It’s that lovely time of the year again. It’s MLS All-Star Game time. Or as we know it, “Complain about trivial matches in the middle of the season” week!
We’re not covering the MLS All-Star Game unless something amazing happens. There are some USMNT players in the match and likely even one for Arsenal. We hope they all do well. If one of them do something worth talking about, we’ll talk about it.
Instead, we decided to create our own imaginary All-Star Game scenario. We’re sure you’ve seen this discussion pop up somewhere — reddit, forums, twitter, your dreams — you’ve seen this exact scenario debated. We thought we’d use this dead period of news and action to expand on it.
What would happen if all the MLS-based USMNT players played against all the European-based players? Well we decided to test the theory — or at least bring it up and let you fight it out.
The original plan was to pick a team of MLS players and a team of “World” players. After going that route, the MLS side was a bit thin. So we decided to give them Liga MX to help them out.
Adam Snavely picked his 18-man squad for the MLS/Liga MX team, while I selected the Rest of the World team. Here’s who we came up with:
With both teams picked, who holds the advantage? We decided to break it down into five major categories: Goalkeepers, Defenders, Midfielders, Forwards, and Depth. Here’s our take on which side holds the advantage in each category:
Adam: I’m taking my MLS/Liga MX side confidently on this one, simply because I think Bill Hamid is hands down the best American shot-stopper out there right now. He kept a D.C. United team bereft of consistent attacking threat competitive with his ability last year, and any injury questions lingering from his long lay-off have been answered by now. His instincts are preternatural, and he commands his box (something European #1 Brad Guzan routinely struggles with). The future is in safe hands with Hamid, and William Yarbrough behind him, who has logged serious minutes with Club Leon in Liga MX.
Rob: This is an extremely close race that could go either way. I love Bill Hamid’s potential, but I think Horvath’s is just as high. That leaves Guzan vs. Yarbrough. It doesn’t make much sense to rely on two unproven guys, that’s why I’ll take the European keepers. You know what you’re getting with Guzan, so I guess he’s the boring pick. But he can still get the job done when called upon and still has some good years left in his legs.
Adam: Not really a question for me here: the Americans in Europe side takes the advantage here easily. Three of my four top-choice starters are all represented here (Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, and DeAndre Yedlin). Meanwhile, their Western counterparts have a mixture of experience and raw talent that looks somewhat appealing, but lacks in consistency. Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez both have plenty of minutes to their name in the red, white, and blue, but Gonzalez hasn’t been able to put it together in a U.S. shirt over the past year, and it looks as though Besler might have lost his starting spot in Kansas City. Rosenberry and Villafana both have a penchant for locking down wingers in 1-v-1 situations, but both are very green. Not a terribly strong back line to be found here.
Rob: Europe. By a mile. The only questionable option in their squad is Tim Ream at LB. He’s only there to get Fabian Johnson in his best position. If this was a question of chemistry and familiarity, he could slot back there and improve it even more. Villafana is an intriguing fullback and Rosenberry has shown great potential this season, but you can’t beat basically the first-choice USMNT back line that Europe has.
Adam: Push. The Europeans have the wings, but the Westerners have the middle of the field. Will Johnson and Pulisic run rampant? Probably, but letting Jones and Bradley break up plays and filter the ball out to Darlington Nagbe (I know, he’s better in the middle, but for the sake of this game I want him pinching in from the left wing and wreaking havoc with his right foot) and Paul Arriola. Why Arriola over Gyasi Zardes? Because I think Zardes will have more impact as a forward late in the game. Also: I love Paul Arriola. Reminds of Bedoya, but with a bit more shiftiness to him.
Rob: This is the toughest one to pick. Both sides have tremendous quality, veteran leadership, and exciting young talent in their ranks. Even with Bradley’s struggles at the Copa America, he’s still the most reliable defensive midfielder in the pool. He gives the MLS side a big boost on that side of the things. While having a Champions League-caliber player like Fabian Johnson is a huge shot in the arm for Europe. I’ll have to agree with Adam on this one and give it a push. Settle it for us in the comments, please.
Adam: Much to the chagrin of our commenters, I’m sure, I like the U.S. forwards in this set-up. In another year, Wood might completely blow Altidore and Dempsey out of the water, but there’s still not another forward in the U.S. pool with Jozy’s distribution and hold-up skills, and there’s no one who know how to conjure goals out of nothing like Dempsey. Playing him as a second forward (his most natural position, in my opinion) lets him do what he wants and find the gaps in between the lines. And I know what you’re thinking: ugh, not the diamond. The midfield isn’t a diamond. It’s more of an amoeba than anything else.
Rob: I love Bobby Wood. He won my heart this summer with his tremendous work rate and eye for goal. He’s got a bright future ahead of him. However, I still believe in Jozy Altidore. Maybe I’m naive or biased, but you don’t become the No. 3 goalscorer in USMNT history by mistake. Could him with Dempsey and the MLS side is boasting a pretty dangerous strike force.
Adam: Give it to the Europeans. I like the Western bench, but it’s full of guys who haven’t been tested very heavily beyond MLS. We don’t really know what players like Matt Hedges or Andrew Farrell can do in bigger games, and the international ship has sailed for players like Dax McCarty. Lee Nguyen and Jordan Morris are wildcard, game-changing players, but not as steady as the European options off the bench. Finally: obligatory apologies to the Sacha Kljestan fans.
Rob: This is a lot closer than it may appear. Dax McCarty is a heck of a midfielder that doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Morris adds a great dynamic option off the bench. While Nguyen is one of the best pure playmakers in the pool. With that said, I’ll give it to Europe. There’s just more overall quality on the Europe bench with Aron Johannsson, who could be a USMNT starter when healthy. Then you have young players like Rubin, Hyndman, and Miazga there to support the veterans. It’s just a solid squad with backup at every position.