First time was not the charm for Real Salt Lake stars Kyle Beckerman and Jamison Olave when it came down to fan voting for the 2011 Major League Soccer All-Star Game.
The second time was, however, as MLS voted both RSL players on next Wednesday’s 22-man game day roster against mighty Manchester United in New York’s Red Bull Arena.
Last year Man U destroyed the All-Stars by a score of 5-2 at Houston‘s Reliant Arena in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.
The Red Devils tapped the ball around MLS’ best, and hammered it through and past the outclassed All-Stars last year in a dazzling exhibition of skill and power.
This year, however, the All-Stars hope to have better luck dealing with some of the world’s best, as Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City) and David Beckham lead a talented All-Star team headed by Red Bulls skipper Hans Backe.
Backe is not a stranger to the English Premier League; he was an assistant under Sven Goran Eriksson at Manchester City in the late 2000’s.
Whatever the formula must be for the All-Stars to erase a painful, yet entertaining ordeal that was the 2010 All-Star Game, it’s obvious that the change in personnel is radically different from last year’s squad.
For Real Salt Lake’s two given the nod, both Beckerman and Olave are fiery competitors who hate to lose and will give their all to upset the heavily favored Manchester United squad.
Tally Hall and Colombian Faryd Mondragon comprise the MLS’ All-Star goalkeepers, and neither were present last year, when RSL’s own Nick Rimando got the starting nod.
The same newness is not true in defense, where Olave, RSL’s iron man, will be making his second consecutive appearance (he played the first 45 minutes last year) along with U.S. national team members Tim Ream, Heath Pearce and Bobby Convey.
In midfield, the two Becks (Beckham and Beckerman) will try to disrupt any kind of rhythm Man U might get, along with veterans like Brad Davis and Shalrie Joseph. Another player to watch is Jack Jewsbury, who is expansion Portland’s playmaker.
2011 MLS All-Star Gameday Roster
Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Faryd Mondragón (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy), Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls).
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)
Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
This is Beckerman’s second nod as an All-Star (he was also named to the inactive rosters last year and in 2007). He has scored one goal and tacked on four assists for RSL this season in MLS play.
At forward, all eyes will be on Henry, who is now doing in MLS what he used to do at Arsenal and Barcelona, and that‘s score goals. The position is loaded with players who have national team caps.
Landon Donovan, Juan Agudelo and Chris Wondolowski all got significant playing time with the U.S. during its run to the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals.
Bravo is a hero in his native Mexico and Omar Cummings is enjoying a good run of form with the Colorado Rapids, with two goals and two assists in over 500 minutes of play this season.
For Beckerman and Olave, the nod to play in a pivotal 2011 All-Star Game is a testament to Real Salt Lake’s staying power in a league that may becoming watered down with all the new teams over the past several years.
Both are the team’s captains and pivotal forces to the team’s success, now that Javier Morales is out with an injury until at least early fall.
So if RSL’s two key players help the All-Stars defeat a team like Manchester United, that kind of victory would help regain some credibility for MLS that it lost after last year‘s disappointing performance.