The MLS All-Star Game replacement follies


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When the MLS All-Star reserves were named on Tuesday there were some very glaring absences from a list that included Juan Pablo Angel, Pat Onstad, Dwayne DeRosario, Jim Brennan, Pablo Mastroeni, Edson Buddle and Christian Gomez. Snubbed players such as Luciano Emilio, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Gonzalo Segares figured to have a chance to make the team as a replacement for one of the likely U.S. Olympic team call-ups (Michael Parkhurst, Robbie Rogers and Maurice Edu Sacha Kljestan ).

Not so much.

Instead of Emilio, Schelotto and Segares, All-Star coach Steve Nicol selected Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein and FC Dallas midfielder Juan Toja, as well as the actually deserving Revs midfield Steve Ralston. Sources told SBI early on Tuesday that Toja, Bornstein and Ralston would be the all-star replacements, which will be named after the U.S. Olympic team is announced on Thursday afternoon.

Yes, you can say it. WOW.

Someone might want to get Nicol a copy of "Coaching All-Star games for Dummies." The All-Star game is supposed to reward the players who have played the best in a given season, not reward players based on talent, regardless of performance.

I suppose we shouldn’t be completely surprise given Nicol’s decision to select Juan Pablo Angel instead of Emilio, who is on fire lately. That said, to select Toja ahead of Schelotto and Bornstein ahead of Gonzalo Segares is pretty ridiculous.

Let’s take a closer look. Toja has exactly one goal and two assists for an FC Dallas team that would be in last place in the West if not for expansion San Jose. Schelotto has compiled three goals and eight assists for the Columbus Crew, which sit in second place in the East.

As for Bornstein, he has played in 11 matches and managed two assists while battling injuries this season that have left him below his form of 2007, when he was playing well enough to be a U.S. national team regular. Segares has been the best left-sided defender in MLS this season, bar none, playing for the stingiest defense in the league.

So where exactly is the logic in these selections? Anybody? Bueller?

I would also say that selecting Angel ahead of Emilio is pretty ridiculous. Angel only recently returned from injury and has netted three goals to go with two assists for the last-place Red Bulls. Emilio has 10 goals and two assists, helping lead D.C. United’s revival.

Now I am the first to say that I think Angel is easily a better player than Emilio, but there is no denying that Emilio is having the better year and therefore deserves the nod. Nevermind the fact that Angel is still dealing with the back injury that kept him out a few weeks back and the Red Bulls have a game the Sunday after the All-Star game in San Jose. D.C. United has a bye week after the All-Star game (I might even buy the theory that D.C. could have been playing in a SuperLiga final that weekend, but two Houston players were named as reserves, along with Bornstein, all of which are playing in SuperLiga.)

What do you think of these all-star reserve selections? Share your thoughts below.

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46 Responses to The MLS All-Star Game replacement follies

  1. KingSnake says:

    A reward for the players would be the time off, not playing in a meaningless match.

  2. Freddy says:

    Schelotto not on the ASG roster? Ridiculous.

  3. NYFC says:

    Not having Emilio or Schelotto on the team is …… should I say it?? Bush League.

  4. Eugene says:

    This whole thing is a mess. But to be completely honest, this whole thing is irrelevant and an unfortunate opportunity for key players to get injured in a meaningless game.

    MLS should throw the whole all-star game away, its just a remnant of when the league was trying to fit soccer into the mold of other American sports.

  5. edb says:

    i think bush is the most over looked as far as snubs go

  6. Adam M. says:

    The GBS is not on the side is so absurd that it renders the game a joke based on that alone.

    I’m guessing that Angel makes it because (i) he plays in the New York market, and (ii) his time in England. This game is about selling the league overseas, and Angel has some credibility there. Emilio can’t and doesn’t, but should be there anyway. Toja’s hair is why he was picked. And Bornstein has U.S. National Team creds that Seagares lacks.

    But excluding GBS? Utter garbage.

  7. timpramas says:

    The selections make sense if the winning the game is important to MLS as opposed to rewarding players who played well for half a season. Ralston should have been voted in as a starter. Bornstein is versatile having played at striker, midfield and defender. Ralston can play just about anywhere on the field as well. With an 18 player roster, versatility with subs is important. Some of the “snubbed” players offer things already in abundance with other selections.

  8. BFBS says:

    Nicol probably didn’t give this a moment of thought. I just hope he considered a strategic advantage, if any, that could be had for the Revs in making his selections. I doubt it, though, seeing as Ralston was picked, but maybe Nicol won’t play him.

  9. jman81 says:

    Actually, I see the allstar game as a way to “test” our league to the level of other leagues, and then second to reward players for a good season so far. Quite frankly, outside of the first XI that were selected by the media, players, coaches, and FANS, I think anybody else selected is up to the discretion of nicol and garber, period. Ives, the best in the league were selected… the starting XI. Then nicol and garber chose whoever else they wanted for whatever reason they wanted. Remember the inclusion of Reyna last year? People were pissed, but in the end this game is just for entertainment purposes.

  10. Gabe says:

    “The All-Star game is supposed to reward the players who have played the best in a given season, not reward players based on talent, regardless of performance.”

    I sort of disagree with this point Ives. There are end of season awards and player of the month awards etc. to recognize who is playing well. The all star game is a showcase for the fans. The fans want to see the big names and the players with that talent you mention. Not saying Emilio and GBS aren’t big names or talented, but on principle I disagree with your assertion.

  11. Ives says:

    Gabe, the voting from fans is incorporated in the selection of the First XI. The coach should then pick the best players having the best seasons after that. Selecting someone who is having nowhere near an all-star worthy season is crazy. Why not just pick the team before the season even begins if the season won’t be what determines who makes the team?

    And are fans really clamoring for Toja and Bornstein? Really? Angel I can understand to some degree, but I think just as many MLS fans want to see Emilio in the game so I don’t buy that one either.

    I agree that the Busch snub is unfortunate, but at least there’s the Canadian angle for Onstad. I just don’t see the rationale behind Toja and Bornstein and I doubt anybody will come up with a reasonable argument for either of them.

  12. Joseph D'Hippolito says:

    I would like to enquire about the following possibilities:

    1. That the league put anonymous and subtle pressure on Nicol to choose whom he chose.

    2. That Nicol made agreements with certain teams not to choose their players. I’m sure that the Fire and Crew wouldn’t want to risk the possibility of Segares or Schelotto being injured. So why choose Ralston, if that’s the logic? Well, maybe the Fire and Crew said that they would make it worth the Revs’ while in terms of future trades? Who knows?

    3. Whoever said this game was for entertainment purposes is absolutely correct. The chance is to show off people who will help market the league.

    All that said, it’s astounding that Segares and Schelotto didn’t make it.

  13. Ives says:

    And Gabe, if it’s really about the “fan showcase” element of the all-star game, why not select Amado Guevara? The game is in Toronto after all, and Amado is having a better year than Toja and has far more fans around MLS than Toja.

  14. Ives says:

    Jman, regardless of what the game is for, the picks are still bad and people have every right to say so.

    Is Bornstein increasing the entertainment factor? Will Toja provide more of an entertainment factor than Schelotto?

    Now I’m wondering about Joe D’s suggestion of some collusion among coaches. Maybe New England, Chicago, DC and Columbus agreed beforehand to not select the other team’s players if they made it as coach. Interesting. What East players were selected? Only Angel, not part of the foursome. I could see Nicol taking Ralston because he’s having a special year and maybe Ralston said he wants to go. Very interesting theory indeed.

  15. Ives says:

    Timprampas, versatility is not at all important on an 18-man roster when you’re talking one game. It matters in a tournament, not one game.

    At this point the only theory that sounds close to logical is the Eastern Conference coach’s alliance (DC, NE, Columbus and Chicago). Okay, so it’s a stretch, but nobody is selling me on selectiong Bornstein over Segares and Toja over Schelotto as being reasonable picks.

  16. Justin O says:

    “The All-Star game is supposed to reward the players who have played the best in a given season, not reward players based on talent, regardless of performance.”

    Is this really a rule somewhere? And should we really assume Nicol took this approach? Maybe he was just told, pick whoever you want – the guys you think are the best and give the team the best chance to win. That’s what it sounds like to me. I could see him leaving off some of the guys you mention because, in his eyes, one good half doesn’t warrant that much praise.

    Also, in other sports, where there is fan voting, the all-star game is specifically designed to feature the most popular players (at least for the starters), not necessarily those who’ve played the best in a given season.

  17. MiamiAl says:

    I wish Nicol would use the entire New England roster.

    Rest + Emilio + Fred + Jaime = MLS CUP!

  18. Ives says:

    Justin, there’s no rule, no hard and fast guidelines but every all-star game uses this format. I know baseball has the whole “have one player from every game” thing, but aside from that, after fan voting, coaches generally select the best or close to the best players in a given season.

    Fans getting to pick starters, and therefore picking folks who are popular but not deserving is one thing. For a coach to select some players where there really is no rhyme or reason to the selections is a bit tough to understand. Nobody’s calling for Steve Nicol’s head on this, it’s just an all-star game, but the decisions were still pretty baffling.

  19. Fid says:

    As a Crew fan I want to thank Nicol for not selecting GBS to play on that ridiculous field turf – instead he’ll get a week to rest his legs. Thanks Steve!

  20. KingSnake says:

    The all star game rewards the players how? The massive check MLS cuts the winners after the match? (Got to be more than the $42 Merconorte “bonus” they paid the Metro a few years back.)

  21. Silva says:

    No Javier Morales? That’s a joke! Schelotto and Morales should have been choosen over Rogers. Morales with 7 assists and three goals who has bascially led RSL to first place (granted it’s the west) but still has been the commander in midfield. It’s aboslutely ridiculous!

  22. SonicDeathMonkey says:

    MiamiAl, you forgot one part of the equation……

    Rest+Emilio+Fred+Jamie+Wells+bad defense=no cup again :0)

  23. Justin O says:

    Ives – I wouldn’t make any assumptions about Nicol’s awareness of American all-star games. Likewise, I wouldn’t make any assumptions about MLS HQ explaining it to him.

    It seems to me he was simple picking the players he regarded as the best. By that criteria it would be silly to disregard someone just because they have been sub par for the first half of this year, and sillier if that person has been out due to injury but is healthy now.

    As for Scheletto specifically, maybe Nicol just doesn’t regard him as highly as others. And as Nicol’s not an American, I wouldn’t be surprised if the argument “but he leads the league in assists” generates the roll-eyes that “assists” often do.

    Or, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case, maybe Schelotto does’t want to play, and the league would rather him not be selected than turn down what is supposed to be a prestigeous honor, thereby removing some of what little luster the event has.

  24. ccb1212 says:

    How can you have a team that is in first place in their conference and not have an all star. Morales should have been picked.

  25. PJ says:

    why 3 replacements? why is someone being named to fill in for Maurice Edu? Edu wasn’t named to the roster ever…

  26. Gabe says:

    “Why not just pick the team before the season even begins if the season won’t be what determines who makes the team?”


    This is a good point Ives and I agree. But Maybe Nicol just picked the players he did because he feels more comfortable with them? Or maybe they suit the lineup he wants to use better? For example, I can understand the bornstein selection because there was no left back on the roster before he was selected. And maybe with Angel, Cooper, Landon and Buddle he felt he didn’t need anymore strikers- hence the Emilo exclusion.

  27. Gabe says:

    Follow up to my post above. As you say there have been better LBs than Bornstein, so maybe my point isn’t really valid. So i’m lost. Why do you think Nicol made the choices he did? Is he just crazy or thinking on a totally different plane than us, or does he have some sort of agenda? I can’t figure it out.

  28. Andrew says:

    No mention of Javier Morales :(

  29. Shakes says:

    “MLS should throw the whole all-star game away, its just a remnant of when the league was trying to fit soccer into the mold of other American sports.”


    On the contrary, I think it’s a nice chance for MLS to – once a year – test it’s best talent against solid European clubs. Gives the league some publicity and maybe some small amount of credibility overseas too.

    With that in mind, I would have much rather seen them play an elite, popular club like Chelsea (again), Barca, or Real Madrid.

    Furthermore, I’d like to see more international friendlies being played by all MLS clubs, against clubs from the Coca Cola Championship, Serie B/C, etc. It’d do nothing but help our league gain some international credibility, assuming we don’t embarrass ourselves.

    – Scott

  30. Justin O says:

    Gabe – Again, rightly or wrongly, and given that it’s an all-star game I would argue it’s neither, it seems clear to me Nicol is not using the first half of the season as his criteria. Maybe he thinks Bornstein is better than the other LB options and gives the team the best chance to win. By that criteria, it would be silly to leave him off just because he hasn’t done much in the first half of 08, especially since he’s been injured.

    Remember – they don’t have all-star games in the UK. He’s probably just trying to pick a team he thinks can win the game, and probably some players, by their own choice or for whatever reason, aren’t going to be available.

  31. ben says:

    This whole all-star game is a joke. The roster is pretty awful (1st place RSL has no players??? No Morales? No Olave? What?). And West Ham? Yawn. Let’s go back to East vs. West (or US/Canada vs. World). As a fan, I would be much more interested in that AND it would open up more all-star spots for players and cut down on the kind of garbage we are seeing this year.

  32. Ives says:

    Justin O, first off, as I stated before, the other pro sports in this country do have fan voting, which allows for popular players to make it even if they’re not necessarily playing well, BUT it is in the selection of reserves where coaches select players based on their performances to that point in the season.

    Secondly, I never said I thought Nicol had a clue about how all-star games work, which is why I wrote near the top of this post that someone should get him a copy of All-Star games for Dummies.

    Listen, it’s clear he picked the players he thought were the best talent wise, regardless of performance. If that’s the league’s fault for not better explaining how all-star games work, then it was the league’s fault. Regardless of why it ended up the way it did, the roster that will be in uniform next Thursday will not offer as good a representation of the league’s best players as it should have, and some quality players will have been cheated of an honor they earned with their play. That, in my opinion, is sad.

  33. Ives says:

    And Justin, I appreciate all your comments. You’re points are all clear and well thought out. Don’t want you to think I’m picking on you (some folks get a little upset when I respond to their comments so I just wanted to make that clear.)

  34. joe k says:

    simple: he was basing it on last year’s performance. he’s using a full year, while you’re suggesting that he uses just one half of a year!

  35. can't believe says:

    did nichols get paid to put bornstein on the all star list. He should not be there. He doesn’t deserve it..

  36. Justin O says:

    Ives – No problem. I like the personal attention! Anyway, trying not to repeat what I’ve already said, the criteria applied to selecting the remaining spots seems to me to have been “pick the final roster spots based on who will help MLS win the game, given the types of players already selected.” It seems common sense that someone, particularly someone from outside the US, would think along these lines, since presumably the coach’s job is to win the game. Plus, given the somewhat significant level of embarrassment that would accompany a loss or draw to a preseason West Ham club, I wouldn’t be surprised if his thought process is in line with any guidance he may have received from MLS HQ.

    Now, if MLS is going to use a different criteria than that usually used in US all-star games they’d probably be well-advised to explain this. If not to the fans, then to players, teams and agents so they can take that into consideration when figuring out any contract bonuses based on all-star selection. Having said that, I see nothing inherently wrong with the way things worked here. Generally speaking, I certainly see nothing objectionable to just picking the team that seems most likely to win. And with the current all-star game format, I do think all involved do want to win these games. And if that’s the goal, I’m willing to defer to Nicol’s judgment. He’s proven he can identify and plug holes, and piece talent together.

    Anyway, I think the expressions of shock here are over the top. No, he’s not basing his selections on March – July 08 performance. He looks like as a coach who wants to win a game. Nothing shocking there.

  37. Sasha says:

    nicols is a tool, sega, baky and busch should all be in the all star game, they are better then 1/2 of the guys there.

    nicols is just mad that he lost 7-0 aggrigate from to games to the FIRE

  38. Eric says:

    Maybe he didn’t take Emilio because DC is playing SuperLiga this week and has the rescheduled Houston match Tuesday (two days before ASG) and then could have more SuperLiga (though not likely, I guess)

  39. Amit says:

    Maybe he took on Angel because Reyna retired and Franco Niell got shipped out!

  40. Phillip says:

    Perhaps they turned down the invitation.

  41. YakimaShorty says:

    I’m still in shock. Is this for real? Juan Toja over Guillermo Barros Schelotto? That is plain wrong on so many levels. No offense to Toja, but he doesn’t have half the quality of Schelotto. Schelotto’s play-making skill and ability off set pieces put him in an elite class among MLS players. Plus, he’s having a better year than Toja, HANDS DOWN!

  42. Gilly73 says:

    Thank you Steve Nicol for leaving FIRE players off this meaningless All-Star roster and good luck winning the match with the boys you selected. Maybe Matt Reis will save your arse as he usually does, but will you play him the whole game?

    We all know who the best players in the league are anyway and the extra rest is fine by me.

    P.S. – Can you send Blanco home too, I’d much rather he gets some time off too! (oh wait that may be coming soon)

  43. Chow says:

    Segares is nursing an injury, might have something to do with it?

  44. joshW says:

    I think that MLS’ desire to showcase its young players might have something to do with it. On one hand, Emilio / Angel is a push in that regard. They’re both probably going to retire from MLS – so you can’t explain Angel’s selection on that basis. However, Tojas and Bornstein are both young and may have the potential to bring the league transfer money at some point. We all know about the Bornstein to Israel saga; he really wants to leave. Schelotto is in the same boat as Emilio and Angel. He’s done after MLS. Maybe the league is just trying to get these younger guys exposure against a top level opponent in a somewhat visable match with a view to increasing transfer values.

  45. dontpanic says:

    dump the current format..and if you are going to keep an ASG..why not

    US vs the rest of the world?

    or US/Canada vs rest of the world

    or CONCACAF vs rest of world.

    I’d rather see 22 players from MLS who I can get more familiar with and more exposure than the subs and reserve players plus 1 or 2 “names” from a club like West Ham

  46. jman81 says:

    Listen, it’s clear he picked the players he thought were the best talent wise, regardless of performance. If that’s the league’s fault for not better explaining how all-star games work, then it was the league’s fault. Regardless of why it ended up the way it did, the roster that will be in uniform next Thursday will not offer as good a representation of the league’s best players as it should have, and some quality players will have been cheated of an honor they earned with their play. That, in my opinion, is sad.



    Ives, I don’t see how you can first say that you can understand why nicol would choose some guys based on the “best talent”, and then say that these players would not represent the league’s best? Maybe nicol remember’s toja’s, angels’s, and bornstein’s play from last year, which were MVP calibre, and knows that their recent poor play is not based so much on their current talent but factors like injuries, bad management, being in bad teams, etc. Plus, if you think the league forgot to tell nicol how an all-star game should be selected, then the league must not have read their own book last year when they selected reyna into the all-star team… which pretty much shows that mls does not follow your reasoning in this matter. Now, I’m not saying you are wrong to believe that how you think the all-star game should be selected is wrong… in fact it makes perfect sense and would follow other american league’s treatment of all-star games; but it seems to me mls is not following this formula recently, which is why I was not particularly bewildered when nicol and garber chose who they did.