For just the fifth time in the 22-year history of Columbus Crew SC the team will be without an all-star representative.
The roster is constructed through fan voting, which selects 11 players, two commissioner picks and 11 selections from All-Star head coach Veljko Paunović.
While defensively, Crew SC does not deserve an All-Star selection, having allowed an Eastern Conference-worst 32 goals, offensively, Columbus has multiple players who should have been in consideration.
Justin Meram has already set a career high with eight goals, while adding six assists through 20 matches. Federico Higuain has had a resurgent season after being injured most of a year ago, scoring nine goals to go along with five assists. Forward Ola Kamara continues his great start to his MLS career. He is tied with Higuain for the team lead in goals while already eclipsing his season total of assists from a year ago with three.
Meanwhile, Kaka (nine appearances, three goals, four assists) and DaMarcus Beasley (a part of one of the worst defenses in the Western Conference) are picked by fans due to their name recognition.
On top of that, Paunović and Don Garber selected attackers Dom Dwyer (five goals, one assist in 15 games) and Giovani dos Santos (six goals, one assist in 12 games). It would be hard to convince anyone who follows the league closely that these guys deserve an All-Star spot over all of the three Crew SC attackers.
Thinking Pipa (9G/5A), Meram (8G/6A) and Ola (9G/3A) all made a strong case for selection to the 2017 All Star Game. #CrewSC— Anthony Precourt (@APrecourt) July 18, 2017
Like all All-Star games, the MLS equivalent is a popularity contest. Not only due to the fans selecting the players’ names they recognize, but the coach and the commissioner each pick players they believe will be best for marketing the match.
This isn’t about which players actually deserve to be recognized among their peers as the best in the league, otherwise Stefan Frei, with a 1.47 goals against average and a save percentage of 64.6, wouldn’t be selected over Tim Melia (0.7 GAA and a save percentage of 81.8).
If only the name was Justinho....— Justin Meram (@JustinMeram) July 18, 2017
There is no perfect way to select an All-Star team. Fans are what sell and there must be a component for them to help pick players. The league has its own agenda, looking to fill the stadium and put on a good show when eyes turn to MLS against a top European opponent.
Ultimately though, it hurts players, Crew SC or otherwise, who work hard and have productive seasons, but are not rewarded with an All-Star appearance and bonus because they aren’t recognized as the top stars in the league.
MLS used to be built on balance, but has quickly gone away from that model. Now, focus is placed on certain markets, leaving others unrecognized in the dust and makes it hard for players, who don’t get time on national television, to be seen and therefore selected for these All-Star games.
If you asked many of those players that were “snubbed,” they likely will tell you it’s not a big deal. Some may even enjoy the All-Star break more than they would playing against Real.
With that said, it’s unfortunate that Crew SC players who are working on career seasons will not get the credit they deserve on the national stage.