COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – What do Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović and the Colorado Rapids all have in common? None of them will be present at tonight’s MLS All-Star game, which kicks off at 8 p.m. EST tonight at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
“It’s not my job to pick that team,” Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson said as a tongue-in-cheek response to the fact that none of his players were selected by the fan vote, coach and commissioner selections. “I’ve got a challenging job to pick the team for Saturday. We’ve got several players here who don’t get the recognition because of the place we’re at in the table. I can understand that.”
Hudson cited the Rapids’ ongoing rebuilding phase as another factor, and he remained optimistic the team’s future will trend towards more recognition and the accolades that go with it.
“It’s probably an indication of where other teams are in terms of start players playing in this game,” he continued. “We’re at a stage where we’re building the team and we’re probably not there just yet. But we’re in a good place. We’ll get there.”
It’s not the first time Colorado has gone without an All-Star selection. From 2012-14, no Colorado player featured in the game. Nonetheless, there are a few within the Rapids camp that feel there are Colorado players deserving of the nod.
“It’s a tough one when results haven’t gone our way,” explained Rapids midfielder Sam Nicholson. “You’ve got people that have stood out for us – Tommy [Smith], Danny [Wilson], [Jack] Price. There’s many people that have been good enough, but it’s up to MLS.”
In lieu of rooting for his current teammates, Nicholson will instead settle to root for his former Minnesota United colleagues Darwin Quintero and Francisco Calvo.
“Quintero has got some unbelievable technical ability and Calvo is a technical, gifted player,” Nicholson said. “They both deserve to be there.”
While disappointed, the Rapids are instead focused on their upcoming league match against L.A. Galaxy.
“It’s never fun if we don’t have a selection,” added Rapids centerback Axel Sjoberg, who narrowly missed out on a selection in 2016, a season where he was also runner-up for MLS Defender of the Year. “But at the same time, it’s not surprising given how we started. We’re just trying to get on with business as usual.”
After back-to-back days off earlier in the week, a mostly healthy Rapids side returned for a spirited training on Wednesday. Having avoided the genuine All-Star game conundrums of fitness and potential injuries, Hudson expressed his enthusiasm in having everyone present.
“We haven’t been able to train with a full squad because we’ve been nursing a lot of players,” he said. “It’s good to have everyone involved.”
The Rapids may not have a vested interest in tonight’s All-Star game, but make no mistake, there will be plenty of eyes glued to the match in Colorado.
“As it stands, it’s two great teams and it’s always an exciting game,” said Hudson. “I haven’t seen Juventus this past season, so it will be exciting to see them.”