Major League Soccer walks a very fine line between respectability and ridicule, seeking that delicate fulcrum between sports as Americans know them and how the game is played across the world. America, for all its capitalistic tendencies, likes its sports to share television revenue, enforce arbitrary price controls and distribute talent evenly through a draft system.
Manchester United has never needed to worry about fielding a squad beneath a salary cap. Hajduk Split hasn't ever acquired a player through a weighted reallocation draft lottery. But for foreign leagues probably the most bizarre, and most American, MLS institution is the All-Star Game, the best of the best versus the other best of the best. Even NASCAR has an All-Star Race.
In the spirit of the putting forth the best squad to take down the UEFA Champions League champion Chelsea, this blog heartily endorses Goats keeper Dan Kennedy to backstop the MLS All-Stars in this year's exhibition. Conclusive evidence after the jump!
Here are the top four reasons why you (yes, you!) should vote for Kennedy:
1. The underdog with the heart of a Lion
Kennedy's story has had many twists and turns. Drafted by Chivas USA in the fourth round in 2005, Kennedy bounced around from the then New York Metrostars to the Puerto Rico Islanders (then of the USIL) and finally to Chile where he played for Municipal Iquique before returning to Chivas in 2009. Though he will be 30 next month, Kennedy is hardly an aging veteran. He hasn't accumulated a lot of minutes thanks in large part to season ending injuries suffered in 2009 and 2010.
In 2009, Kennedy injured his right knee and was sidelined for several weeks.Eventually, he underwent surgery to reconstruct the posterior cruciate ligament. All the while, Zach Thornton, the man Kennedy was seeking to displace, rode a hot streak into the playoffs, winning Goalkeeper of the Year honors. Following that, Kennedy worked his way into game shape only to suffer a torn biceps tendon in August 2010. Going into 2011, Zach Thornton beat out Kennedy to start the season. However Kennedy's performance in the US Open Cup Qualifying match on March 30 forced Robin Fraser's hand.
Kennedy's energy and confidence guided a Chivas side demoralized by injuries to key players Paulo Nagamura and captain Jimmy Conrad to a 4-2-4 start including four shutouts. This was despite a back line that at times featured two first-time center backs (Heath Pearce and Ben Zemanski), a first-time right back (Michael Lahoud) and a Generation Adidas rookie (Zarek Valentin).
Kennedy was placed in the first XI and never looked back, earning the Chivas USA Player of the Year award in 2011.
2. Kennedy is at his best when the stakes are high
In the thirteen league games Chivas has played this year, only one (the melee in Colorado) has been decided by more than one goal. In high pressure situations, Kennedy has come through time and time again.
3. The statistics are there
As you can see by looking at the table on the right, Kennedy ranks in the top six of every major goalkeeping statistic.
Despite not currently leading in any of those particular categories, a cursory glance proves Kennedy is clearly within striking distance.
4. At the same time, statistics don't tell the whole story
Whether a goalkeeper needs to lunge to deflect a ball or if the ball is kicked straight to him, it's still marked up as a save. Anytime the Goats are on the field, Kennedy's agility and mental acuity are constantly on display.
MLS determines its All-Star roster by fan voting. As any teenager will tell you, elections are merely popularity contests. Meaning: Kennedy may be the best keeper in MLS, but he can't get on the roster without your support! To go to the ballot, click here.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!