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My Major League Soccer All-Star Game ballot

There are a lot of different ways to pick an all-star team in Major League Soccer. You can go by stats, by the players you want to see, or by the players who you think give the most chance of beating the opponent.

My Major League Soccer All-Star Game ballot

There are a lot of different ways to pick an all-star team in Major League Soccer. You can go by stats, by the players you want to see, or by the players who you think give the most chance of beating the opponent. 

Regardless, the vast array of attacking talent in MLS this year makes picking just 11 players incredibly hard. You can put together dozens of combinations of midfielders and forwards and come up with a very strong squad. 

In fact, because MLS' online ballot lets you pick any 10 outfield players, you could submit a team composed entirely of attackers if you wanted to. 

But as I looked over the list of players, I figured I should put together a lineup that is reasonably honest. So here's the XI that I would like to see face Chelsea at PPL Park on July 25. It's got a little bit of everything: merit, star power, creativity and just enough defense.

Goalkeeper: Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City 

Nielsen is the only goalkeeper in the league who has played more than 10 games and has a goals-against average below 1.00. I think Kansas City is one of the best examples of how to assemble a consistently successful MLS team, and Nielsen is a major reason for their success.

Left back: Todd Dunivant, Los Angeles Galaxy

It's been a rough year in Hollywood. The reigning MLS champions sit in seventh place in the West, 15 points behind first-place Real Salt Lake. But through all the turmoil, Dunivant hasn't wavered. He has played every minute of every league game this year, and has only committed a total of eight fouls.

Center back: Geoff Cameron, Houston Dynamo

Catch a glimpse of Cameron while you still can, because he might not be in MLS for much longer. Having risen into the ranks of U.S. national team regulars, Cameron is now rumored to be a target for multiple European clubs - including Everton, Stoke City and Schalke.

Center back: Jámison Olave, Real Salt Lake

While Kansas City has been the Eastern Conference's model club, RSL has shown the way in the West. It is no coincidence that they have made the playoffs every year that Olave has been on the roster, including a MLS Cup triumph in 2009 and a run to the CONCACAF Champions League final in the 2010-11 campaign.

Right back: Sheanon Williams, Philadelphia Union

If Yogi Berra was a soccer fan, he might describe Williams this way: Even when playing at center back, he's still one of the best right backs in MLS. Williams defends smartly and makes incisive runs down the wing to launch attacks. It's no coincidence that John Hackworth restored Williams to his natural position as soon as Peter Nowak was fired.

Midfielder: Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders

If you follow me on Twitter, then you've seen me write this before: I think Alonso is not just the best holding midfielder in MLS, but the best player in the league at any position. The newly-minted American citizen has an almost perfect sense of tactical awareness, and his tackles mix just the right amount of bite and guile.

(Alonso is also a great pick in terms of the matchup against Chelsea specifically. Think about the one-on-one battle between him and Frank Lampard. That should be a lot of fun to watch.)

Midfielder: Felipe Martins, Montréal Impact

Few people across MLS expected the expansion Impact to make much noise this year. But thanks in large part to the Brazilian's craftiness, the Impact have made a respectable start. Just as importantly for an All-Star Game, Felipe plays with an enthusiasm that is infectious. He deserves to be in the spotlight.

Midfielder: Davide Chiumiento, Vancouver Whitecaps

I know that any team has to have guys like Cameron and Alonso who do the dirty work defensively. But there also ought to be room for a creator, the kind of player who brings fantasy and invention to the field. Chiumiento is a terrific passer - just ask Sébastien Le Toux - and he's also capable of scoring spectacular goals.

Midfielder: Dwayne De Rosario, D.C. United

MLS' reigning Most Valuable Player is at it again this year. His five goals and eight assists have helped D.C. rise to first place in the Eastern Conference, and has United on track for the playoffs after several years in the wilderness. It's also worth noting that De Rosario scored the winning goal when the MLS All-Stars last faced Chelsea, in 2006.

Forward: Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls

Yes, he's been injured a lot this year, but Henry still has scored nine goals in nine games this year for New York. And really, it wouldn't be an All-Star Game without the presence of one of MLS' true superstars. On top of that, you know Henry will want to show off his skills against one of Arsenal's biggest rivals.

Forward: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Henry may be the most famous forward in MLS, but Wondolowski has a fair claim to be the best. Since the start of the 2010 season, he has scored an astounding 46 goals in 71 games. He won the Golden Boot two years ago, was joint top scorer last season and is currently the league's top marksman once again.

How to line up all this talent? It doesn't matter that much - it might be better to just put them on the field and let them kick the ball around however they want. But here's an idea of what it might look like to start:

-------------------------------------------
-------Wondolowski------------Henry--------
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------------------De Rosario---------------
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-------Felipe-------------------Chiumiento-
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-------------------Alonso------------------
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---Dunivant---Cameron---Olave---Williams---
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-------------------Nielsen-----------------
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Once voting ends on July 2, the 11 players selected by fans will be considered the "first XI" out of the total of 32 players who will be named to the squad. Those 11 names will be announced on July 8, and the gameday roster will be unveiled on July 15.

It's also an open question as to who will coach the team. Peter Nowak was originally selected, but his firing meant that he's ineligible for the honor.

MLS put up a poll last week asking fans who they wanted to replace Nowak, and much to my surprise they omitted a candidate who I think is the most: Sporting Kansas City's Peter Vermes. He has masterminded Kansas City's rise to prominence in recent years, and he's originally from Delran. N.J. So he has a local tie.

Vermes will be at PPL Park on Saturday when Kansas City visits the Union. I think it's a safe bet that he'll be asked whether he'd like to come back to town next month.

Well, never mind about the coaching question. MLS announced Thursday afternoon that D.C. United's Ben Olsen, a native of Harrisburg, will oversee the squad. Interim Union manager John Hackworth will serve as the top assistant, and will be joined by a trio from United's bench: Chad Ashton, Pat Onstad and Sonny Siloy.

What do you think of these selections? Which players do you want to see? Have your say in the comments, and click here to cast your ballot.

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Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

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