Next week, Major League Soccer's most deserving players - and Landon Donovan - will take on Bayern Munich in the 2014 MLS All-Star Game as representatives of the USA and Canada's top-flight league. Players from two Pacific Northwest clubs - Seattle and Portland - will be represented, coached by Timbers boss Caleb Porter.
But even with five Sounders and two Timbers in the 23-man squad, there are still a number of regional players deserving of recognition. With that in mind, and a column to fill, here's Goal's Cascadia All-Star team.
With the Northwest teams so dedicated to the attack and so lax in defense, we'll be going with a 3-4-3 formation.
Looking at the goalkeeping position, the nod has to go to Vancouver's David Ousted. While Donovan Ricketts' 69 saves are impressive, the stat is more of an indictment of the Timbers' defense than a display of his prowess, and the veteran has slipped from his best form. Ousted has overcome some early errors to post five shutouts and a 1.38 goals against average so far this year. The less said about Seattle's error-prone Stefan Frei, the better.
Just in front of him, Seattle's Chad Marshall gets a deserved nod at the heart of the defense. While he was picked up as a salary dump from Columbus, the veteran has proven himself yet again as one of the best center backs in MLS history. He's also the only center back in the region to consistently hold down his job and make at least 15 starts. On his right is club teammate DeAndre Yedlin, who may have used the World Cup to launch his profile to a new stratosphere, but remains one of the best fullbacks in the league. On the opposite flank is Whitecaps left back Jordan Harvey, a capable, reliable veteran who has managed to add a measure of offensive threat to his game in the least season and a half.
Our four-man midfield is an impressive collection of talent. Seattle's Osvaldo Alonso is a strong candidate for the title of best defensive midfielder in the league. Timbers captain Will Johnson is a contender for the best box-to-box man, and combines midfield steel with offensive contribution - six goals and a pair of assists so far this season - that gives him an edge over teammate Diego Chara. The skill in the middle third is provided by his partner in crime, Diego Valeri - the league's most underrated superstar - and Pedro Morales. The former Malaga man came into the league with a lot of expecation, and he's lived up to it, scoring seven goals and assisting eight in 20 appearances.
Up front, Maximiliano Urruti has become an occasionally vital player for Portland in somewhat limited time, contributing eight goals and an assist in just 858 minutes of play. But the real threat comes from Seattle's superstar pairing of Clint Dempsey (nine goals, three assists) and Obafemi Martins (eight goals, six assists).
If this lineup was actually assembled in MLS, it would have a base salary of $9,846,754 just for these 11 players, an average salary of $895,159.
Portland — Diego Valeri is a big, big player. When Portland was gunning for top spot in the West and chance in the Supporters' Shield last season, the Argentine was essential to the team. And with the Timbers scraping for a shot at the playoffs this year, he's again showing his quality. No other player in the league combines the continual quality on the ball he shows throughout games with his potential to win them all on his own. If Portland manages to pull off a miracle and make the playoffs, he deserves MVP votes.
Coming up: The LA Galaxy are probably the last team Portland wants to see right now. With games in hand, el SuperClub is hoovering up the points and charging up the Western Conference table, with Seattle's scalp in hand from Monday's comprehensive win. Saturday, Aug. 2, 11:30 a.m. PT - NBC/TSN
Seattle — The loss to LA was pretty ugly, but it's not the first time or worst the Sounders have been humbled this season. After their last big setback, the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of New England, the Sounders reeled off four wins and a draw in their next five games.
Coming up: It's another California side up against the Sounders, this time the San Jose Earthquakes. The 'Quakes got one over on the Chicago Fire in a big 5-1 win last week, but they're still dead last in the West. Saturday, Aug. 2, 7:30 p.m. PT - NBCSN
Vancouver — The 'Caps have picked a poor time to stagnate. Four straight draws and five straight without a win might cut it in the Eastern Conference, but that kind of form has seen Carl Robinson's side drop out of the playoff spots.
Coming up: Nada. The 'Caps are off this week.
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