For the third consecutive year, D.C. United players dominated Major League Soccer's all-star balloting and will make up more than half of the Eastern Conference starting lineup in the July 17 game in San Diego.
Of the six United players selected by fans to start, there was only one surprise: goalkeeper Tom Presthus, a U.S. national team prospect who made several spectacular saves Wednesday night during a 2-1 shootout victory over the Columbus Crew. Presthus, 24, beat out Italian legend Walter Zenga, the player-coach for the New England Revolution, by 2,806 votes.
The other choices were midfielder Marco Etcheverry, the league MVP last year; forward Roy Lassiter, MLS's leading scorer this year; midfielder Ben Olsen, the MLS rookie of the year in 1998; defender Jeff Agoos, who will make his fourth appearance; and defender Eddie Pope, who was picked despite having missed 11 of 18 games because of foot and knee injuries.
"It's great that these guys have been recognized, and most deservingly," said United Coach Thomas Rongen, who was named coach of the Eastern squad by virtue of his club being atop the conference standings. "The fans obviously respect our success."
Rongen will name nine reserves today and plans to include United forward Jaime Moreno. Colorado's Glenn Myernick will coach the Western squad.
United had six Eastern starters and a reserve for the 1997 All-Star Game at Giants Stadium. Last year, when the league experimented with a U.S.-vs.-the-World format in Orlando, the club had three foreign starters and two American starters, plus three U.S. reserves.
Etcheverry and Pope received the most votes overall with 50,949 and 41,850, respectively.
The remainder of the Eastern starters are defender Thomas Dooley (Columbus), midfielders Tab Ramos (New York/New Jersey), John Harkes (New England) and Carlos Valderrama (Tampa Bay), and forward Brian McBride (Columbus).
The Western starting lineup includes five players from the defending champion Chicago Fire: goalkeeper Zach Thornton, defender Lubos Kubik, midfielders Peter Nowak and Chris Armas, and forward Roman Kosecki. The rest of the lineup has defenders Alexi Lalas (Kansas City) and Marcelo Balboa (Colorado), midfielders Cobi Jones (Los Angeles), Preki Radosavljevic (Kansas City) and Eddie Lewis (San Jose), and former United forward Raul Diaz Arce (San Jose).
Jones was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference with 39,595. Sixteen of the game's 22 starters are American.
United Notes: Club officials are awaiting word from Etcheverry and Moreno, who were scheduled to return to Washington in time for Saturday's match against the Colorado Rapids. Both have been on Bolivian national team duty, but a first-round elimination from the Copa America tournament in Paraguay this week was expected to free them for United's final game before the all-star break. United President and General Manager Kevin Payne said he had an agreement with the Bolivian soccer federation to release the players.