MLS All-Star selections questionable.By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service
(Friday, July 9, 1999) -- The fan-selected starting lineups for Major League Soccer's All-Star Game, scheduled July 17, are a joke, especially in the Western Conference. Most of the rightful heirs were selected Friday as reserves.
Starting in the West ... Raul Diaz Arce (San Jose) and Roman Kosecki (Chicago) are the starters at forward. Diaz Arce has four goals, and Kosecki has none.
Ronald Cerritos (San Jose), a genuine star, finished third in the voting despite midseason statistics of nine goals and three assists for 21 points, tied for third in MLS scoring. And Wolde Harris (Colorado) and Jorge Dely Valdes (Colorado were an astonishing Nos. 8 and 9, respectively, in votes despite totaling 20 points and 15 points, respectively.
Moving to the midfield ... Cobi Jones (Los Angeles), who is having a bad season with just two goals, was No. 1 among midfielders in the West.
We have no bone to pick with runner-up Preki Radosavljevic (Kansas City), who has two goals albeit with nine assists on a poor team, second in MLS, nor with other starters Chris Armas (Chicago) and Eddie Lewis (San Jose). Peter Nowak (Chicago), the fifth and last selection for a 3-5-2 alignment, is questionable, with his play a couple notches lower than the brilliance he exhibited last year.
Biggest omission is Jason Kreis (Dallas), the No. 2 scorer in Major League Soccer with 11 goals, 8 assists, 30 points, arguably the midseason MVP of the West. He ranks sixth in fan appeal, which is absurd. Another stellar performer left out: No. 9 in the voting, Paul Bravo (Colorado), 10th in MLS scoring with seven goals, four assists.
Marcelo Balboa (Colorado) is a deserving starter on defense. Alexi Lalas (Kansas City) was No. 2 on his notoriety as the former posterboy of U.S. Soccer. Lubos Kubik (Chicago) is a solid pick at No. 3, but the Nos. 5 and 6 choices - Robin Fraser (Los Angeles) and Mauricio Wright (San Jose) should be higher.
And Matt McKeon (Colorado), actually a defensive midfielder, is a travesty at No. 11.
Zach Thornton (Chicago) won the goalkeeper nod that should have gone to fan runner-up Kevin Hartman (Los Angeles), with Matt Jordan (Dallas) in contention.
Turning to the East ...
Roy Lassiter (D.C. United) ranks No. 1 at forward with the fans, and No. 1 in scoring with 14 goals, 6 assists, 34 points. Brian McBride (Columbus) was second in balloting but has missed action due to injuries and has just one goal.
A better case could be made for No. 4 Joe-Max Moore (New England), tied for third in MLS scoring with 8 goals, 5 assists, as well as rebounding Jaime Moreno (D.C. United), who has 5 goals, 4 assists, and is showing some of his 1997 form, and Diego Serna (Miami), who has nine goals despite a woeful supporting cast.
Midfielder Marco Etcheverry (D.C. United) was the runaway overall vote leader and played at an MVP level the first half of the season. We have no problem with Carlos Valderrama (Tampa Bay), the No. 2 midfielder, but frankly don't see any other All Star-calibre players at the position except for omitted No. 6 Richie Williams (D.C. United), the second-most valuable player on the league's top team with a combined role as defensive pest and offensive distributor.
Eddie Pope (D.C. United) drew the second-highest overall vote to lead defenders, which is not justified, since he's only played seven games due to injuries. No. 2 Jeff Agoos (D.C. United) has been the top defender in the East. The rest of the back line is shaky, though Dan Calichman (New England) and Mark Semioli (New York/New Jersey) should be higher than Nos. 10 and 11, respectively.
The goalkeeping competition was tight, with Tom Presthus (D.C. United) getting the nod narrowly against Walter Zenga (New England) and Mark Dougherty (Columbus). All three have been outstanding. Flip a coin.
Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.