[MLS] Both Manchester United and the MLS All-Star team will be at less than full strength for the league’s midseason showcase Wednesday (TV: ESPN2, Galavision, live, 8:30 p.m. ET).
Nobody expected Manchester United to bring its full complement of stars to North America a few weeks after many of them played for their countries in the World Cup.
The list of United absentees includes 2010 World Cup players Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick, plus Rio Ferdinand, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Owen, who have been injured.
Yet more than 50,000 tickets have reportedly been sold and a good walk-up crowd is possible with Mexican youngster Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez having joined United for this match and a friendly Friday at his former club, Guadalajara.
Nor will the best of MLS be on display and not just because of injuries that have sidelined Kyle Beckerman and Jonathan Bornstein. Three teams – Los Angeles, Toronto, and Seattle – are playing midweek Concacaf Champions League matches, which means the Galaxy and TFC representatives – five in all -- could arrive in Houston less than a day after playing for their club, and no Sounders at all will be present, since they play Wednesday.
Galaxy and All-Star coach Bruce Arena has to parcel out playing time carefully for his representatives -- Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle-- following their 4-1 loss Tuesday against Puerto Rico Islanders. (Omar Gonzalez and Donovan Ricketts, the other two Galaxy all-stars, did not play against the Islanders.) Also to be monitored is Dwayne De Rosario, who played the entire game for TFC in its 1-0 win over Honduran club Motagua.
In the same season MLS took a two-week break to accommodate the first round of the World Cup, it has run into severe conflicts with international club matches and its own regional competition. United’s tight travel schedule – as well as TV considerations – required a midweek slot, and many teams would rather not sacrifice a weekend for all-star play as the league has done a few times in the past.
The quasi-competitive dynamics of recent All-Star Games have elevated it beyond the typical exhibition, and Man United isn’t in a party mood anyway, after being embarrassed, 2-1, by Kansas City on Sunday despite the Wizards going down to 10 men late in the first half. In its other exhibitions, Man United has beaten Philadelphia, 1-0, and Glasgow Celtic (in Toronto), 3-1.
“Perhaps the MLS teams didn’t think they were ready when we came here six, seven years ago,” said Ferguson at a press conference Monday about playing only foreign teams during previous visits in 2003 and 2004. “But the progress is obvious. We realized that in our game against Philadelphia, and yesterday’s match against Kansas City. There’s been a massive improvement organizationally and the standard of play has certainly improved.”
In All-Star Games, MLS is unbeaten – sort of -- against foreign club opposition, having defeated Guadalajara, Glasgow Celtic, Fulham, Chelsea and West Ham United. Last year, MLS tied Everton, 1-1, before losing a penalty-kick tiebreaker. Not many players have suffered significant injuries in All-Star Games, though Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton had to come out of last year’s game in the 62nd minute when he took an awkward step and tweaked his thigh.
All-Star assistant coach Dominic Kinnear is handing preparations until Arena and the five late arrivals come into Houston a few hours before the match.
“It’s difficult to say,” Kinnear said about which of them might play, and how much. “You can’t put the players’ health at risk. I know the fans voted the players in and the fans want to see them play, but as far as the time on the field they spend, it’s a big decision for Bruce.”
Goalkeepers: Donovan Ricketts (LA Galaxy)*, Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) &
Defenders: Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes) &, Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)*, Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew) *, Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake)*, Heath Pearce (FC Dallas) &, Wilman Conde (Chicago Fire) &, Kevin Alston (New England Revolution) &.
Midfielders: Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC) *, Marco Pappa (Chicago Fire)* Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake) *, Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus Crew) *, Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union) &, David Ferreira (FC Dallas) &, Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo) &, Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution) &, Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids) &.
Forwards: Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy) *, Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) *, Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls) &, Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo) +, Jaime Moreno (D.C. United) +
* Denotes selection to First XI Team
+ Denotes a Commissioner’s Selection
& Denotes Coach’s Selection