Last night, the former England midfielders were both named to the 2015 All-Star team to face Tottenham Hotspur at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Colorado, later this month as Garber’s two personal selections, despite some deserving names missing out on the Fan XI.
The likes of Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco and Columbus Crew SC duo Ethan Finlay and Kei Kamara were all absent from the 11 players selected by fan vote to the annual showpiece event, much to the chagrin of keen observers around the league.
The attacking trio have been in stellar form during 2015, with Giovinco so far looking like the early MVP front-runner after netting a hat-trick in Sunday’s 4-4 draw at New York City FC, but none of them could earn the recognition of either the fans or commissioner Garber.
Colorado Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni, who as the manager of the host team will also manage the All-Star team, still has to select a 22-man squad ahead of the match, meaning some of the notable absentees should still face Spurs, but that fact makes Monday’s inclusions of LA Galaxy’s Gerrard and NYCFC’s Lampard no less contentious.
Given the commercial benefits behind having both Englishman involved in the game on 29 July, Garber’s decision should ultimately come as no surprise but, when some worthy candidates might miss out on the trip, the move still leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The Fan XI itself, meanwhile, was somewhat less controversial, with Orlando City SC playmaker Kaka and NYCFC striker David Villa voted in along with familiar faces like Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, Seattle Sounders forward and ex-Tottenham man Clint Dempsey, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi and LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez.
There was also a thoroughly deserved place for Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber, who has been rivalling Giovinco for the league’s star performer through the first 19 weeks of the season, having recorded nine assists and five goals in 17 games.
The selections are as follows:
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando [Real Salt Lake]
Defenders: Omar Gonzalez [LA Galaxy], Matt Besler [Sporting Kansas City], DaMarcus Beasley [Houston Dynamo]
Midfielders: Kaká [Orlando City], Michael Bradley [Toronto FC], Benny Feilhaber [Sporting Kansas City], Graham Zusi [Sporting Kansas City]
Forwards: Clint Dempsey [Seattle Sounders], David Villa [New York City FC], Obafemi Martins [Seattle Sounders]
With Mastroeni having no obligation to field the same XI for the game itself, though, the Rapids boss could well take it upon himself to solve the age-old debate of whether Gerrard and Lampard can operate alongside one another.