By Jose M. Romero /@RomeroJoseM
For Fox Deportes
Drubbed the past two years by Manchester United in the Major League Soccer All-Star Game, the All-Stars got a goal in stoppage time from Eddie Johnson of the Seattle Sounders and rallied for 3-2 win over Chelsea of the English Premier League Wednesday night in Chester, Pa.
Wins like this are good for MLS. People across the pond, soccer snobs that they are, will see this result and perhaps a few of them might say ‘Hey, these guys in MLS can actually play football.’”
It’s all about recognition and legitimacy for MLS. The league and game are still in the manageable growth stage in North America.
Wins like this might go a little way in getting some more quality European talent to play a couple of years over here. With David Beckham and Thierry Henry on the MLS team Wednesday (thanks Becks for flying back from London in time to suit up), players in Europe get further reassurance that MLS is an option for them at some point.
Longtime Everton player Tim Cahill will soon join Henry with the New York Red Bulls. Plenty of other MLS clubs have good European talent.
But this exhibition was a showcase for the MLS stars. Landon Donovan and Henry assisted on MLS scoring leader Chris Wondolowski’s goal, DC United teammates Dwayne DeRosario and Chris Pontius teamed up for the second goal (with a long ball from Beckham to DeRosario) and Johnson got the winner.
There were four Latino MLS All-Stars who played key roles in the win. Defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, originally from Cuba, was the pest that he always is all over the field. Defender Carlos Valdes, of the host team Philadelphia Union, came on in the 36th minute, and his Union teammate, Michael Farfan, got in for 16 minutes.
Mexican American Ramiro Corrales, 35, was a second-half sub at defender. It had to be a special moment for Corrales, an MLS original from 1996 in his first All-Star game.
Chelsea didn’t score after the 58th minute thanks to the defenders’ play.
The match would have gone to penalty kicks had it ended in a draw after regulation time. This is one thing the league has done right, rather than play extra time and then go to PKs. Better to get right to the drama.
When the MLS All-Star Game was first played, it was Eastern Conference stars vs. those from the West. A simple, basic formula that can work every year. But the league got more creative as time went by, bringing in foreign club teams in their offseasons. Another good call.
Since 2005, an EPL club has provided the opposition to the All-Stars. Fulham, Everton, Celtic and West Ham have appeared once; Manchester United and Chelsea twice.
The crowds are big. Wednesday’s game sold out with 19,236 fans at picturesque PPL Park.
The league should keep tinkering with the opponent format and look at bringing in a different club every year for this game, and not necessarily an English team. Why not another European superclub? Or if the game is in Houston, Dallas, Chicago or L.A., a Mexican or South American team? Only Chivas Guadalajara has appeared in this game, and it’s been a while.
This is a fun exhibition. It has to retain its appeal year after year.
Some headlines will say that the All-Stars shocked Chelsea. I beg to differ, especially when the MLS guys are in midseason form and despite being MLS players, wouldn’t be All-Stars if they weren’t quality players. Chelsea, on the other hand, is in the preseason trying to find the right combination for EPL play.
That said, a win over the defending European champion is meaningful, and it just shows that Major League Soccer continues to move upward in terms of quality of play.