect of seeing the effort and passion of especially Orlando’s younger contingent rewarded in their home stadium. Think Ruan is smiling now? Imagine if he gets that All-Star call up. And it’s not just me who wants to see it. The Brazilian right back has been excellent so far this campaign and even made Bobby Warshaw’s All-Star XI with Nani as the only other Orlando City player to feature in any of the MLS staff’s teams.
Here’s a peek at my most recent All-Star ballot, including four Orlando City players — although from a neutral point of view, only Nani would probably make my cut. Per MLS’ voting update last week, the Portuguese star leads the public midfield vote, having had an excellent start to his Orlando City career. He’s second in the league for goals and assists per 90 minutes behind only early MVP front runner Carlos Vela.
Who will you be voting for? Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments!
How many Orlando City players get your MLS All-Star vote?
This poll is closed
Just the one.
A healthy handful.
ALL OF THEM!