MLS on Sunday will reveal the fan-voted All-Star First XI during halftime of ESPN’s broadcast of the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Chicago Fire. These players will then be among those representing MLS when the All-Stars — helmed by D.C. United coach Ben Olsen — take on UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea FC on July 25 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
Here are my choices for the First XI based on the first half of the MLS season:
GK ANDY GRUENEBAUM (Columbus): The replacement for the injured Will Hesmer is second in the league in saves while back-stopping its top defense.
RB STEVEN BEITASHOUR (San Jose): The forward-thinking right back has contributed six assists, good for fourth in the league.
CB JAY DEMERIT (Vancouver): Following a disappointing first MLS season, the U.S. World Cup veteran now leads one of the league’s top back lines.
CB AURELIEN COLLIN (Kansas City): The charismatic Frenchman has been a rock for his club’s stingy defense while chipping in three goals.
LB GONZALO SEGARES (Chicago): The Costa Rican has been a steady presence for the injury-plagued back line of a surging Chicago side.
DM KYLE BECKERMAN (Salt Lake): Steady in distribution as ever, the RSL captain has also gotten in on the scoring act with four goals.
RM LANDON DONOVAN (Los Angeles): Amid the Galaxy’s struggles, Donovan has kicked off another impressive campaign, recording six goals and four assists.
CM DWAYNE DE ROSARIO (D.C. United): After topping the league in goals in 2011, the reigning MVP has been asked to facilitate more this season — and now paces MLS with 10 assists.
LM CHRIS PONTIUS (D.C. United): The versatile attacker has bounced back from a broken leg and slow start to find net nine times.
F THIERRY HENRY (New York): The French star has been slowed by injury but still managed to notch a balanced nine goals and five assists.
F CHRIS WONDOLOWSKI (San Jose): With an MLS-leading 14 goals for the league’s top team, the 29-year-old is the clear front-runner in the race for MVP.
And here is my second team:
GK DAN KENNEDY (Chivas USA): The under-the-radar shot-stopper has bailed out his offensively challenged squad time and time again.
RB LEE YOUNG-PYO (Vancouver): The South Korean veteran has added reliability to the Whitecaps’ much-improved defense.
CB CARLOS VALDES (Philadelphia): Despite losing significant defensive leadership, the Union back line remains one of the league’s top units largely because of the Colombian.
CB JAMISON OLAVE (Salt Lake): While Salt Lake’s defense hasn’t been quite as stellar as usual, the veteran remains his usual physically imposing self.
LB RAMIRO CORRALES (San Jose): The 35-year-old beats out New York’s Heath Pearce because of his leadership and offensive contributions (five assists).
DM OSVALDO ALONSO (Seattle): Ever the aggressive tackler, the Cuban continues to win battles in midfield and spray the ball all over the pitch.
RM MARVIN CHAVEZ (San Jose): With eight assists, the tricky winger is responsible for much of the creativity in San Jose’s league-best attack.
CM GRAHAM ZUSI (Kansas City): The technically skilled playmaker gets the nod over Los Angeles’ David Beckham thanks to his eight helpers.
LM BRAD DAVIS (Houston): Last year’s MVP runner-up has quietly enjoyed an excellent first half, compiling four goals and four assists.
F KENNY COOPER (New York): The hulking striker’s career renaissance has featured 11 goals for a team that has leaned on him during Henry’s absences.
F DANNY KOEVERMANS (Toronto): The Dutchman edges out Houston’s Will Bruin after bagging eight goals in his past eight games.