After two years of getting their butts handed to them by Manchester United, many media personalities and fans were wondering just what this year’s MLS All Star game would bring. With the regulars like David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry in the roster for first-time All Star coach Ben Olsen, the MLS’ers had the power.
But could they finish?
The answer was yes. And while I do love the star power that Major League Soccer has signed and kept over the past few years, I have to admit with pride I’m happy it wasn’t those big name guys that scored.
Yup, you read right. Becks and Henry were key in a few of the goals and really during all minutes they were on the pitch, yes. And … well, was Landon Donovan even on the pitch during the first half? ( More on him later, by the way.)
In the end, it would be what Alexi Lalas deemed our “second tier” MLS players that had the three goals on the night – Chris Wondolowski, Chris Pontius and Eddie Johnson.
Wondo’s goal was set up by Becks and Henry, and while Chelsea captain John Terry was able to clear it away the first time, Chris was there to snatch up the sloppy kick and kick it right in. It was a case of “sniffing out the ball” according to Taylor Twellman, and proves just why Wondo is so damn good this season. He knows where to be and when to be there.
Pontius’s goal … oh Chris Pontius’s goal. It was lovely, absolutely lovely. The one-two from Pontius and his teammate Dwayne De Rosario was just beautiful chemistry at work, and it put the MLS’ers on top in the second half.
But it was Eddie Johnson’s last minute goal in stoppage time that would cause celebrations for the league fans in the stadium to hit a high note.
And Jay Demerit! I can’t forget to mention him! He didn’t score, but his defensive work – and did he ever work – was superb through out the night.
So the biggest and brightest of MLS beat Chelsea, the current European champions. In the end, what does that say about our growing, darling little domestic league? Make fun all you want, but I think it says quite a bit.
Okay, I’m not naive. I know, Chelsea is in pre-season. I know some of them haven’t played for a while and I KNOW not all the power was there for the Blues. But do we have to be such Negative Nellies? Our MLS All Stars beat Chelsea! The guys came together, worked together and showed some nice moves. People in England woke up to news this morning that their English side LOST to Americans! I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that, right?
It’s a step for the league. Not a huge one, not one to prove that we aren’t the new kids on the block anymore. But it does show how in 16 years, America is getting pretty good at this soccer thing. We’re learning and growing, and we’re bringing in some damn decent players who are upping our game.
What I don’t get, though, is some of the reactions to this game, even from a few of the players. Now, this is just based off my observations, but I know I wasn’t the only one to notice.
1.) “It’s just a frilly little All Star Game – confetti and a big trophy that means what?” – I saw a lot of this or statements like this on Twitter yesterday. Again, I’m not naive, okay? But can’t people see a good thing in a win? I guess it’s just the perpetual doomsday outlook of American soccer fans. We know our players aren’t the best in the world; we know we’re the underdogs. But come on people! This game proves we’re working on it!
If Becks or Henry had scored all those goals, then I might not laude the score line as much. But they didn’t. Two of our outstanding American players in the league scored the first two and Eddie Johnson… well, love him or hate him, he’s one of us. And he did his job. This is improvement and talent showing from American players, and that’s something to be proud of.
2.) Landon Donovan – Okay, I know you’re not reading this LD, but I’ve got a bone to pick with you. You can play the part of the good boy all you want in the media; you can tell reporters how important the All Star Game is, how you want to make a statement … blah blah blah.
But you know what I saw? Well, first of all I hardly saw anything of you on the pitch during the game which means you either allowed Chelsea to shut you down or you just didn’t try.
Secondly, I saw captain Dwayne De Rosario try to hand you the All Star trophy on that stage, and I saw you, in front of all MLS fans, decline to take it.
I get it, okay. You can tell everyone how awesome it is to be an All Star, but I get it’s like a week off from your team to hang out with other players and play against some random EPL team. I understand it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance. But you, Landon Donvaon, are the face of a league. And the All Star Game is a showcase of that league. Be proud of it, not just with your words, but in your actions. When De Rosario went to hand you that trophy, you should have picked it up and held it with the same pride you did the MLS cup last year.
The Carling Cup might not be as important as the EPL title, but you bet your ass when you win, you pick the damn thing up and show that you’re thankful for it and you want it just as much as anything else.
In all reality, the All Star Game is what it is. Kind of like a church camp with more soccer and … well no church. But the similarities are they are a break from the norm – getting away from the usual and doing something a tad different. It’s not the most exciting game some players will ever be in nor the most prestigious.
But it’s still a representation of our league. And that representation last night was solid. Fans of the league should be proud of that; and the players too.