Three Sporting Kansas City players were voted to the MLS All-Star Fan XI announced on Sunday. Defenders Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin, along with midfielder Graham Zusi receive All-Star recognition for the second time in their MLS careers as three of 10 players chosen by fans.
The 11th player on the Fan XI will be announced on Thursday upon the completion of the AT&T MLS All-Star 'In the Game' Challenge. Sporting Kansas City forward Claudio Bieler is among 24 forwards in contention for the spot, which will go to the player with whom fans score the most goals in EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer 13 by Wednesday.
Sporting Kansas City’s three selections to the MLS All-Star Fan XI are the most among any team. All three players were members of the MLS Best XI in 2012.
"It's great for them. It's great for the organization. It's a tremendous honor,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. “Those guys are being recognized for being good players and having solid performances thus far this season.
Besler, 26, was an MLS All-Star in 2011 and was named the MLS Defender of the Year and MLSSoccer.com Breakout Player of the Year in 2012. The Overland Park, Kan. native has emerged as the starting center back for the U.S. Men’s National Team in 2013 with seven appearances, including four starts in FIFA World Cup Qualifying, after making his international debut in January. Besler signed a new contract with Sporting KC in December and has started 14 MLS matches in 2013, his fifth professional season with his hometown club.
“It's an awesome feeling. It’s an honor,” Besler said. “This year is extra special for me with the game in Kansas City. I'm going to be looking forward to it a lot. I'd like to thank all of the fans for voting.”
Collin, 27, earns All-Star honors for a second straight season. A Defender of the Year finalist in 2012, Collin has started 17 matches for Sporting KC in 2013, including all seven of the club’s shutouts. The Frenchman has contributed three goals, second most among MLS defenders this season, and added one assist. Collin entered Sunday’s match leading MLS with 119 headed clearances and tied for the League lead with 166 clearances on the year.
Anchored by MLS All-Stars Besler and Collin, two of the three defenders chosen at their position for the MLS All-Star Fan XI, Sporting Kansas City has conceded the fewest shots (163) and shots on goal (49) of any MLS team through Week 18.
“It's a big honor. I'm so happy to be here and to represent Sporting Kansas City,” Collin said. “I want to thank all of the fans. Sporting Kansas City fans are some of the best in the league and you can see it with them voting this many times.”
Zusi, 26, also becomes an All-Star in back-to-back seasons. An MLS MVP finalist in 2012, Zusi has three goals and five assists in 17 games played in 2013. The fifth-year pro, drafted by KC in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, recently signed a new contract with the club and is a nominee for Best MLS Player at the 2013 ESPYS. He has 14 international appearances for the U.S. Men’s National Team, including eight caps in FIFA World Cup Qualifying, with one goal and three assists. Through Week 17, Zusi leads all MLS players with 47 successful crosses/corners and 36 chances created from set play.
“I very much appreciate the fans vote. Without them, we would not be here. It's just an exciting time,” Zusi said. “It's humbling to know that fans from across the country - and from opposing teams as well – are voting for me. It's a cool experience and it should be an incredible night against AS Roma.”
Sporting Park will host the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at 8 p.m. CT on July 31, featuring international opponent AS Roma from Italy's Serie A and nationally televised live on ESPN2 and UniMas in the United States. Vermes will serve as the MLS All-Stars head coach and will choose the game day roster, to be announced on July 15 along with MLS Commissioner Don Garber's two selections.
“I expect all of the guys that come here to have a great professional attitude,” Vermes said. “It's the guys that want to represent Major League Soccer very well against an Italian Serie A team."
A total of 32 All-Stars (four goalkeepers, eight defenders, 13 midfielders and seven forwards) will be named per the collective bargaining agreement, with MLS player voting determining those named to the inactive roster announced on July 31.
Visit SportingKC.com/asg for all the latest on the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game.
2013 MLS ALL-STAR FAN XI
Goalkeeper: Raul Fernandez (FC Dallas)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Aurelien Collin (Sporting KC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)
Midfielders: Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)
Forwards: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), AT&T ‘In the Game’ forward (TBA – July 11)